Does your company have a “complaint department?” Most do. Someone with a door that’s always open, a sympathetic ear and the promise of keeping things “between us.” In many organizations, these people seem to serve a valuable purpose—or at least do no real harm.
After all, doesn’t every team need an outlet for the inevitable stresses of working in a small business? Or a safe haven where people go to commiserate and vent? I’ve come to understand the answer is “no.” These people and this behavior can have a devastating effect on productivity, solving issues, and team health. The complaint department simply can’t resolve business conflicts or company issues.
The Myth of the Comforting Complaint Department
You see, nearly all of us hate pain and fear conflict. So when there’s pain in our organization—the company, a team or a person is suffering in some way—we want it to go away. But we’d rather not take any personal risk, or work hard to identify the real root cause of the issue. We’re afraid we might be wrong, or hurt someone’s feelings, or get in an argument.
What most of us really want is to make a wish and have the pain go away. When that doesn’t work, the next logical step is telling someone else (in confidence, of course) that we’re in pain. Sometimes just “getting it off our chest” makes us feel better. Occasionally we believe (or hope) they can help—preferably without revealing our identity or requiring anything further from us. Of course this never works. But the existence of a complaint department perpetuates the myth that it can.
What Healthy Resolution Looks Like
In a company running purely on EOS, leaders and team members develop the ability to be “open and honest” about the pain they’re in. They learn to get in the room with those involved, identify the root cause of the pain and work together to resolve those underlying issues permanently—using an EOS tool called IDS, the Issues Solving Track.
It’s simple, but not easy. Mastering IDS requires courage, patience, and real strength. During difficult issues-solving sessions, I’ve seen otherwise calm, confident leaders shout, cry, even storm out of the room for a while. As painful as all that emotion and hard work and conflict can be, when it results in a real, permanent solution supported by everyone involved—it’s worth it!
Close the Complaint Department…For Good!
But if you continue manning your complaint department, that’s where all your issues (and productivity, and your healthy culture) will go to die. Because if there’s a place where people can complain or criticize or judge people anonymously and without accountability for resolving the root cause of the underlying issue—why would they ever choose IDS?
The choice can and should be yours. But it won’t be, unless you close your complaint department.
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