How to conduct a gripe session

Griping occurs in most groups at various times, but its existence in your organisation should not necessarily be interpreted as a personal criticism of your management style. Constant complaining indicates the likelihood of perceived problems, the presence of negative energy that needs to be redirected and refocused, and opportunities to use those gripes to bring about meaningful changes. Here’s how you can derive maximum benefit by having your staff air their gripes...

1. Learn to capitalise on complaints.

Gripes can be blessings in disguise, alerting you to existing and potential (and imagined) problem areas. If particular kinds of gripes are common among your employees, some company procedures or practices may need changing; or they may be precursors to other gripes. Regard all complaints - including employees’ gripes - as springboards to better performance. You will probably become so sensitive to employees’ needs that you will know their complaints almost before they make them.

2. Adopt a structured approach.

Gripes can indicate the existence of group problems that can inhibit organisational development. Never try to apply a bandaid or cover up. Instead, embrace a proactive, structured strategy by, first, assembling a group comprising those with gripes and any others with an interest in hearing and acting on them.

3. List the gripes.

In a group situation, have people work alone and compile lists of gripes. Then have individuals form pairs and compile combined lists. Similar gripes are rewritten to form descriptions satisfying both people. Pairs then form into fours and continue the process. Fours then become eights. Each group of eight presents its list, and the whole group then produces one list representing all contributions. Number each item for ease of reference.

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