Having to re-think the 'moan zone'

I arrange to meet every month with colleagues at all levels in my teams to listen and talk with them without managers 'in the way'. Managers get invited along too, its just I really like to encourage everyone to have a voice, and speak openly and honestly about how they feel about work, and I want to hear those things directly, not translated. I'm not great with hierarchies, and love a bit of anarchy, so when I say I want to hear what colleagues think, I really mean it. Without honesty there can be no meaningful change.



In the months before lockdown changed our world we had been talking about our team culture and what we wanted to see and hear, and what was not ok. The culture is set by the worst behaviour the leader is willing to tolerate, so where were we drawing the line? When we get to those everyday behaviours, and people owning how they behave, then what are we prepared to say is not ok? And so the conversation turned to moaning...


Come on, if you work in any setting, you've come across them. The mood hoovers. The oxygen thieves. The moaning minnies. Everyone loves a good moan, or do they? Turns out we don't love a good moaner, even if we do occasionally love a good moan. It was a topic that just kept coming up, that colleagues really hated being sat next to someone who constantly had something to complain about. And so we set about agreeing ways to change things.


The world would be such a simple place if everything we didn't like, we could just stop, but of course, it doesn't work that way. People don't generally get out of bed in the morning and consciously decide to moan all day, or schedule a slot in their diary 09:00 Board meeting, 10:30 Good Moan, 11:00 meeting with client... It just happens. So would banning it really work? And anyway, who says moaning and groaning is all bad?


So we had a chat about whether moaning is all bad, and whether, sometimes, its necessary. As we began to unpick 'types of moaning' we found there was some that, rather than banning it altogether, we might need to create some space for.


Good moaning - sometimes it helps to let off steam. Like a pressure valve, sometimes its great to go and find a quiet space with a friend or colleague and 'rant'. Mostly these pressure release moans are nothing more than saying out loud things that are frustrating you at that moment in time. Most of the time you aren't looking for answers, and don't actually need anyone to fix anything, its just a way of releasing stress and tension. All you want is someone to listen, and in truth, you might not even need them to listen well.


We agreed there was a place for this, and what's more we had some willing volunteers to provide a confidential 'listening' service. And what's more, because there was now an outlet for moaning, we could also agree that sat at your desk, surrounded by people who didn't want to hear it, was not the place.


Bad moaning - well, that did seem to cover rather more. First there was the habitual moaner. Lets call them Alexa - always listening for an opportunity to respond, only in their case not with answers or music. The Alexas' were everyone's least favourite person to sit next to. Once they were finished moaning about the journey to work, only pausing to interject with a moan about the weather, they would move on to how slow the computer was working, uncomfortable the chair is, who had finished the milk, by which time other people would have offered up new subjects in general conversation. There are certainly some worthy of gold medals for incessant moaning.


Then there is the gang member moaner. They only join in to be one of the gang. Sit them among the positive thinkers and they are equally happy to join that gang, so easier to fix. And of course we have the 'hard done by' moaner. A victim in life who definitely doesn't deserve the bad deal they believe they have been dealt. Like the Alexas, the 'hard done by's are choosing moaning over action.


People can choose to believe that they can change how their life turns out, or that it is beyond their control. And of course they are both right. If you believe that life happens to you then you are not in control, and don't takes steps to be in control. If you believe you can change, then you will take steps to change things. Moaning is simply choosing the action of encouraging others to collude with your belief that life is unfair, and beyond your control.


If we collude in the belief that life is unfair, then we are reinforcing the belief that no further action is necessary or possible, because life is simply unfair. But what if there are actually some real issues hidden within the moaning, things that can be changed? What if we started somewhere and noticed what happened next?


So where to go next with the moan zone. In this world of remote working there is no-one next to you to moan to, or to listen to the moaning. Is this a cure for the Alexas and 'hard done by's? If a tree falls in a forest and there is no-on around to hear it, did it make a noise? Just because we no longer hear the moaning, does not mean that life has suddenly become fair. So the question is, with continued remote working do we choose to believe the tree didn't fall, because we heard no noise or create a new virtual moan zone?


If you want explore what NLP has to offer by way of stepping across to the control side of life check out our website


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