Tuesday, November 12, 2013

6 Ways Leaders Win over Whiners

Whiners plague every organization. They wear down others with their laments of underwhelming stress. Even though they drain, we must never lose sight of the fact that every whiner has the potential to positively impact the organization.  The key is that leaders must remember to address their needs as opposed to their wants.

What is a whiner?  A whiner Is a person who wants the focus to be on them and their plight. They use whining as their chief form of communication to seek the following:

Sympathy - Whiners want people to feel sorry for them. It elevates their sense self-importance. 

Attention - Whiners want the spotlight on them and how bad their life is. They don't like for others to get attention. 

Pity - Whiners want people to feel compelled to drop what they're doing and feel sorry for them. 

In short, whiners suck every ounce of life out of the creative potential of an organization. 

So what do whiners need?

Whiners need leaders who will move them from sapping the life out of others to focusing on helping the organization move forward. Leaders challenge whiners with the following:

Calculated Ignoring 
Leaders know the difference between whining and legitimate concerns, and leaders ignore whining. 

Leaders exhibit their heart of courage by confronting and redirecting the whiner's focus from his personal needs to what is preventing them from supporting the organization's goal. 

Leaders engage whiners by asking them for solutions. Whiners don't want solutions, but leaders force the focus to stay on solutions. Leaders engage by keeping the focus on improvement. 

Leaders shut down whining when it is detrimental the organization. A whiner's behavior must be challenged, and expectations challenge whiners to get their behavior in check. 

Specific Feedback 
Leaders identify when whiners truly don't know what to do and give them specific feedback to help them move toward viable solutions. 

Leaders understand that whiners ultimately lack emotional stability, and they regularly encourage whiners through personal attention and regular conversations.   Leaders also know that they can accelerate whiners with each positive interaction.

Whiners are easy to avoid, but the greatest leaders realize that whiners are the missing link to the organization's success.  They know that avoiding whiners impacts the organization negatively as whiners can eventually make the culture toxic. Since whiners are the missing link in the chain of systemic improvement, winning them over is a necessary action that ultimately strengthens the system as a whole. 


  1. OMG- I hate when whiners SAP the life out of us. I love this post! I will forward it to my twitter feed and the leadership at my school! We can all benefit from CHEESE!

  2. Many thanks for stopping my blog and leaving your thoughts. I couldn't agree more about whining. I hope your colleagues enjoy reading it as well.

  3. Boy, these people are in every organization and can literally drain those around them. I love your comment about whiners being able to create a toxic environment. Your message is clear, do not accept the whining but continue to support them towards a more positive contribution to the community.

    1. Thank you for dropping your thoughts. It's easy to ignore whiners, but that doesn't help kids. We have to lead them to find solutions to the problems that they face.