Everything that could go wrong on the weekend went wrong (and they had to pick up the pieces.) Family members were frustrated about COVID, the healthcare system and no doubt many other things and wanted them to fix it now. And staff who didn’t like the rules were letting them know.
Have you ever had one of those “days”?
“It’s like a scene from The Walking Dead”, one of the savvy leaders shared.
Awesome metaphor. We can work with that.
“So, what do you know about the walking dead? How do you deal with a zombie? What are your options?”
They shared, without missing a beat:
- You can hit them over the head
- You can hide from them
- You can keep your physical distance so they can’t infect you
Okay cool. So, let’s translate the metaphor into “real life”. Here’s the solutions we came up with, some you may like, some you may not. But there are lots of really resourceful ways you can deal with complainers or situations where people are dissatisfied (and when you find yourself wondering why you’re surrounded by zombie-like complainers):
Hit Them Over the Head
- Face them head on
- Call someone back right away
- Involve all the necessary parties and partners immediately
- Call a meeting with everyone involved
- Acknowledge what is not ideal directly and specifically
- Repeat back what you’re hearing them say
- Call out anything inappropriate (clearly stating was is unacceptable and what crossed a line)
- Empathically and directly name the emotion you believe they’re experiencing
- Acknowledge the emotional situation they’re managing their way through
Hide From Them
- Ignore them (see if they bring it up again)
- Email them back two weeks later
- Hand the complaint off to someone else
- Tell them once; if they don’t follow the rules there are natural consequences
- Batch misery (i.e., don’t deal with bits of complaints here and there but do something positive or productive first and then deal with complaints when you’re more resourceful)
- Take vacation time when the complaints are having a negative impact on you
- Take breaks in your day to stay well
- Take your weekends off so you come back Monday with energy and focus
Don’t Let Them Infect You
- Take a pause before responding
- Notice if you’re telling a “story” about them (or assuming the story they’re telling themselves about you)
- Rationalize the situation so you can empathize with their situation
- Stay “no” and put a hard line in the sand (embrace boundaries)
- Make an alternative suggestion
- Come at a situation from their level
(connect on the “why” but not on the emotion behind it)
- Understand the “facts” of the situation from ambiguity
- When listening to the complaint about “you”, know part is likely a reflection of how they feel about themselves and their situations (e.g., “your staff are so disorganized” may be more about “why can’t our family get ourselves sorted so mom is okay around the clock?”)
- Acknowledge patterns – what the person focuses on likely reflects their greatest needs or wants
- Acknowledge when you don’t know and say “I’ll have to get back to you on that”
In the end, it’s often a combination of strategies that will help you deal with “complainers” and negative situations. In the end, my co-author Brenda and I say a complaint is merely a poorly worded request because it’s usually more a reflection of what the other person wants and needs, and not so much about the actual words that are shared. It’s a balance of caring enough to engage, but not letting them steamroll right over your needs and wants too.
The payoff of navigating this “messy middle” with strategies that work for you, is that you may just be able to acknowledge your own greatness, and better see a window into theirs.
If you haven’t checked out the last few blog posts, you’ll find some great ideas and learn all about my latest book ROCKSTAR: Magnify Your Greatness in Times of Change
- ROCK as a Leader: How to Thrive Through Change and Crisis
- ROCK as a Leader to Get STAR Results
- Why Transitions are Hard (Even Afterward)
If you and your team need any help at all, I’m always happy to do whatever I can!