Where Is the Line Between Complaint and Information?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about issues that need answering and in particular about complaints:

I’m in a situation where all of the lower-tiered techs complain to me about their issues, but when I’ve historically brought it up to upper management they blatantly seem to not care. We recently got a new supervisor who is doing her best, but she often says complaining doesn’t solve anything. I have trouble determining where the line is crossed between educating upper management on the grumblings of lower level employees. There are legitimate issues that need to be addressed. Upper management routinely comes off as uncaring, and I am also personally frustrated. How do I get my point across without automatically being pegged as ‘whining’? I feel like that’s an easy out on management’s part. I feel it’s lazy to say “stop complaining and be more creative” instead of “I understand your concerns, do you have any suggestions?” or “Thank you for your report, please get examples.”

Signed– How to Make my Point

Dear How to Make my Point:

You clearly express your frustration both with upper management and with “grumblings of lower level employees,” You seem stumped with what you want management to do and apparently so is management. You strike me as a go-to-person for solutions and I expect you would some up with some if you were boss. Yet the fact is that the lower-tiered techs complaints about grumblings and your frustration with management coming up “with real answers to legitimate issues that need to be addressed” can’t be achieved solo.

Working effectively within almost any organization at times requires guts and grit. I hope the suggestions I will make are explicit enough so, if followed, you won’t come across as whining.

Tone and attitude has a lot to do to not be seen as whining. If you articulate awareness and appreciation for a reasonable process, you should be seen as committed and savvy:

For your consideration, here are several thoughts about procedure. First three steps of preparation:

  1. Might what you see as uncaring might be an admission by management of not having answers? Shifting the problem back to you and/or ignoring you is like parents admitting they can’t resolve kids fighting and that might be best resolved by the kids themselves. This is to suggest the tech gang and the lower-level employees who bring their problems should meet to work through what and how to best communicate.
  2. Help the lower-tiered techs log examples of what are brought them that causes their complaints.
  3. List ideas of what you want management to do.

Don’t submit the log of examples or talk about other matters that need to be address to management. Only have this backup data should you be asked questions. Getting action is most effective by those who generate solutions. Now you are prepared to propose action.

  1. Propose to management that they schedule skull sessions of those who are most concerned to spell out the dos and don’ts of what is brought and should not be to tech and who does what.
  2. Possibly enlist someone in your to clarify issues. Then separately and candidly prepare a list of issues that need action. Based on how well the tech-lower level employees skull sessions go, you will know if this new supervisor and upper management are ready to tackle those issues.

Your focus should be on maximizing effectiveness and thus satisfying internal and external customers of work by your unit. The business of business is symbolized by numbers and influenced by significant incidents. To be a change agent requires both. Add to that, a good measure of persistence and faith in interdependent-mindedness. Please feel free to say if any of these thoughts strike you as making sense. Also feel free to say after a few weeks what works or doesn’t. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. –William Gorden