Archive September 2018 XIX, No. 9

Staffing: 4 Tips for Dealing With Chronic Complainers

Don't minimize the potential damage from staff negativity.

Kathy Beydler

Kathy Beydler, RN, MBA, CASC, CNOR


Amy Dragoo
CONSTANT CHATTER Chronic complainers can infect your surgical team by spreading negativity and creating doubt in the minds of staff.

While food shopping the other day, I overhead one clerk say to the other, “Stop being so positive! I’m trying to be negative!” I had to smile. As clinical leaders, we all have roadblocks to positive change on our staff, chronic whiners and constant complainers who find fault with everything and everybody. If left unchecked, The Miserable Ones can poison your team by spreading negativity and undermining your authority by creating doubt in the minds of your staff. Here’s how to sidestep negativity on your team.

1 Find something to agree with them about. Finding common ground to stand on is the best way to defuse a situation. When I was the new administrator of a center, a physician complained about some staff changes I had made. The changes didn’t affect his room, mind you, but he heard through the grapevine (you know that vine — where the staff complain to the physicians?). During cases, techs routinely relieved nurses for breaks and lunches. The techs were essentially supervising the OR — making assignments and overseeing the rooms, clearly practicing outside their scope of practice. Sometimes, techs refused to count with a nurse who had a question about the count. None of this was acceptable, of course. I educated the staff regarding their scope of practice, encouraged nurses to become the leaders in their room and reinforced their responsibilities for surgical counts. Good calls, right?

As the physician stood in the doorway of my office and complained loudly, he made a point to remind me of his status in the center. I cordially thanked him and told him he would be a great resource for me in my new position. That took the wind right out of his sails. We eventually had a very good relationship.

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