Are You an RT Complainer and Don’t Even Know It?

RT ComplainersWhat makes an RT employee a “complainer?” Three managers weigh in.

We’ve all known RTs who bring a negative attitude to the job. Nothing is ever good enough, right enough, or easy enough for them, and they don’t mind letting everybody know about it.

But complaining on the job can take more subtle forms too, and just because it’s not as “in your face” as that delivered by the primo Negative Nellies out there doesn’t mean your boss doesn’t notice it.

In the following interview, RT managers Wadie Williams, Jr, MS, RRT, CerAT, MEMS(B), from Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX, Paula Aherns, MAOL, RRT, from the University of Minnesota Medical Center Fairview in Minneapolis, and Susan Wynn, MSM, RRT, from Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, IN, offer their take on complainers and how they affect their departments.

What kind of behaviors would make you label one of your RTs as a “complainer?”

Wadie Williams: On the surface, I would say we automatically think of verbal communications, but not all complaining comes via words. Actions and conduct that are counter to the department and hospital culture, at least to me, are forms of complaining. Violation of organizational policies such as tardiness and attendance are forms of complaining, as I see it. They take their toll on the attitudes of the department staff and surrounding individuals.

Paula Aherns: A RT that may be labeled a “complainer” will frequently focus on blaming others and gossip about issues. This person may also complain about concerns without bringing a solution forward. In my experience, sometimes a “complainer” may be unable to fully analyze and think through a particular situation.

Susan Wynn: I would define a complainer as someone who consistently complains about their day. Other staff typically don’t speak up and explain that their day was equally bad or worse, but they choose to see it in the most positive light and move on. Coworkers eventually complain about the complainers; it is exhausting to them to hear continual negativity. A complainer is also someone who comments negatively about co-workers, any attempt to reward others, and any type of change —even when it is for the better. Someone who routinely complains about unscheduled calls or being asked to do something out of the ordinary.

Everyone complains now and then. How much complaining on the job constitutes too much complaining and why?

Wadie Williams: I believe it’s part of our human nature to resist what makes us uncomfortable and that’s okay. What’s not okay is the constant and unrelenting complaining that weighs on everyone. The world is not perfect, therefore neither is life or work. From time to time I do have to remind folks that it’s called WORK, not play or fun — but work. When there’s never a well-reasoned solution offered to address the issue, then it’s just a complaint. As long as you are offering a reasonable solution to the issue, I will listen and consider the situation.

Paula Aherns: In my opinion, too much complaining on the job occurs when a person begins to sound like they are a victim. This behavior creates tension for the team and the receiver of the complaining may not take the individual seriously, especially when there may be a legitimate complaint.

Susan Wynn: Yes, respiratory has seasonal peaks of high workloads. It is pretty well expected that most staff will complain or at least comment about the workload. Grace is given for those occasional meltdowns or atypical comments. For the most part, staff that have seasonal issues are not the ones that are crossing that line. Too much complaining is someone with a pattern of that type of behavior that typically upsets co-workers, workflow, and others’ work environment. This often causes discord among staff, since complainers usually target co-workers or supervisors when the workload is not distracting enough to keep them busy. They often complain about high expectations such as educational sessions, mandatory meetings, and not getting paid for additional responsibilities.

How do complainers damage their departments, and most especially for them, their own careers in RT?

Wadie Williams: Again, human nature comes into play. We all get painted with the same brush sometimes. Sometimes, we generalize a great many of our opinions and assessments. When there’s a single bad apple giving bad care or service, the presumption is that the entire group is bad. Our world — the RC profession — is a small one by comparison and one should remember, your reputation precedes you. Some doors may never open because of “what arrived on the wind” about you from others that worked with you previously.

Paula Aherns: A “complainer” can damage their departments and their own careers by not bringing solutions forward, but rather they expect leadership to fix the problem. The “complainer” may not be considered for leadership type positions or asked to be involved with projects representing the department. I encourage staff to be creative thinkers, follow up with coworkers directly, discuss ideas with each other, and bring their ideas forward. I appreciate their knowledge and expertise.

Susan Wynn: What these people don’t often realize is that their behavior is a constant “interview” for promotion. Popularity is not how supervisors are chosen, however, those who are well-liked by coworkers are chosen due to their ability to lead others. They get this ability from staff respect. Complainers are not usually well respected by their co-workers. They are tolerated and usually not confronted, but staff overall really don’t prefer to be around generally negative people. They want to come to work and enjoy their jobs. Unfortunately, when these people have legitimate complaints, they sometimes get ignored or dismissed by others.