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Embrace your malcontents

3 min read


We’re all human, the last time I checked.  And we like to have nice things said about us. By the people we work for. And by the people who work for us.  We’re nice people, and we want people to be happy. So what do you do with those guys who just always have something to complain about?

Welcome them. These are signs that your people care enough to rant their very best.

Small consolation, I know. Especially when the easy accessibility of employee blogs allow your disenchanted people to get the word out before you have even had the chance to find out what the problem is. Some blog posters might even aspire to be the next Jerry Maguire, with visions of their co-workers welcoming them with a standing ovation the next morning. These guys are the chief beefers.

It’s not like you can take away their Internet access.  Even if you could, taking away their accounts won’t take away their opinions.  They would just find another soapbox.

These people want to be heard. So listen up.  They probably have immensely valuable things to tell your company and your culture (even if those gems are buried inside heaps and heaps of vitriol). The more persistent, and even publicly inappropriate, they are, the more likely it is that they’re being blocked by people in control of more acceptable channels — like, say, their managers.  And so they have to go to extreme measures to get their voices heard.

They know the risks involved with going public in a huge way with their complaints. In fact, if there is a spouse, you can bet that the night before a flaming post appeared, the words, “do you really think you should?” were uttered.  Evidently, yes. It’s that important.

When you are in a powerful leadership position, there will always be people who will tell you want you want to hear.  And there will be people who are dying to tell you want you don’t want to hear. Smile nice at the first group. But pay attention to that second group — even if you’re tempted to dismiss them as chronic complainers.  They have valuable insights into how to make your organization a better place to work, possibly with a very doable list of actions you can take.

These people are still passionate about your company. They care. Hearing them out — and taking action where you can — will demonstrate to your chief beefers (and all the beefer wannabes who are watching very closely to see what happens next) is that your company’s culture is one that they can trust.  And that they can confidently return their attention back to the business at hand, Which is, of course, your business.

Image credit, Entienou, via iStock