I've never met Pink. You know, the artist. She came to our little corner of the world for a concert a few years ago and I wanted to take my daughter but it was on one of my busiest nights of the week for clients and I couldn't move them all so we didn't go.
I do follow her and her husband on Instagram. So, it's just like I've met them.
Last year, someone somewhere was barking at her and her husband about something. And Pink responded. She challenged everyone to go one day without criticizing anyone.
Today, I'm going to raise her. I want to eradicate gossip and complaining. No, seriously, I want to wipe it out like a bad virus.
Because that is what complaining and gossip are: a nasty, relationship killing virus.
I despise it so much that I am about to institute a policy in our companies. It's simple: if you complain or gossip, you're fired. No write-ups. No warnings. Just gone.
The only way to deal with a virus is to kill it. Destroy it and that is what I want you and me to do. Because it will take all of us to remove this virus.
So let's define these cousin viruses. Gossip and complaining are talking about a problem that you see with someone who cannot fix it or help you solve it.
The problem is that it is so easy to complain about someone else. It is so easy to gripe about a policy.
It is so easy to be the victim.
I saw this all the time when I worked at a local mental hospital. People who were almost always late for work would complain when they were written up.
They would become the victim when they were fired.
I've seen this pattern repeat as a business owner.
I've even heard stories about employees who wanted to pick who they talked to because they "didn't want any feedback, they just wanted to be able to share their thoughts."
That's the heart of complaining.
This doesn't mean that I think we shouldn't address concerns and discuss things that we see that need improved. I believe the exact opposite.
We need to discuss problems. We need to address areas that can improve. I have built my entire career and my family system around the idea that everyone wants to be heard.
Recently, I was doing a consultation with a company where there was some strong conflict between management and the employees...well, really one employee who was somewhere more than an employee and much less than ownership. He was in middle management.
He had ideas on how they could improve the overall business. But he didn't have the whole picture. If had had, he would have understood why management couldn't do what he wanted.
The temptation for many people in that situation would be to complain and gossip. To his credit, he didn't. That's the culture I'm going for both in my personal life and in my companies.
So I've developed some questions for myself over the years to deal with potential gossiping and complaining in my own life. They are as follows:
- What do I actually not like about this situation? I've found that sometimes, I just need to spend some time defining what I think I'm upset about.
- When was the last time I ate? Sometimes, I get "hangry."
- What has my sleep been like in the last couple of days? Sometimes, I need to sleep
- Did I agree to do this thing for this compensation? This is a simple integrity issue.
- Why does this thing (whatever it is) have to be a problem? Not everything that I dislike has to be a problem. I once worked for a guy who bragged about throwing an old rotary phone at an employee in a meeting because he was mad at her. That had to be a problem.
- Do I have a possible idea for a solution to this problem? Sometimes, you don't have anything concrete but often we will have some idea of how the problem could be fixed.
- Who have I bounced my concern off of? Wait! Wait! Isn' this complaining? I don't think it is because I have one person that I have to bounce my complaints off of. She's my wife. We all need someone to check in with. We need to exercise true wisdom here. What does that mean? Well, we need to have someone we confide in who can validate our feelings and at the same time help us to examine what we are feeling. For instance, I once had someone working for me who was complaining to anyone that would listen that they were had never made less money than when they worked for me. At first, that sounds awful. But when you look into the true circumstances things change a bit. The person rarely averaged six hours a week and rarely worked more than ten. On top of those short hours, they had multiple garnishments on their check. How many of the people that this person complained to about their small pay heard those details? Probably zero. The temptation when we are looking for someone to confide in is that we want someone who will only listen to us. What we need is someone who will listen, validate and be willing to ask some hard questions. Someone once said, "Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I respond it." We need friends to confide in who will remind us of that truth.
- Have I expressed my concern or problem to the right person organizationally? This is a big deal for me. If my wife is doing something that is bothering me, complaining to my brother about is not complaining to the right person. Talking about it on Facebook is not the right place to express it. If my boss did something, complaining to a co-worker who can't fix it is not taking it to the right person. Sometimes, public complaints are appropriate. I worked for an institution that had a public team meeting every month where they told us they wanted to hear our complaints, questions, and ideas.
- After, I've expressed it, what am I going to do if it doesn't get changed? Ultimately, something changing is on my square. I've talked about the circle and square here and here before. I am responsible to figure out what it means if the thing doesn't change, whether it's something my wife is doing or something my company is doing. I have to decide how I can best tell the story of my life. And being a complainer or gossiper is not living my best life. I once worked in a school system that created a stupid, reactionary rule. Athletes wouldn't be able to play if they had a tattoo. The best basketball player for the school at that time, got a tattoo the summer between his junior and senior year. In short order, I was called into an administrative meeting where I was told he would be allowed to play as long as he covered it up with a sweatband. At the time, I was the Athletic Director and the Headmaster was also the Basketball Coach. I told everyone in that meeting that we were selling our integrity for 20 points and some rebounds. While I disagreed with the rule, we had put it in the handbook and should live with the consequences of our unwise decision. And the athlete knew the rule when he got the tattoo and told me to my face, "Nah, Dawg! They ain't ever gonna cut me or not let me play!" [sic]. I argued passionately to not let him play or to publicly admit we messed up and publicly change the policy. The headmaster/basketball coach looked at me and told me in no uncertain terms that he was the headmaster and we were going to do what he wanted us to do. When I walked out of that room, I had to decide how I was going to handle the situation. The only thing I ever said when a parent, student or fellow teacher came to me was the decision was made above my head and I was moving forward with the policy. It was up to me to decide what my response would be. Ultimately, I left working at that institution because I believed it had poor leadership from top to bottom. The hardest thing to examine is the areas where I was a poor leader. But that is necessary.
- How do I decide if I have to leave? What are my expectations? Sometimes you need to leave a situation or a relationship. But how do you decide? I start with what my expectations are about the situation. I don't expect to agree with my bosses 100% of the time. I assume that those who are in charge have a fuller and more in-depth picture than I do. I don't expect that I'll like or get along with my friends all of the time. But when that leadership becomes toxic or now that I own a business, if that employee becomes toxic, it's time to separate from them with a high degree of intentionality.
I really believe that we could remove grumbling from our own lives if we committed to it. Let's do it!