My recent Pause e-zine message, ‘The Not So Classic BMW’, generated quite a number of thoughtful replies from readers. Here are a few of their thoughts on dealing with BMW (Bitch, Moan, Whine) behaviours in the workplace.
LC writes: As an office manager, I have a role that is important to the owners as well as the employees and it can be a difficult tight rope on given days and in given circumstances. I can be guilty of the BMW as well as offering a shoulder for complaints. I preach the leave it outside and let’s make it happen, but don’t always find myself following my own wisdom.
LF writes: This is something that I believe in and try to do. If you don’t like something, do what you can to improve things. If you are not successful at least you can then complain with some credibility. If you are successful, you have one less thing that irritates you.
JG writes: I loved the BMW insight and practical tool. I am always looking at ways to create a more positive and productive work environment for people who tend to see things a bit negatively. Of course, what hit home was the first point – consider whether or not I am contributing to the very behaviors I try to discourage – good question. I think I can safely say, ” No,” consciously, but there is a bit of me that may actually be an unintentional accomplice. Great food for thought – I can use the 4 step process on myself first…. Thanks!
SF writes: Negative language is so interesting. My mother in law was at my house recently helping me look after my niece. My niece is 9 months old, loves sitting in laps, soaks up the extra attention and has the sharpest hearing and turns her head at any new noise-all things I like and expect from a baby. My mother in law is from the “old generation” of farm wives and has an interesting way of expressing herself. So when my niece is soaking up all the extra attention my mother in law will describe her as a “brat”, or when she turns her head at every noise calls her “nosy”. I wasn’t enjoying this very much and asked her to explain why she would use “brat” to describe my niece? She said it’s just because she’s enjoying all the attention. I asked her if it was a bad or negative behaviour? She said no, that in her day that’s just how you describe babies even when they are being cute. I asked her about the “nosy” comment and again a simliar response. I asked her to consider using different words because “brat” and “nosy” are negative and don’t really describe what she means, especially when she could affect my niece in later years calling her a nosy brat! It was interesting to watch my mother in law catch herself using negative terms to describe positive things over the weekend. It really felt good to address the negative language and see a small change.
CO writes: I agree that BMW can be destructive and can make it difficult to progress on issues. At the same time, I am concerned that in our chaotic work world, workers are often asked to “swallow down” frustration, put on a smile and develop a positive response, no matter how ridiculous the situation, request, timelines etc. Is it possible to allow people a “controlled vent” or to recognize the frustrations a situation can cause, before moving to solution? How can you manage these vents without it degenerating into BMW? Is there a cost to business by not recognizing frustrations (usually things beyond our remedy) and the difficult work environment they create?
LH writes: Excellent advice. Your story can also be seen as one of resistance. We need to be always careful to not mis-interpret. In a changing world they are often signalling there is something they want us to pay attention to. (There are those who are malicious and use BMW for their own gain. They take a lot more work and sometimes it is best to let them stay behind.)
I have met many who nod their head (like in your story) but they need to explore within themselves why some of the staff are that way. There is most often a story. As leaders it is our job to get the best effort out of all of our resources including BMW’s. Are we short changing our organization if we do what is the simplistic solution? The beauty of your suggestion is that it is not simplistic but simple. It is a way to address the situation not ignore it. I find that if you do what you suggest most will begin the personal journey away from BMW.
There is however a personal side to what you suggest. Be prepared to hold/carry (do not keep) their stuff (!!!!) when you are engaging them. DO NOT RESCUE. Let them take the monkey away with them each time. You may also wish to talk to a trusted co-worker if you find yourself holding on.
For me I have always thought of it as:
1. Raise it (generous listening)
2. Honour it (it is theirs and that is OK)
3. BMW admit their part (they own it)
4. Explore the consequences (+/-) of their “favourite solution” (understand long/short impact on them, the organization, customers etc.)
5. Offer to work on a solution with them (it is not fun to be marginalized which is what many do to BMW’s which was implicit in your story)
6. If all fails be clear about what you want (no more BMW in my world).
It reminds me of a story a while back with a co-worker. She was an emerging BMW. We talked and talked. It came down to my giving her permission to not care as much. (Wow did not know I was that powerful!) Well a short while later she shared with me that it helped. She explored why she was so wrapped up in the work world that she forgot about the other parts of her life. She began to focus more on balance (fun, joy, family etc).