More than once, company leaders have expressed concerns to me of negative attitudes, mutual whining sessions, or complaints of what seem to be minor problems by groups of individuals in the workplace. Naturally, my first response to the leader is either to suggest that listening is the role of the boss, so get used to it, or if the mood problem appears to be a deep one, its resolution will need to wait until a number of basic issues within the enterprise have been addressed first. However, when so-called ‘light’ complaints arise continually in a company which has been involved in a CCCC program for some time, we realize that we have another concern at hand:
employees’ failing to take on personal responsibility.

The Company
As many readers are aware, CCCC assists companies to listen to employees by a range of open devices so that employees can express their frustrations immediately and expect to get a timely response to those frustrations. When a company listens seriously to employees, two major advantages arise. First, better feelings develop among staff, cooperation goes up, teamwork lifts, and productivity increases. Secondly, the company becomes actively engaged in fighting the reason that all companies fail – an inability to adapt to change, which in turn is caused by the lack of innovation or visioning – which are only possible by listening to employees, clients, and suppliers.

Among the 15 listening instruments supported by CCCC are weekly meetings, a properly monitored suggestion box, semi-annual planning sessions, the weekly Team-of-Two program, the monthly Problem Management Council, and the appointment of always-available Champions and ombudspersons within the enterprise. We will assume that the company in question has some of these listening practices operating within its organization. It is not necessary to have them all, but such practices that do exist within the company should be exercised in a continuously effective way.

So, What’s Wrong?
Through the company’s historical culture or even the community’s historical culture, a certain behavioral pattern can evolve of ongoing complaining about minor issues. As stated above, it is nothing less than employees’ failing to take on personal responsibility. If that is the situation, it is time to point out a basic human responsibility, irrespective of how high or low the rank of the individual is within the enterprise. We start with the simple premise that it is rare for anyone to be able to control another person; the only one we can control is ourselves. So, let’s begin by having employees look at themselves. Below, we present ten points that make up a kind-of personal
responsibility manifesto. We share the list with you, now.

1.     a. When I have a concern at the company, I write it down immediately, so I won’t let it slip by later.
b. When I have a concern at the company, I use at least one of the company’s listening devices to let the management know of my issue. I refuse to be defeated by the thought: “What’s the use!”

2.     I accept that I am in control of myself only so that if I have a problem before I voice that problem, I try to think of a practical solution and offer that solution along with my complaint.

3.     If I feel another person is the problem, I try to phrase the issue, not about the other person, but about myself – that is, how the lack of an anticipated behavior or action of another, affects me or my work.

4.     After I have submitted my concern, I follow up with a supervisor, ombudsperson, or specially assigned Champion to see how my issue has been dealt with.

5.     If the issue in not being dealt with, then I request that attention be paid to it. Or, if it has been dealt with, but not to my satisfaction, I follow up with a supervisor, ombudsperson, or Champion.

6.     When someone of a similar rank as I have, complains to me, I remind them to use one of the company listening devices.

7.     When someone of a lower rank complains to me, I always assist them to move the complaint further along with the company’s listening and solution chain.

8.     If I come across a situation of people complaining, I ask the group or individual what steps they are taking to voice these complaints.

9. In the above situation, I attempt to help the individuals move things along the path that heads in the direction of a solution rather than leaving things staring at a blank wall.

10. If a fellow worker has a problem with another employee, I always encourage that worker to talk directly to the employee of concern. I try to do that myself, as well.

The point is, every employee can move a difficulty forward by:
a. Talking to a supervisor, ombudsperson, or Champion.
b. Submitting a written concern via one of the company’s listening devices.
c. Taking action, such as any of the points above, all of which the individual can control.

Last Question
Finally, we would ask the leader to have each individual in the firm assess themselves by answering:
Do you feel (based on the above presentation) that you are taking responsibility for your own
actions when you run into frustration at work?

Good luck,