CWC #8

Here’s a touchy subject: have you ever had a complaint brought against you in the workplace? If you have, you’re not alone. I’ve known many leaders who were the object of complaints (a hazard my job when I was in HR).

The thing is, one complaint can actually be an indicator that you are doing what you’re supposed to do. Low performers who’ve been allowed to slide for years can be pricklier than a porcupine when they are suddenly held to the standard they should have been all along. If you’re not willing to make them unhappy, and risk a complaint being made about you, you may not be cut out for leadership.

On the other hand, if you’ve had a handful of complaints (or more!) made about you, it’s time for some serious introspection.  Ask yourself what, or who, is the common denominator.  Answer: it’s you. If multiple people have complained that you play favorites, or that you treat people disrespectfully, you probably do. Get honest with yourself and be willing to change your behavior or your train just might jump the tracks.



  1. Peggy, I like your point about how sometimes, a leader is doing the right thing, even if it draws complaints. I also agree about the need for introspection, should complaints accumulate. But back to the “right thing” – this seems to be the place where leaders need to exhibit courage in addressing performance problems, even though potentially it will be uncomfortable and even accusatory. I think authenticity and respect go a long way to helping a leader through this.

    1. Thanks, Carol. I agree that courage is so important, and that authenticity and respect can make all the difference. I would add that I think managing performance is both a science and an art. Many organizations are strong at the science part of the equation (the numbers piece) but not all offer their leaders much support in developing the art of giving feedback. In my experience, most leaders really want to do it well, they simply haven’t learned how. It’s like me learning the piano. I’ve figured out on my own how to play a handful of simple songs, but until I take lessons, I’m not going to get much further. Leaders who recognize (for whatever reason) they need to do better in this area would be wise to seek support inside their companies and even outside if need be.

      1. Absolutely….and as one who knows, even if you take piano lessons, you still have to practice under the mentorship of an expert….I really like the “art and science” of performance management – that makes great sense.

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