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Level Up - Issue #137


Level Up

March 27 · Issue #137 · View online

Level Up delivers a curated newsletter for leaders in tech. A project by Ideal for busy people such as Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, VPs of Engineering, CTOs and more.

Dealing with “complainers”
In one of my workshops this week, the topic of “complainers” on teams came up and how to deal with them. Technologists, particularly software engineers, tend to view things with a binary perspective (good/bad, working/not working). Combined with poor communication skills, someone might come across as a “complainer” when things aren’t perfect.
Here’s some advice we ended up discussing in our groups:
  • Take time to listen - Frustration sometimes might come up because they see an issue and don’t understand have an outlet to address it. Listening is the first step for great communicators. Listen to understand the heart of the issue. Ask questions to confirm what the issue is.
  • Identify if this is something either of you can influence - While expressing frustration is a normal habit, doing so repeatedly on topics that neither of you can influence will lead to even more frustration in the future. If you realise you both can’t influence it (e.g. maybe it’s caused by a law, or something you can’t immediately influence like a company-wide policy), help them reframe this as a constraint.
  • Discuss small steps - One reason people might complain if they don’t see immediate change. If you’ve ever lead change, you know that change doesn’t happen overnight and work with them to see if there’s a small action that shows a little improvement. Seeing even a small change might help shift some of their frustration.
  • Share responsibility - As a leader or manager, you might want to “fix” the problem but you also need to avoid establishing a vicious cycle where people bring complaints to you expecting you to solve all of them as that is neither sustainable nor realistic. Each situation is different but I always like to find ways that the person who might be expressing frustration takes responsibility (with your support) to initiative the improvement. This might be as small as starting a conversation, doing some research and coming back with options. I like this because great leaders help their team remember they can take action (and not just throw complaints into the air) as well.
What are your tips on dealing with “complainers”? Drop me an email and let me know.
Stay safe out there 💙💛. If you enjoy this week’s newsletter, please pass it on to a friend or colleague who might benefit.
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Dealing with complainers
Dealing with complainers
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Tweets of the Week
So true!
Glenn Vanderburg
"If you focus too much on technology and technical skills, you'll end up as a senior engineer and a junior human being."
— @kelseyhightower
A good reminder 👇
Bryan Beal 🎧
Blackberry had its best year a full 4 YEARS after the iPhone was released. Then the company collapsed.

A good reminder that the product that will kill your company may already be in the market.
Thanks for making it this far! 🤗
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Patrick Kua, Postfach 58 04 40, 10314, Berlin, Germany