Dealing with workplace whiners

Ponte Vedra author, UNF professor give advice for surviving the office politics

By Nikki Kimbleton - The Morning Show anchor
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's a sensitive part of office politics; how do you deal with workplace whiners?

While it's often best to walk away, that can be difficult in today's team-based workplace where many people work closely in groups. So what do you do?

Recent research suggests that even if it's just one person who's whining, you need to take some sort of action or they could hurt overall performance. Dr. Paul Fadil, an associate professor of management in the Coggin College of Business at UNF holds a Ph.D. in organizational behavior.

Fadil said that when it comes to whining, "It is the proverbial one bad apple spoils the bunch, I guess you could say. It is a disease and it will spread. It's not unlike a bacteria or a virus, it will spread and it will spread tremendously."

That's why Fadil said taking steps to counteract the problem is so important.

Jon Gordon agrees. The best-selling author from Ponte Vedra wrote The No Complaining Rule.  In the book Gordon suggested bonding with co-workers and setting a better example.

In an interview with Channel 4's Nikki Kimbleton, Gordon said an important rule in his book is, "the 'but positive technique' that says I'm not happy about this 'but' I have the solution, or I can take this action to rectify it."

Gordon said whining has become so common, that many people don't even realize they're doing it. But he also sees the negativity as opportunity.

"I always see complaints a catalyst for good things to come," Gordon said. "Identify what you don't want and allow that to lead to new ideas, new solutions on what you do want."

Dr. Fadil, also suggests patience because at first, he said, whiners may get their way. "The squeaky wheel in some organizations really does get the grease."

After years of studying organizational behaviors, Dr. Fadil said managers can stop the negativity by assigning complainers extra tasks.

"One of the best ways that I have found is to actually give them something else to do. So a lot of times people are complaining because they are not involved or the big assignments are going to other people. I find if you keep complainers busy, it gives them less time to complain."

Experts agree on several other actions to stop complaining.

  • Change the subject, by asking the complainer what's going well.
  • If you're stuck listening to a complainer, retreat mentally and imagine yourself in a peaceful setting you enjoy.
  • Ask the complainer what he or she intends to do about the problem.
  • Move your desk or workstation farther from incessant grumblers.
  • In meetings, allot a specific, limited amount of time for coworkers to air their complaints in a constructive context.

For more information on Jon Gordon's book, The No Complaining Rule, go to

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