Bring Solutions With Complaints
We complain for any number of reasons, mostly because it seems like work but isn’t. We’ve all been to those meetings that turn into you-know-what sessions and left with a whopper of a headache. That’s a good enough reason to hate some meetings. But the same is true of the complainer who gripes to a manager or colleague.
I hear this kind of thing too often. It begins with, “I wasn’t going to say anything, but...” or “I’m not sure you’re aware of this, but...” or “I need to get this off my chest about...” or “This still hasn’t been fixed, and I’ve already mentioned it...” Not one of these approaches includes a positive solution or alternative, leaving me to own the solution. I can, of course, listen and ask, “And what do you think should be done?” The response is invariably a shrug as if to say, “Hey, I’ve done the hard work. I complained.”
And this is the problem with complaining: it isn’t really a solution to the problem, which requires real work. Complaining avoids work.
Lest you suspect I’m complaining about the complainers, there is a solution. Walt Disney is credited with coining the term “plussing” that is now part of the Pixar animation studio culture. Whenever an idea is criticized, the criticism has to have a “plus” attached to it to improve the original idea. As one management blog describes it, “Plussing distracts from the fact that a criticism is being made and instead, turns the confrontational situation into a collaborative engagement where the energy is focused on evolving the idea into something better.”
Bringing a solution with a complaint is a form of plussing that can work in the laboratory. For example, if techs are forgetting monthly quality control on certain serology kits, a tech could say, “Quality control isn’t being run on these kits, and I’ve added a reminder to our scheduling calendar in Outlook. How does that sound?” This presents the complaint with a ready-made solution. In this way the latter becomes the springboard for discussion.
Just don’t have a meeting about it first.
NEXT: Be Specific About Fairness