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Stepwise Success

Gripe Sessions

Published March 11, 2013 6:06 AM by Scott Warner

Meetings are supposed to be opportunities to realign, reassess, and repurpose. They can be a pit stop for a team to check the map, kick the tires, and make sure the bus is on track. But we’ve all been to too many meetings that end up being a demolition derby of mud slinging, tires spinning, fender benders, and totally pointless destruction.

I worked at a place where everyone dreaded lab meetings because if one person was there (I’ll call him Mike), the meeting became “The Mike Show.” Mike spent most of the meeting arguing and bloviating every minuscule point. While some of this input was valuable, the meeting wasn’t “The Mike Show” and had a real agenda.

Other meetings are personal. I’ve led many meetings where responses of participants are not based on real issues but politics. People respond because they think it scores them points, they agree with others because of some arrangement, or they agree with me because of “secret” knowledge. These kinds of meetings can be just as destructively pointless, and they accomplish little of substance.

A “round robin” of issues at the end of a meeting can quickly turn into a gripe session. Instead of techs bringing up valid points for the group to discuss, each person lists his or her own pet peeves, many of which are directed at specific individuals. This rarely promotes constructive discussion and serves the agenda of the complainer. The intention might be good, I suppose, but in the end a gripe is a gripe. Airing it just clutters up the place.

These kinds of meetings are poisonous. They make it impossible to solve these gripes, since the purpose of promotion, politics, and airing grievances is ultimately selfish. There’s a difference, after all, between saying, “Is anyone else experiencing this?” and saying, “Everyone has to stop doing this!” It’s easy to blame the manager, but a hidden agenda can be hard to stop. Ultimately, a manager needs to promote leadership in meetings to create teamwork, and gripe sessions kill any chance of that happening.

Next, I’ll consider a few ways to solve this problem.

NEXT: Great Meetings



Good points.  Thanks for commenting!

Scott Warner March 14, 2013 11:25 AM

Hopefully the relationship between supervisors/managers and the techs is such that leadership is well aware of a gripe (if it spurs a legitimate concern) before it surfaces at a meeting.  

A "hands-off" supervisor or manager who is removed from the crew is more likely to be blind-sided upon requesting employee feedback or insight.  If this is the case, a productive "round robin" opportunity easily becomes an emotional dumping ground for frustrated employees who have compacted the junk for some time and are just aching for an opportunity to say how they feel.

Corinne Merzlock, MT Supervisor March 12, 2013 1:34 PM
Provo UT

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About this Blog

    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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