Courageous Complaining

Are you a courageous or a cowardly complainer?

Have you ever had someone get upset with you but instead of telling you, they told someone else – or everyone else – except you? We see or experience it all the time. And if we’re honest we’ve probably done it on occasion.

It’s the colleague who tells you they don’t need your help but then grumbles to another coworker that you aren’t pulling your weight. It’s the customer who leaves the restaurant without a peep then complains about his/her experience on Facebook. It’s the people who say “It’s fine!” when it is NOT fine.

Your team needs you to carry your weight. Your customers deserve a great experience. When our reasonable expectations are not met or we feel the other party hasn’t followed through with their end of the bargain, we should speak up. But we should do it in a way that seeks to resolve the issue rather than indulge our frustrations or unhappy feelings.

Courageous complainers:

  • Directly address the issue – with professionalism and class
  • Talk to the person
  • Are solution-focused

Cowardly complainers:

  • Avoid addressing the issue
  • Talk about the person
  • Desire drama/reaction/satisfaction from complaining
  • Are problem-focused

Courageous complainers have the same goal as the person they’re complaining to: they want a reasonable fix. Most cowardly complainers just want to be unhappy, and they want everyone around them to be aware of their unhappiness.

The next time you feel the need to complain, ask yourself, am I complaining courageously or cowardly? Am I focused on a solution or just dwelling on the problem? Your mindset will make all the difference in how you feel and how you impact the problem that’s affecting you.

Though I know firsthand that there are many kind, hardworking, positive and helpful employees who work within every state and federal agency, we all know that some entities have a well-known and less-than-positive reputation that causes us to cringe at the mere idea of having to call or visit them.

For example, if you just Google, “visiting the DMV,” top links include articles on “7 Secrets for Surviving the DMV” and “How to Get Through the DMV with Your Sanity Intact.” Imagine if there were entire blog posts dedicated to surviving a visit to your organization! Yet, when it comes government entities, we have to continue utilizing them, even if we don’t enjoy the experience.

Well, the purpose of this article isn’t to come down hard on public entities or their employees. However, a less-than-positive work experience with one of our own state agencies this past week (that included a 45-minute on-hold time, followed by a disconnected phone call because the phones “shut off” at 4:30, which was preceded by a refusal to call us back if the phone was disconnected because they “don’t do call backs”) got me thinking. (more…)

One of the fundamental things track coaches teach is to never stop at the finish line. Why? Because stopping at the finish line means you slow down prior to getting there. Your time is weakened. Someone could slip in and beat you. Runners learn to run through the finish line and not think about the race being finished until they’ve past the line.

In business and even in our personal lives, sometimes we view “sorry” as our finish line. When we make a mistake or when we want to show concern for someone or something, the word sorry quickly comes out. Sometimes it even comes out without any feeling at all. It’s just another word we use to get us to the next subject or to wrap up a conversation.

We’re sorry. It’s complete. Moving on.

The thing is that if our client isn’t happy, then our saying sorry doesn’t rid us of the issue. If we haven’t resolved the misunderstanding with our co-worker, sorry doesn’t fix it. The fact is apologies don’t represent finish lines. Sorry isn’t where we should stop.

Going beyond the sorry goes beyond customer service or teamwork. It’s really about our mindset to serve to the fullest, to not stop at the finish line.

So what should happen after the “sorry”? Use your apology as the start of your fixing the situation instead of the end of your disappointing the person.

A friend and colleague of mine worked at Continental Airlines for many years, with some of those years spent under the leadership of Gordon Bethune, the CEO who helped bring Continental back from the brink of yet another bankruptcy in 1994 and turn it into a thriving airline known for happy employees and satisfied customers during his 10-year tenure.

One of the mantras this individual said Bethune often reinforced with employees during his time there was that, “Bigger isn’t better. Better is better.” (more…)

The woman was obviously distraught and emotional as she raised her voice blaming the airline attendant for missing her flight. My daughter, Jeri, and I were waiting at our gate when this scene occurred. While I didn’t agree with how she was being so loud and verbal, my heart went out for this woman who obviously missed her connecting flight during the Thanksgiving holiday.

This unhappy customer situation is not isolated. Unfortunately, it has or will happen to each of us and it’s not fun dealing with a customer who isn’t happy. Here are five tips in dealing with a dissatisfied customer. (more…)