Give workplace moaners something to complain about

It’s summer! Hurrah! One can only imagine that everyone is skipping gaily around your office exchanging pleasantries and revelling in creation in all its glory. Or perhaps you’re surrounded by a morose group of whingers intent on dragging everyone else down with them. A slew of recent research convinces me you’re stuck with the latter.


The (surely ironically named) Happiness at Work Index, conducted by recruitment consultancy Chiumento, found last month that almost one in three people don’t like their jobs. This was mirrored by Personnel Today research among the good folk of HR who said pretty much the same thing.


But this is the thin end of the wedge. Another poll by Norwich Union found two in three people said their jobs left them feeling “unfulfilled”, “miserable”, or somehow “drifting“.


So not only are a massive number of people unhappy at work, they feel the need to fill in extensive questionnaires to let us all know about it.


Worst-case scenario


I hate whingers. A true whinger is someone who is determined to see the worst in everything and share it with anyone who is unlucky enough to be in the vicinity. Some people have real problems whingers do not. But that won’t stop them imposing their misery upon us as often as possible. And it seems that this problem is particularly prevalent in the workplace, which I suppose is unsurprising since that’s where we spend most of our waking hours.


In an ideal world, we’d turn to our line managers to get things off our chest and things would improve – but as we all know this hardly ever happens.


For years it’s been a central tenet of good people management that a company should do everything in its power to ensure the happiness of staff for reasons of productivity and general wellbeing. What’s actually happened is staff have been given more, and so they expect even more than that. It’s a self-perpetuating problem – expectations will never fall, and so as workplaces improve, staff find even more to complain about.


But if you’re willing to join me on my anti-whinge soap box, we can grasp this particular nettle and turn all this whingeing to our advantage. We won’t join them, but we can certainly beat them.


Feed off the hatred


If this many people hate their jobs, let’s use them to further our own careers. If up to two-thirds are looking for a change, it won’t take much effort on your part to show some enthusiasm and in turn impress the Powers That Be. Better still, if a colleague wants to leave their job that badly, why not help them on their way with some judicious highlighting of your best efforts in comparison to theirs? The worst that could happen to them is they could face suggestions that it’s time for a change and you will ultimately be doing them a favour. They’ll thank you one day – you are quite literally putting them out of their misery.


Blue-sky thinking


The key is to first get out from under any cloud that might be stubbornly loitering over you. Seeing as you’ve invested time in reading this, here’s my attempt to offer some value in return with a couple of really good techniques for de-stressing and giving you a positive outlook.


First is ‘The Spot’. You’ll find that when you are stressed you focus on a single point. There’s a reason for this, and it goes back to the time when we were hunted by animals with big pointy teeth. We automatically focused on a single point so we could run towards it without any distraction. What you need to do then to force the body back into a resting (and hence calm) state is to focus on a spot in front of you and slowly ‘widen your vision’, taking in everything to each side of you.


You’ll be amazed how well this works with a bit of practice. Get someone to stand next to you waving their hand beside your head. Fix on a point, take in your surroundings, and lastly see your colleague gesticulating maniacally at the edges of your peripheral vision.


Evolutionary forces


This technique might sound mad, but when you consider that in the span of human existence we have spent much more time being hunted by things with big pointy teeth than dealing with difficult business colleagues, suddenly it’s not so crazy. Evolution basically hasn’t caught up.


Also try taking any concerns you might have and repeat them to yourself in a Mickey Mouse voice, a Donald Duck voice, or perhaps even a sexy French maid voice. Experts call this ‘debunking your anxiety’, and it also works a treat.


So let’s face the rest of the summer with joy in our hearts. If the whingers are intent on being miserable, let’s do the decent thing and help them wallow even deeper in their self-pity by stepping on them as we go by. It’s what they would want us to do.


By Michael Millar, business journalist and author


Debate


Do you agree with Michael? Or is he wide of the mark? E-mail your response to personneltoday@rbi.co.uk

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