IBT EDUCATION DEPARTMENT STEWARD SERIES

DEALING WITH THE CHRONIC COMPLAINER

Almost every steward knows one "the" mad at the world co-worker who hates the union'. People like this can be a real handful. Their anger defies reason. It's almost as if they have nothing else to do but complain and find fault ' about the union's position on issues, its leaders, its failures at the bargaining table or in the grievance process, its dues . . . especially its dues. The list of grievances against the union is usually as long as the complainer's imagination is deep!

It can be a real headache for the steward, who knows better than anyone just how much the union is actually doing. It's not easy putting up with the day-to-day whining of a co-worker, especially when you know so many of the beefs are unjustified.

And it can be a much broader problem if the person is a loud-mouth, as is often the case; he or she becomes a disease-carrying virus who does everything possible to infect co-­workers. The drumbeat of anti-union ranting can wear down even the strongest union supporter.

Through the complainer's efforts, non-problems can become problems. Small problems can become big ones.

There are ways to deal with this, but first, remember: you owe it to yourself and your co-­workers to take an objective look at every complaint that arises, no matter who it conies from. It may be from a non-stop complainer, but does it have merit' If it does, and you're in a position to help make things right, pursue it. If he fires enough shots, even a blind man will occasionally hit the target. Helping a chronic complainer with a legitimate problem will take you a long way toward moderating future complaints.

But if the complaint is unjustified, or a mountain is being made out of a molehill, you owe it to the union, yourself and your co-workers to deal with it. Here are some ways you might be able to go about it:

Chronic complainers frequently will gripe to everyone around them except people like stewards or union officers, who feel comfortable representing the union's position and know how to respond. Perhaps the next time you hear the complainer bending someone's ear you can step in and set the record straight. If the complainer is confronted head-on, it may slow him down.

In the same way it may be possible to shut down the complainer by confronting him or her in front of number of other workers. Preparing your response in advance, pick some issue he has been griping about. Making someone look foolish is a great way to modify his behavior. It won't make him an ally, but it may make him think twice about making an issue out of every little thing in the future.

You can try getting some of your stronger union co-workers to agree to a common response to the complainer "You know, John (Jane). I'm really tired of hearing your complaints about the union. I think it does okay for us. I don't want to hear this stuff anymore, Okay"

The best solution of all, of course, is to turn the union-hater around. Why does he or she complain so much' Ask. Maybe he had a bad experience with a union once and never got over it. Maybe he really doesn't understand the way the union operates, or the benefits that are a direct result of the union's presence. The next best thing to do with a complainer is to get him to stop. The best thing to do with one is to turn him into a supporter.