Upset: Are You Having an Upset or is the Upset Having You?

In the early 1980’s as a business owner if my employee’s weren’t conforming to my rules I would complain about them. At first I would complain to the employee, “you’re making me mad, I’m sick of this,” etc. When complaining directly to the person didn’t alter their behavior (which it never did) then I would complain to other people about the individual.



Consider: It’s a waste of time to complain to someone about someone if they can’t do anything about the complaint.



Because I was the boss it was easy to get agreement about my complaints from those around me. (“I’m sick of him being late, he’s doesn’t give a damn, I’m tired of putting up with this,” etc).


When someone or something didn’t fulfill my expectation, I found myself being upset. The degree of upset was correlated to how important I viewed the problem.

Consider: Almost any complaint can be transformed into a request.


After a number of years of repeating this pattern I began to notice a few distinctions. When I was upset with somebody there was frustration, confusion and a loss of power for me. It was obvious complaining rarely if ever altered future behavior or events. And most startling to me was complaining had me gravitate to being a “victim”, (re-active), rather than someone who was or at cause (pro-active) in creating the future.


In the absence of this knowledge I was operating as an owner of a company who was a “victim of circumstances.” Complaining led me to being a victim and being a victim lead to more complaining. It was a vicious circle which fed on itself with no way out of the box. I wasn’t having an upset, the upset was having me!



Consider: Confusion and paradox stand guard at the gates of understanding.



I thought about human to human interaction. It happens as a function of a conversation thru speaking and listening. Many times conversations I had in life were very powerful and forwarding. What was going on to cause this I didn’t know. One thing I was clear on; complaining to or about people never had any power for me. If complaining about something or someone wasn’t creating an opening to alter the future what could?



Consider: There are only two forms of speaking that can produce the possibility of an opening into the future; Promising and Requesting. For a Promise or a Request to valid they must have a “by when.”



But what if I could transform a complaint into a request? When it came to my employee’s it dealt with “requesting” them to honor and follow my ground rules. Making a request to them instead of complaining could enable me to shift from being a victim leader, being at affect of circumstances, to becoming a leader who was creating the circumstances.


I made of list of all of my complaints regarding my business which included a couple of employee’s. Every complaint I wrote down could be transformed into a request. It was like finding little specks of light in the dark. I couldn’t wait to shift my conversation from complaining to requesting.


I didn’t have to wait long. An employee of mine who I’ll call Joe was habitually late, an ongoing upset for me.


Sure enough the next day Joe was late. I approached him (one on one) and explained to him that he had an agreement to be on time. I asked if he understood. After a few bars of story on his part to justify being late I repeated what I had said. Joe looked at me and acknowledged his agreement. I told him if his commitment was to be late then he should go work at a company where he gets to be late. But if he’s going to continue to work for me he doesn’t get to be late unless it’s a valid “emergency”’. (Webster’s definition here, having to get dog food, over sleeping, etc doesn’t count)


I said, “Joe, starting now (the by when) I request you be on time everyday. If you’re late again (by when) I “promise” I will terminate you. What would you like to do?” He immediately promised me he wouldn’t be late anymore. In the days, weeks and months that followed Joe was on time.


Shortly after that I had a company meeting explaining my ground rules and consequences to everyone. I then gave them all an opportunity to leave with honor if they didn’t agree to them….no one left. From that point forward we had a dramatic increase in performance and fun.


I invite (request) after reading this article (by when) you make a list of complaints and discover for yourself which ones can be transformed into a request. Do you accept?

© Copyright 2011 Growth Strategies LLC

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