Archive for July 10, 2007

Critical Comments About Complaints

July 10, 2007

Just finished conducting an intensive 2-day course on Managing Complaints From Difficult Staff. I love the course! It makes me reflect a lot and I too, find myself growing from the sharing and mutual learning. Thanks very much, dear participants!

In a fast paced, high-stressed society like Singapore, its not surprising that many people find themselves falling into the “complaint mode”. Every issue, be it a major concern or a minor irritation, can become the trigger factor for an onslaught of complaints.

“The coffee’s too hot! Are you trying to burn my lips??! Where’s the sugar?”

“What?! The work’s not done? What’s wrong with you? That slow?”

“This policy and procedure is simply ineffective. Takes up so much of my effort.”

“So little time, so much to do…”

The primary thing about complaints is that it often arise because of a need to vent frustrations and to seek a listening ear. Do understand that its not necessary seeking a solution AT THAT MOMENT, at least NOT YET.

Let the complaint be Expressed first, Acknowledge it (bearing in mind you DON’T have to agree with it.) then Address it. I call this the EAA steps.

The complainer simply needs to “get it out of his system”. Hence let him or her “complete the cycle of complaining” before you comment on it. If its uncompleted, (that is, expressed but not acknowledged), the complainer will simply repeat the similar complaint either at the same moment or the next time. Worse still, sometimes it is harbored for a period of time within the person, mentally and emotionally infesting, ultimately manifesting into a strong bull dozing anger outburst.

Its not the time for explanation nor the logical resolution. Not yet, not until you know the person is ready to listen to your opinion.

Complaints are essentially harsher expressions of opinions and viewpoints. And when its being spoken, the complainer’s “inner ears” are shut. They are not ready to listen to rationalization explanation at that instance.

Bide your time and watch for signals of emotional receptivity. Note the body language where the person has cooled and calmed down. Then probe for readiness to listen by asking diplomatically, “Would you like me to explain now?” and the likes.

Quick wittedness comes into play here. Your next comment after a complaint is extremely crucial. This next comment can simmer down his temper or raise the boiling anger beyond.

Instead of an instant defense of your viewpoint or an attack back to the complainer, you must approach with diplomacy, tact and caution. Use EAA. Before you rationalize with the complainer, check that the person has ‘cooled’ down already and is ready to listen to you.