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How Complaining Positions Your Leadership

By Heather Joyner posted 04-01-2019 09:10


In 911 PSAPs around the world, there are conversations taking place regarding poor performance issues. The reality of this statement is that many of the conversations taking place are unproductive, creating a drama-filled work environment where employees continue to gossip, bully, or use passive-aggressive behavior to manipulate others.

If you are a supervisor, manager or director complaining to a colleague or group of people regarding a "bad apple" or "poor performer", think about how your statements are positioning you as a leader.

The other day, I was shadowing a shift and overheard the shift supervisor talking with her coworkers, making negative statements about a former coworker. The statements centered around the mannerisms of this former employee being rude, short and disrespectful to callers. As I listened, I was curious and had to interrupt to ask the question, "who was her supervisor?" Silence filled the room and the supervisor responded, "I was." 

What I have learned in my experience of managing and consulting in PSAPs is that employees will complain about their coworkers, expecting management to make a change to improve the overall workplace environment. However, what supervisors, managers, and even some directors fail to realize is that the root cause of all workplace drama is the avoidance of a difficult conversation

Employees will either make excuses, or blame their coworkers, supervisors will blame their teams, and management is left wondering what is the magic elixir to fix the problems. Do I continue to move Judy around to different shifts, hoping the problem resolves? Do I terminate Kim because she continues to abuse her sick time? Do I allow Samantha to continue being tardy because I know she has issues with daycare? The questions are endless based on a PSAPs challenges.

In order to create a culture of trust, responsibility, and accountability, you have to arm your teams with support, resources and knowledge of how to identify performance issues, how to effectively address those issues, and how to sustain harmony, shifting your workplace culture from negative to positive. Until skills are learned for handling difficult conversations, the problems in your PSAP will continue to grow, creating an increase in low morale and turnover.

I challenge you to walk around your PSAP and listen to the conversations taking place. Are they effective? Are they productive? Are they creating positive change? If so, then you are already ahead of the game. However, if you overhear of complaining, or gossip, or witness role conflicts or passive-aggressive behavior, then you know that you have some work to do to get your teams aligned, aware and accountable.