By Linnda Durre, Ph.D., Author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace – Protect Yourself Against Co-workers Bosses and Work Environments That Poison Your Day published by McGraw Hill, February 19, 2010.
As a business and corporate consultant and psychotherapist, I’ve analyzed, worked with, and consulted with many difficult bosses over the years. In order to cope and deal with them, you need to know why they act the way they do and how best to deal with them, in order to earn their respect, get things accomplished, change negative situations to positive ones, and preserve your sanity.
In my column, I will help you cope with a different type of boss, whether male or female. And remember – all of these toxic bosses in all of my columns can be of either gender. Toxicity does not discriminate according to the sexes. The previous ones include: Dick the Dictator, Bashia the Backstabber, Sewell the Sexual Harasser, Carl the Control Freak, Paula the Passive Aggressive, Clayton the Clueless, Greta the Gossip, Susie the Sugar Coater, Ian the Idea Stealer, Al the Alcoholic, Nancy the Narcissist, Donald the Deal Maker,Vernon the Verbal Attacker, Bobby the Boss’s Relative, Cynthia the Silent Treatment Torturer, Phil the Philanderer, Ned the Negligent, Sal the Slave Driver, Porter the Political Soap Boxer, Michael the Micromanager, Wade the One Upper, Betty the Battle Axe, Phoebe the Phony, Peter the Pig, Bill the Big Picture Boss, Dan the Detail Boss, Ellery the Yeller, Sandy the Snob, and Blaine the Blamer.
This week it is Winnie the Whiner. Although the majority of whiners seems to be women, there are some men who complain constantly.
Winnie the Whiner feels angry and powerless and she has to complain. Whining is powerless anger, usually with no attempt to correct the situation. Winnie wants sympathy and a “get out of jail free” card. Mostly she doesn’t feel she has the authority or even the personal power to make the negative situation any different. The issue is that her whining and complaining are driving you batty and it’s interfering with your productivity at work. Her voice and tone is like nails on a blackboard and she doesn’t stop. There’s always something for her to complain about – the reports are late, the mail isn’t on time, her salary isn’t high enough, and/or the coffee isn’t hot. It doesn’t matter. She will find something that isn’t right. She sounds like a spoiled brat or just a whining baby. You have every right to say something to get her to stop, and you need to do it quickly before you go insane.
Frankly, most whiners don’t become bosses because they appear and usually are ineffectual, lazy, and powerless. But some manage to combine whining with blaming other people, so be careful that she doesn’t set you up to be her scapegoat. She will most likely make you do most of her work for her. And then blame you when it is incorrect. She will set you up to take the blame.
Winnie’s childhood could be described by several possible scenarios – she may have had very controlling parents – telling her what to do and controlling her life; negligent parents – who didn’t care, didn’t have high expectations for her, and/or didn’t set limits for her; and/or self-absorbed parents who were too selfish and narcissistic to be mature, caring parents. No matter what type they were, her parents basically ignored her pain, complaints, wishes, and needs. She grew up whining and feeling that she couldn’t change anything and that no one was listening to her anyway. She grew up believing that no one cared about her or for her. She believes and feels that she doesn’t have the power, energy, or even intelligence to take effective action and make things better. Those are all irrational and faulty beliefs that she can change, if she wants to, by going to therapy. Getting her there is the hardest part.
What is the most important and effective communication tool with Winnie is “the process shot,” which I describe in Part II of my book. You need to describe her behavior, tone of voice, and her attitude. Then encourage her to seek help and take action. Also, warn her that you won’t be caught in her trap and her “blame game.” Tell her you will not be her “fall guy” and take the blame for what is her responsibility. She needs to take responsibility for her own problems and take action to correct the negative situation. Tailor make your speech directly for her and have it suited for the specifics of the situation. It should sound something like this:
“Winnie, I like you as a person and enjoy working here. I feel I am a competent employee and do a good job. And here’s what doesn’t work for me. I listen to you constantly complaining and it frankly drives me crazy. It interferes with my productivity at work and it lowers the morale and efficiency in the office. Your tone of voice sounds like a two year old cry baby – and you’re always crying and complaining that everything’s wrong. You constantly play ‘poor me’ and blame circumstances and other people for your woes. You must feel like you don’t have the power to change anything, which is simply untrue. You can take effective action and do something about your own problems. Here’s how – you can go to HR, have a discussion with your own boss and even your boss’s boss about what needs improvement in the office. I would also recommend that you utilize the free psychotherapy sessions offered by EAP and by our insurance policy where you will have a small co-pay. You can discover what causes you to act like this and learn how to stop it. Take charge of your life and your job and make the changes that will stop you from whining. Let’s see how you can do that! I like you as a person, I enjoy my job, and I hope you can do that.”
I hope these tips will help you in dealing with Winnie the Whiner.
—Linnda Durré, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, business consultant, corporate trainer, international speaker, and columnist. She has hosted and co-produced two live call-in TV shows, including “Ask The Family Therapist” on America’s Health Network, which was associated with Mayo Clinic and aired from Universal Orlando. She is the author of “Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against Co-Workers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day” (2010 – McGraw-Hill). The book’s website is: www.survivingthetoxicworkplace.com Her book interviews include Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Investors Business Daily, Inc Magazine, Monster, AOL, Yahoo, and others.
She has been interviewed on Oprah, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Daytime, Good Morning America, Canada AM, and The O’Reilly Factor (twice), and the national and/or local news on ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, Fox and CW. She has written for Forbes, CareerBuilder, Monster, A&U Magazine, Orlando Business Journal, and American Cities Business Journals. For more information about her consulting or speaking, contact her atLinnda.Durre@gmail.com and 407-739-8620 or 323-333-1393.