I confess to a pet peeve – I cringe when people say some version of this:
“If you’re just going to complain, you’d better have a solution. Otherwise you’re wasting my time.”
If you say this, you may be ignoring the fact that there are two kinds of naysayers:
Type 1: The ones who never have a solution (the chronic complainer).
Type 2: The ones who don’t have a solution this time (the team player who is occasionally provocative).
If you’re a leader, please realize this:
You are actually in charge of solutions. You meet needs. If you deserve your position, which is organizationally higher than the person complaining, it’s a fair expectation that you’re in a better position to be wise, resourceful, or experienced enough to consider the complaint and deal with it appropriately.
In many situations, it doesn’t matter which of the two types the complainant is – you might want to pause, and consider your response carefully, instead of jumping to the reaction way above.
In every situation involving a Type 2, consider taking that opportunity to open up a larger conversation.
If you have a chronic Type 1, consider a one-on-one conversation with that team member, addressing this chronic behavior and asking for something more or something different. It’s okay to say some variation on, “When a person constantly pokes at a situation, without being proactive before the meeting, it hurts their relationships with the team. I’m concerned that you might be falling into that; let’s talk about it.”
Because Type 1 exists, you might find yourself in the trap of treating everyone like Type 1, even if they’re Type 2. Pause and consider.