Have you ever listened, I mean really listened, to the conversations at your workplace?  If not, take a few minutes to really listen to what the doctors, nurses, therapists, and ancillary staff are talking about when they think no one is really paying attention.  What is the conversation around the water cooler, in the nurses’ lounge, the doctors’ lounge or in the on-call room, or any place that professionals gather?

Then ask yourself, “Is this conversation propelling us and catapulting us towards our next level of success?”  Or, is it digging us deeper and deeper into a place of desperation and despair leaving us drained and dragging by the end of the day.

If the conversation is uplifting and positive then you are among the lucky ones.   More often the conversation starts with a statement about what is not working in the healthcare system and takes on a life of its own in the form of workplace complaining. 

Workplace Complaining is the new virus that becomes a vicious cycle and infects everyone in its path.  In some units it is the best kept secret.  More often it becomes so pervasive that even patients become privy to it.  As it spreads, more team members join the complaining pool and the culture of your work environment quickly shifts.

It contributes to Monday morning blues and the dread professionals feel at the thought of returning to work after a great weekend off.  It makes you peer around the corner to see if the usual culprits are working today so you can plan your strategy to avoid them and the minutes that quickly turn into hours of complaining.

Workplace Complaining is very sneaky.  It starts quite innocently with a desire to improve a condition or system in your unit or office.  First, you see how something could be improved for better functioning or identity a system failure.   You present the opportunity for improvement to the next in command going through the proper channels.  Then, you wait to see the change in action.  You wait and wait and wait.  Then one day you realize that nothing is happening.  Nothing is going to change.  Next, you share the experience and others agree.  Now each time there is a system break the team buys into that ‘nothing works’ mentality.  It becomes the constant source of conversation.  The workplace complaining cycle is established.

When you get stuck in workplace complaining it invades all areas of your life.   It negatively impacts your communication as your team members begin to expect you to complain and build up defenses to protect themselves when they have to interact with you.  It impacts your relationships at home as family members want to enjoy their time with you, rather than listen to what went wrong with your day.  And it impacts your health as stress becomes distress and disease.

How do you break the cycle?

1.     Become aware of your role in workplace complaining.

2.     Ask yourself, “Is this helpful for me, the team, and overall patient care to complain or will it merely have a negative impact on everyone involved?” 

3.     Review all the options available to you.  Ask yourself, “What is the lesson here?  How can I positively engage with the present situation?”

4.     Decide the best course of action that will add benefit to the team and do no harm.  If it is beneficial, then try to reframe your complaint in a positive way that offers a solution.

5.     Act in accordance with your decision.

Depending upon the situation, the course of action may be to disrupt the pattern of workplace complaining and learn how to advocate in a positive manner.

Share this article by Stephanie Wellington, MD, CPC of www.NurturingMDs.com