November 12, 2008

How to eliminate mindless complaining

A few glum people can drag a whole workplace down. We’ve all met people that even if they won a tonne of dosh in the lottery would still be sporting their ‘woe is me’ face because they didn’t win first division. Negativity doesn’t have to be huge and loud to deeply impact the workplace culture either. Subtle messages and attitudes can form an atmosphere of glum.

Dwight Cooper, the CEO of PPR, a nurse staffing company that was voted one of the best places to work by The Society for Human Resource Management, asked himself what he could do about negativity and his answer was a company policy he called “The No Complaining Rule”. Cooper decided to deal with the subtle negativity that acts like a cancer in an organization. The rule states that “Employees are not allowed to mindlessly complain to their co-workers. If they have a complaint they can take it to a manager or someone who can do something about the problem, BUT they must also offer one or two possible solutions.” The intention is to eliminate mindless complaining which leads to a toxic work environment and encourage justified complaints that lead to new ideas, innovation and success.

It can be the small stuff that translates to the big problems and like attracts like – one person moans, another person moans and soon everyone is wandering around feeling blue. A system, a plan or a ‘no complaining rule’ gives everyone a guideline about ‘how we do things around here’. By setting up such a guideline the culture can feel as though it has changed overnight. The team may not have realised how the little negative comments really add up, but they really notice the difference when they are gone. A key feature of the system Dwight Cooper set up was also staff offering one or two possible solutions. This means they must be proactive and take responsibility. They can’t just stomp their feet and yell “FIX THIS”. It becomes a team effort. Try a ‘no complaining rule’ in your workplace – you won’t know how much you need it until you see the huge difference it will make.

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