The 4 Hidden Agendas Concealed in Complaints

The “make it go away” fairy doesn’t exist. Ignored complaints fester.

Uncover the real dissatisfaction before solving complaints.

chronic complainers want to look caring and innocent while talking mean and ugly

The 4 hidden agendas concealed in complaints:

  1. “You should have ….” You caused the problem because you dropped the ball.
  2. “What are you going to do about this?” Whiners want – no expect – you to make it better.
  3. “I’m not happy.” Chronic complainers don’t own the real issue. They want something for themselves.
  4. “I want to look good while I talk bad.” Complainers use compassion as camouflage. They’re complaining because they “care”.

Establish the intent of complaint conversations:

  • What outcome would you like from this conversation? Don’t have conversations when intentions are undeclared, obscure, or unknown. If they don’t know what they want, have them come back when they do.
  • Are you looking for a solution or time to vent? (Ask this when you know and trust each other.) Some issues are solved with an ear.

Second venting sessions are complaints. It’s time to design solutions.

Explore the hidden agenda:

#1. If we could go back…

  • What should have happened to prevent this problem?
  • What could you have done to prevent this problem?
  • What could I have done to prevent this problem?

#2. What would you like me to do about this? Asking doesn’t mean you’re going to do it. It’s the beginning of a conversation about real solutions.

An alternative: What would you like me to do for you?

#3. What needs to happen for you to feel good, when our conversation is over in twenty minutes?

#4. If you don’t mind me asking, “What makes you care about this?” Explore assumptions and values.

Nagging issues intensify with time.

What hidden agendas might complainers have?

How might leaders deal with underlying issues?

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