Beware The Grumbler


I really hope you didn’t arrive at work today to find this anonymously left on your desk or pinned to your inbox. On the off-chance that you did, it would appear you are the subject of today’s blog and someone is probably attempting to help you out by giving you a chance to see yourself. So rather than scrunch the paper into a ball and toss it away, read on and digest what follows.

The Grumbler is one of the personality types that sometimes can be found in the workplace and predictably is often avoided or shunned by colleagues because of a pervading negative undertone. This is the person who much of the time actually goes about doing their job, completing their assigned work but seldom does it with any real enthusiasm and genuine positive attitude. When asked to fill in for a colleague or share some responsibility for helping someone out, they agree to do so, but grudgingly. Under their breath, the mutter things like, “Typical…not my job” or “5 o’clock can’t come fast enough for me”.

Working with The Grumbler can leave other employees feeling somewhat drained; as work moves forward, others feel like they are dragging a ball and chain along with them when they could be completing things faster and with greater pleasure. The Grumbler is usually not someone who rises in an organization beyond entry or mid levels in an organizational chart. On the odd chance that they do rise to Management levels, employees who work under them may be envious of other workers who report to other Supervisor’s, and will often seek out opportunities to network with those other Supervisors, hoping to lay foundations for a transfer.

It’s difficult for staff to really complain or criticize overtly the behaviour of The Grumbler, because work does in fact get done, deadlines do generally get reached, and attendance isn’t always a problem. In short, this person does their job; however, at the same time, there is no passion or excitement for the work at hand, no real enthusiasm or interest in completing work with any energy beyond what is minimally required. This is puzzling to others who may openly wonder, “What happened to make The Grumbler so reluctant to find the joy in their work?”

You know, I have done a fair bit of acting on stage in community theatre in the past, and I can tell you that every actor I’ve known prays for one thing when they first make an appearance on the stage. What is hoped is that the audience returns to the actor some applause, some positive energy; the actor in turn is motivated to excel to new levels, and if all goes well, nothing is left at the end of a performance. In this case all go home happy. On the other hand, a flat audience who seldom smiles let alone claps or laughs is a drain on the actor, and the actor has to use all their reserves often resulting in a mediocre performance.

This is much like the case of working with The Grumbler. A great deal of reserve energy has to be found in things like inner-resolve, strength, fortitude and self-motivation. The Grumbler does little to reciprocate any words of support or encouragement, and receives words of encouragement themselves with moot appreciation muttering things like, “No big deal…it’s my job”, “Whatever”. These kind of comments discourage others from further dialogue and praise if not appreciated is not extended to The Grumbler often in the future.

Unfortunately, people working with this mentality and attitude may find themselves being increasingly isolated from others who seek out co-workers who do find joy and happiness in completing their work. The Grumbler will get paid the same wage, work the same hours, and the biggest threat they make to an organization is their influence on other workers, who may at some point if they are not careful themselves, find themselves one day morphing into some resemblance of The Grumbler.

So as I said, let’s assume you have found these words upon your desk. Someone, or some people, are trying to send you a message which they may find awkward to pass along verbally. After all, you may be actually doing all the things in your job description so a complaint can’t be made in this area. Let’s take the assumption that you’re being shown something akin to a mirror. While not pleasant or welcomed, the intent may be well-intentioned in an effort to suggest you shake off the dregs of The Grumbler and brighten your disposition.

So tangibly speaking, try a small smile when working, show genuine interest in your work and that of others. Recognize the contribution of your peers, their accomplishments and use words of appreciation when others do things at work that help you complete your own tasks. A total makeover here isn’t required as much as a subtle shift in your working attitude, which is expressed in your non-verbal and verbal language. Others want to work with you in a positive and fulfilling way so that at the start of a day, everyone brings a positive outlook to the work site.

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