From Complaints to Commitments

The objects of disaffections may vary but griping is always in season at work. When things go from bad to worse the discussions end up in the manager’s office. When they don’t, they form an undercurrent of discontent and resentments that is counter-productive.

People spend vast amounts of time complaining. No matter how sophisticated, however, a complaint is unpleasant to listen to. It can instill an aura of negativity and un-productivity. It becomes contagious. At it’s worse, it poisons relationships and sabotages team efforts.

To be fair, complaining may help people let off steam. It can also create alliances and support when one realizes they are not alone. But it rarely accomplishes more than this. It doesn’t transform anyone or anything. It often leaves people feeling worse by virtue of the negative feelings that flourish.

It is important to pay attention to complaints because they contain a seed of passion! For every statement of what a person can’t stand, there is an underlying reason, or statement about what they stand for. (Kegan & Lahey, How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work, 2001)

Important concepts covered in this article:

Complaints are Rampant in Workplace Settings
Why Complaints are Important
Typical Responses to Complaints
A New Language for Responding
Leadership and Responsibility for Language
Leading Change through Changing the Language We Use
Five Steps for Transforming Complaints to Commitments
A List of Resources on Complains to Commitments

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