Handling Co-Workers’ Complaints

QUERY: I have just joined a company as manager for its sales division. However, I noticed that in the three weeks I’ve worked there, the sales executives have been in and out of my office mainly just to complain about their co-employees in the division. I want to take action on their complaints but at the same time I don’t want to encourage intrigue and gossip among my staff.

Advice: Sales is really a competitive activity and sometimes, instead of competing with the company’s competitors to get accounts, sales people compete with each other for accounts. This misdirected competitiveness, shown by the intrigue and gossip among your people, will eventually wreck the effectiveness of your division. Competitiveness, traits that’s necessary for a good sales person, in this sense, may just be an arrow that’s not aimed at the target but rather the archer himself.

First, I think you need to look at your internal systems. Are the sales territories properly delineated so that no account-snatching can happen? Do the policies clearly state how to credit accounts? The system may be inadvertently encouraging internal competitiveness.

Secondly, how do you respond to people who go to you complain? Do you tell them that you will take action on their complaints? This is the usual response but it may encourage more people to go to you and backbite their colleagues.

Also, we Filipinos are non-confrontational,. When we get negative feedback, about a person, we usually don’t tell the person being criticized about the feedback. We tend to believe the complaint and eventually develop a negative impression of the person being criticized. Meanwhile, the subject of the complaint may have no idea of what’s happening. Moreover, he has no opportunity to explain his side.

We can take a cue from Stephen Covey, who is considered one of the most influential people in the US and is a highly respected management consultant.

He says a person has to be loyal to the absent. This is one way of discouraging intrigues but showing firm action on complaints.

He told a story of how one time he got upset about an administrative matter in a university where he was teaching. He went to the university president to complain about the director handling the matter. The president listened to him intently and when Covey finished talking, the president said that he was sorry to hear about it but he thought that the director was a competent person and suggested that they both talk with him so that they could solve the problem together.

Covey said the president’s action showed that he was principle-centered. He knew that if someone were to complain to this president about him that he would be treated in the same way with respect.

Covey said from then on, he knew that he could not play “fast and loose with anyone’s reputation” around that president.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer November 17, 1997

Photo credit: www.sxc.hu

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