Trust on Purpose

Is it Our Right to Complain?

February 24, 2024 Charles Feltman and Ila Edgar
Is it Our Right to Complain?
Trust on Purpose
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Trust on Purpose
Is it Our Right to Complain?
Feb 24, 2024
Charles Feltman and Ila Edgar

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Whether spoken or unspoken, complaints can either foster trust or erode it within relationships. Ila and Charles delve into the intricate dynamics of trust, communication, and the often-overlooked causes and impacts of complaints. The conversation explores the importance of making clear and complete requests in driving desired outcomes and the many implications of expressing our grievances. They also explore the impact of unspoken grievances on relationships, from breeding resentment to undermining trust. Listeners are encouraged to ask themselves the tough questions: Is my complaint fair? Were my expectations clear? Am I avoiding difficult conversations? Do I care about salvaging the relationship?

We want to thank the team that continues to support us in producing, editing and sharing our work. Jonah Smith for the heartfelt intro music you hear at the beginning of each podcast. We LOVE it. Hillary Rideout for writing descriptions, designing covers and helping us share our work on social media. Chad Penner for his superpower editing work to take our recordings from bumpy and glitchy to smooth and easy to listen to episodes for you to enjoy. From our hearts, we are so thankful for this team and the support they provide us.

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Send us a message - we'd love to hear from you

Whether spoken or unspoken, complaints can either foster trust or erode it within relationships. Ila and Charles delve into the intricate dynamics of trust, communication, and the often-overlooked causes and impacts of complaints. The conversation explores the importance of making clear and complete requests in driving desired outcomes and the many implications of expressing our grievances. They also explore the impact of unspoken grievances on relationships, from breeding resentment to undermining trust. Listeners are encouraged to ask themselves the tough questions: Is my complaint fair? Were my expectations clear? Am I avoiding difficult conversations? Do I care about salvaging the relationship?

We want to thank the team that continues to support us in producing, editing and sharing our work. Jonah Smith for the heartfelt intro music you hear at the beginning of each podcast. We LOVE it. Hillary Rideout for writing descriptions, designing covers and helping us share our work on social media. Chad Penner for his superpower editing work to take our recordings from bumpy and glitchy to smooth and easy to listen to episodes for you to enjoy. From our hearts, we are so thankful for this team and the support they provide us.

Speaker 2:

Hello, I'm Charles Feldman.

Speaker 1:

And my name is Ela Edgar, and we're here for another episode of Trust on Purpose Charles. What are we going to dive into today?

Speaker 2:

We're going to dive into situations where well, actually, you framed it really well when you said it earlier in the conversation.

Speaker 1:

before the conversation oh gosh, now you're making me scratch my head. What did I say? What are the impacts of spoken and unspoken complaints, and how that either builds or damages trust?

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, that's right.

Speaker 2:

Okay, that was a great way to frame this.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes, and so one of the things to begin talking about this is talking about a client, and actually this is not the only client that I've had in this situation, but certainly one I can identify.

Speaker 2:

So my client reported to the CEO of a very large organization and my client was in charge of the largest group or department, if you're going to call it that, within the organization, and when he started he assumed that he was going to get fairly regular time with his boss, the CEO, that they were going to meet in person at least once every couple of weeks. That was assumption in his part, obviously, but it was backed up to some degree. He had some evidence that that assumption was accurate, because originally his boss did meet with him every two weeks for about three times and then after that was either not available or canceled at the last minute because of something else, many different things that seemed to get in the way, so that they ended up meeting about once every three months in person, and all the other communication between them was either a text, an IM of some kind, maybe an email every once in a while, a phone call if something was badly broken.

Speaker 2:

But there was a dumpster fire. A dumpster fire, exactly. So my client had this complaint that he was not getting enough time with his boss and that actually the complaint was the boss broke a promise, broke a commitment that he assumed had been made explicitly that they would meet every other week. So here's his complaint that he's laboring under. So I'm curious what comes up for you in that moment.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so many things, so many things. Where I went to immediately was if I'm a leader and I have a substantial portfolio and I'm on the receiving end of short notice, cancellations from my leader, a broken promise about meeting regularly, the odd IM, a text, not regular and connected communication. The story I'm gonna make up in my head is I'm not valued. He doesn't give a shit. Bingo Right Doesn't give a shit. I might try, because I believe I try really hard to make generous assumptions about others. It might be the whole. No news is good news. He really trusts me to do my job and for the listeners you can't see me. I'm like air-coding. That's a big like. Maybe it's just that he trusts me so much. Hope you can hear the sarcasm in my voice.

Speaker 2:

Yes, that is exactly where my client went, particularly that my boss doesn't value me, my boss doesn't trust me.

Speaker 2:

So he had this whole story going about that and he had this complaint that was constantly running in the background that my boss is not treating me the way he should, the way I believe he promised or committed he would. So, moving this a little bit forward down the tracks, my client had also begun to express his complaint, not to his boss, to a couple of the other peers on the leadership team, and what he got back was well, that's just the way our boss is and you just need to adapt to it, which for a while worked for him. Okay, so that's the way he is. I don't have to worry about this so much, except that he seemed to see some of those other leaders getting more actually in the boss's office, getting tied face to face with the boss More often than he was. So then the complaint came back up and all the story that you so beautifully outlined there, right? One of the impacts was that his morale was going downhill pretty quickly.

Speaker 1:

Well, as soon as you said that's just the way it is, that's just the way he is, and we start looking for comparisons of what my colleagues are or are not getting. The moment you said that, my shoulders went down and I felt defeated.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, he was struggling with that for sure, and so it was clearly getting in the way he knew it. It was getting in the way of his doing his best work. Yeah, so here he is with this complaint, and now he's also wondering if, having made that complaint to a couple of his peers, he hadn't maybe damaged his relationships with them and his credibility with them, which was it didn't get even worse for him. I'm laughing, but I shouldn't have be, because it was really a big deal for him. What are the other ways that you can see this unmade complaint might be damaging not only my client in this case, but other people in the organization and the leadership team itself, maybe the entire organization.

Speaker 1:

One of the places I think of immediately is how is this impacting this person's trust and credibility? And so what assessments are other people making about this person because of the conversations they are or are not having? So that's one thing. Yes, I also have a little ripple gurgling in the back of my brain around. What's the connection to sincerity here? Say more, yeah, I'm putting myself in that leader's shoes for a moment. If I feel unsupported, not valued, not having the amount of time or interaction or direction or feedback from my leader, as I said earlier, I definitely immediately my head goes down, my shoulders slump, my chest goes in a little bit. So I feel this defeats this is just the way it is. Now let's add in the layer of sincerity, and I'm curious about how my words and actions, behaviors as a leader are instilling in others my ability to be sincere about what I do and say.

Speaker 2:

Does that make sense? Maybe because in the sense that that leader was not necessarily being completely honest about their own concerns as a leader, they're not being honest and they're trying to motivate others from a place of resignation.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and so what does that mood? How does that start to impact peers, colleagues? Direct reports.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, that's kind of a couple of the places I went.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and then there's another impact, which is the boss doesn't know what's going on. Right, the CEO, in any case, like this, would not be privy to what's going on, why this person that he hired to run the largest organization within the company was not really seeming to perform at the level that he assumed this leader would be performing at.

Speaker 1:

But what if he is? What if he's performing? That? All of this becomes hidden background and the story? I'm adding another layer of complexity for the story that the leader is walking around with. Well, the CEO should know that I need time.

Speaker 2:

Oh, he was very much walking around with that, right, this is where all the I'm being ignored, I'm not valued, et cetera was coming from. Is the CEO should know this? Therefore, the CEO does know this. Should, should, should, should, shoulding and I'm assuming my CEO actually does know this, and so the CEO ignoring me in these ways is a huge drag and creating a lot of this resignation and a bit of resentment along the way. So, as we've talked about before, often complaints are unmade requests. Talking with my client the leader in this case about what he need to ask for, what he want to ask for and of course it's stories, but I've already asked for it.

Speaker 2:

I have asked what I've sent emails saying can we meet regularly? And either I'm ghosted or it's been really busy I can't. So he was at that point. The request wasn't going anywhere and so here's the interesting wrinkle. I said well, what did you actually say? What was your request? And the request? Quote, unquote request. You can see me doing air quotes here now. The request was along the lines of it would be really helpful to have a little bit more of your input.

Speaker 1:

That sounds like a request, how I would make it. It'd be kind of nice if maybe sometime we could possibly talk about and of course I'm being a little bit facetious here, but I think this points to something so incredibly important and that I think you and I both see individuals who dilute their requests or soft shoe them, not intending to not be clear or be really direct about what they need. Rather, there's internal stories and beliefs and behaviors that have us making these softer taps down diluted requests.

Speaker 2:

Yes, the indirect and in that case, really indirect request All those is indirect, as my coffee cup is empty. So it seemed like, until I asked him well, what's come of that request, where has that gone? And he said well, I haven't gotten any response about that, except maybe that I'm getting a few more texts asking me to do stuff. Or he said admittedly, there are some texts that I've gotten recently that were about how I'd done something well, which was great, very encouraging, that's great and more about how I needed to pay attention to certain things that my boss apparently thought I wasn't paying good enough attention to. So the request itself was not really a request and therefore was not getting him what he wanted. So there was the real work with this particular individual making a clear, complete request that had all the pieces in it that would allow the listener on the other end, in this case his CEO, to make a realistic response. What can I do here? What am I willing to do? And we've been through this in other episodes.

Speaker 1:

We would send you, I think, to episode 22, august 8, 2022, strength and Trust, with Clear and Complete requests.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and he had not made a clear and complete request, and I would refer you to episode 22 of Making Clear and Complete Request.

Speaker 2:

Working with this particular individual to make a clear and complete request did have the impact he was looking for when he added the context of for the sake of what am I making this request in the first place? This is what, specifically, I am looking for, and here are my conditions of satisfaction. What actually got a response that was useful. The CEO still wasn't interested in or didn't want to meet in person, that often, wasn't willing to commit to it, but they got to a place where at least there was a clear commitment to meeting on a regular basis. The interesting thing about this, though, was that, once he'd gone through that process with his boss, he realized that he had complaints about other people in the organization people who worked for him in a couple places, his peers and so he began to rethink what the missing request was in the complaint that he'd been making and carrying around, whether he'd made the complaint as a complaint which, of course, rarely was getting him anywhere or had just kept it silent.

Speaker 1:

This is so fascinating because there's now another wrinkle that I'll bring in. This conversation is highlighting for me. I have some pretty ginormous complaints about someone in my life right now and I have not been clear and there's a bit of a story that it's actually not my job.

Speaker 2:

You mean it's not your job? To be clear with this person.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Whose job is it?

Speaker 1:

I know well.

Speaker 2:

The request fairy I can't say more.

Speaker 1:

I can't divulge who this is.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I totally get that.

Speaker 1:

But it's interesting because I think and I'll bring it back to organizations and leaders that we work with that I wonder if that's part of the rumbling that happens, in that it's not my job, not necessarily with well, actually it could be. I'm pointing upwards right. So going up to a leader I shouldn't have to, this isn't my job to they're the leader. This could also rattle into peers and colleagues. I shouldn't have to. They're professionals. And then, of course, with direct reports like this now suddenly feels like a rampant problem. It is.

Speaker 2:

I can tell you that that is a very grounded assessment, that it's a rampant problem.

Speaker 1:

It is. It is. Yes, I agree with your assessment based on lots of evidence.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and the complaint part of it is making them so. Again going back to a complaint itself do I have the grounds to make a complaint if I have not made a request and that request had not been agreed to and then the commitment broken? That's where we can actually make complaints for action. You know what you committed to the whatever and you're not actually following through with that, and this is the damage. This is what that's causing the problems that are arising as a result of that. I want to talk about that. That's a complaint for action as opposed to a complaint. That is more like whining.

Speaker 1:

It's causing me to pause and reflect on that particular situation that I haven't made a clear and complete request, I haven't defined my conditions of satisfaction, I haven't introduced a consequence. There's a whole bunch of things that I haven't, I haven't, and so that's on me. I need to take accountability and responsibility for that, and this is the choice point. Now. What do I want to do going forward in order to strengthen the relationship, and I don't want to have these rumblings and gurglings in my mind about how I can't trust this individual or actually even the growing resentment.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, and that's one of the impacts of complaints that are unmade or unmade requests that could come out of a complaint is resentment. They should have known, they should have known, they should figure this out, they should know that I have this complaint, this problem, this issue, and they're ignoring me, they don't value me, all of that stuff. So there's the resentment and the resignation that arrive at our doorstep and we start to let them in and live.

Speaker 1:

They grow into ugly hairy beasts.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

You know, what makes me really sad in this moment and I think that we can definitely point to leaders that we've coached that have arrived at the same conclusion is that this person would be gutted if they knew that this is how I felt.

Speaker 2:

Most likely that would be the case in many situations. They would be upset, they might be resentful or angry, or you wait a minute, or they might feel really bad about themselves or some combination of all of that. So there's that lack of clarity, lack of transparency. I guess transparency is really what we're talking about here being transparent and making clear requests, as opposed to grumbling, holding a complaint either internally or making it to other people but not the person who you really need to make it to.

Speaker 1:

Another impact is that that can ultimately create that Right All right, I'm okay with currently not bumping into this person, because then I don't have to say anything, which is also a really sad statement, really sad statement. And if we come back to our quadrant of care, what's the care that I have in this particular relationship and how are my behaviors, or lack of behaviors, and conversations impacting this relationship? And at this point it's 100% on me. And I've got Brene Brown's voice whispering in my head, clear as kind, unclear as unkind.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it brings to mind a similar situation a colleague of mine telling me that, basically complaining that a client a long time client had canceled a big chunk of my colleague's contract for the upcoming year. This is something that my colleague had done year after year for many years for this company, along with a bunch of other work. The client had not canceled the other work, but it canceled this one piece, but had done so in a moment in front of a bunch of other people with no preamble. It would just boom. You have talking to the other people saying here's what we're gonna be doing in the coming year, and my colleague wasn't even in there, and so she had this huge complaint about that, how it was done. So we just talked about complaint and requests and what could you request? Oh, I could request for her to do it differently in the future.

Speaker 2:

But for this individual, her biggest hurt was that she thought the relationship had been broken, that there was damage in the relationship.

Speaker 2:

But then she also went on to talk about how that particular individual had been under such stress around something else that was going on in the organization for weeks before that moment and she thought, you know, maybe she was just sort of in a week moment in her life and her career. That's why she did that the way she did. She wasn't thinking clearly. And then she came around to care and she said I do want to talk to her about this. It's more important for me that this woman, my client, trusts that I have her back.

Speaker 2:

And so, ultimately, what she did, instead of going and making a complaint or making a request, the next day she went to this woman's office with a cup of coffee and a little croissant or something and just sat down and said I think you've had a really rough time and I just wanted to let you know that I care about you. Wow, Reaffirming the foundation of what is the foundation of long-term trust before making any specific requests, and not even doing that because she wanted to make it and she wanted to make. She did want to make a request, but it wasn't just purely reasserting care so she could make a request, it was genuine. It was genuine Sincere.

Speaker 1:

There wasn't a string attached, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So I think there's this really powerful relationship between care complaints that are not being made or not being turned into requests and also recognizing that making, as you just said, making that request that would resolve or at least address my concern is a demonstration of I trust you, the domain of care, and I want you to trust me in the domain of care, that I'm willing to do this and want to do this and want to make this relationship work better.

Speaker 1:

I don't want to get into it too much, but maybe we will. I'm thinking of an organization that I currently work with a newer CEO. There was some behavior by one of the senior execs that was unethical and this particular CEO shared with his team don't worry about this, I've got it, I'm taking care of it but there wasn't anything apparent that had been done to take care of this, and so where I'm going is the senior leadership team made a clear request, the CEO gave a response that was not transparent, and now there's a missing conversation because this has been a few months, and so is there a follow-up clear request in order to close or resolve in a way that feels complete for the rest of the senior leadership team.

Speaker 2:

So what my first question would be is what was the request that they made specifically Great?

Speaker 1:

question. We're clear of this situation. We understand all the facts and the data. How are you and will you be dealing with this?

Speaker 2:

Okay, the real request is how will you, or how do you plan to, or how are you dealing with this? All they got back was well, I'm handling it, trust me. Yeah, yeah, I would want a more complete response. But also I hear that the request was lacking conditions of satisfaction. How would we know that you're handling it? What are we going to expect to see here by when? By when? So the request was not clear and complete. That's the starting point.

Speaker 2:

It's hard now to go back and make a complaint for action. What I would assume they would really need to do at this point is go back and say, hey, you said you would handle it, have you? If so, what have you done? And if not, make a clear and complete request with conditions of satisfaction and some kind of by when in there, and then if a leader came back and said I'm handling it, then the rest of the team says that's not good enough, we're very uncomfortable with what's going on and what has gone on whatever they want to say about that, but they need to have that conversation.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, what I also hear and observe is a whole lot of complaining going on. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Not surprising.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, which also takes me back to the emotion of sadness. This issue, this situation is getting in the way of these other leaders showing up and doing the really good work that they want to do, and I think that that's also something that we don't pay attention to. That, this situation, the complaining, the not complaining, the being clear, the not being clear gets in the way of leaders being able to do the good work that they really want to do.

Speaker 2:

I think that we've seen that all the way through in the different stories that we've told in this thing, that one of the impacts is that that just then becomes a weight that they carry that slows them down, that takes up mental processing time and energy, takes them away from what they really need to be doing At the emotions the resentment or the resignation or whatever emotions. Those become a mood. Actually, if that goes on for a long time, resignation and resentment become a mood that they're working in. That is bad. That's hard, yeah. It's hard to feel good about yourself, your work, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So I think let's Wrap this one up, close this here, yeah. So I think one of the things that I would want to say is that we can look at any complaint that we have in the light of has a clear, complete request been made and an agreement or commitment been made in response to that request before you go anywhere else. So the complaint itself is really a pointer to what do I need to ask for, rather than being something that we carry with us and maybe share with other people, maybe not, and that there are negative impacts, downside impacts, whenever we do that. So making that request and making it of the right person.

Speaker 2:

Yes, there's another pitfall. Oh, I could just go ask this person to do it and it turns out that that's not the person who can actually do what I need to have done. So, being intentional about planning our request, who do I want to make it to the impacts of complaints that aren't voiced and then turned into something besides a complaint, unless you don't care, you don't care if anything is done about it, then you can just we can complain all we want and just whine for a little bit. Can I come to you and whine and I do that with different people, I've done that with you. Hey, eela, can I whine about something for a little while? Yeah, yeah, go for it. I just need to get a little something off my chest, with no expectation that anything will change. That's right. However, if I have a complaint and I have an expectation or a desire for something to change, I need to make clear, complete request and get a response and get a commitment in response. Yeah, Cool.

Speaker 1:

Well, this has got me thinking about some follow up conversations I need to have. So thank you. And again, I think part of why we love our conversations so much and I'm saying this with so much love and generosity for both of us you and I are still human. We still get into situations where we don't get it right, and while our conversations are obviously about helping our listeners and our audience, they're also often a really great reminder for you and I.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. That's the beauty of all of this is that we get to talk about this, which brings it up to front and center in our minds, and then we get to do the work that we might need to do around this. Thank you, eela, for talking about that talking about your own work as well as the work of our clients and it's brought up for me some places where I need to tighten up some requests or go back and remake them, or whatever that might be, and really take a look at why I didn't make them clearly in the first place, what was going on there and I want to thank our listeners for what you might have brought to your listening. My request is that you now take a look in your own life when are your complaints and how can you turn them into powerful requests that create action, the direction you would like it to go. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Thank you too, charles. Till next time. On behalf of both Charles and myself, we want to say a big thank you to our producer and sound editor, chad Pinner. Hillary Rideout of Inside Out Branding, who does our promotion, our amazing graphics and marketing press, and our theme music was composed by Jonas Smith. If you have any questions or comments for us about the podcast, if you have a trust-related situation that you'd like us to take up in one of our episodes, we'd love to hear from you at trustattrustonpurposeorg.

Speaker 2:

And we'd also like to thank you, our listeners. Take care and keep building trust on purpose Until next time.

Speaker 1:

Until next time.

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