Frequently asked…

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Two frequently asked questions I get are, 'Do you ever tire from hearing people complain and what is the most common complaint?"

My response to the first question is "Absolutely not!" I thoroughly enjoy having the opportunity and ability to assist. Of course I don't enjoy that people are in distress, but what I do enjoy is having the opportunity to lighten their load when they have or feel they have been wronged. Obviously not every complainant gets the results they are seeking, but more often than not, they leave knowing they were heard and their issue was fully addressed.

My response to the second question is there are no 'common' complaints; however, failure to communicate or lack of communication appears to be pervasive in the majority of complaints. The comments most commonly stated are 'supervisors just don't want to be the bad guys,' or 'supervisors don't want to take the time or would rather avoid possible negative reaction.' There could be many reasons for the breakdown of communication--but the key is to not let it build and result in bad performance ratings or complaints that could have been prevented had communication taken place from the onset.

A supervisor once told me of an experience they had: their subordinate who was mature and well educated lacked motivation and did not appear to be performing to their potential. Months after the initial feedback and adequate period of supervision, the mid-term feedback was given. The supervisor tactfully and professionally informed the subordinate of areas that needed improvement and offered recommendations. The otherwise passive employee erupted; took extreme offense to the feedback and subsequently shut down after the exchange. The supervisor said the feedback session 'backfired,' not only did the feedback take an adversarial turn; it affected their working relationship from that point on. The supervisor never gave feedback again. I realize this is extreme, but sometimes one bad experience can have long-lasting negative effects.

During my education and training opportunities I stress the importance of exercising good communication skills and the absolute need to respond to those who seek us out for assistance.

I close with these two points: We can all benefit from improving communication and it's a privilege for me to be in a position of service to military and civilian personnel who believe they have been ignored or wronged or have been given a "can't do anything for you...NEXT" response - a position where I can effect change.