Please allow me to start with a caveat…. we all whine sometimes. I can be a pathetic whiner about the most minor problems. And whining is not always bad. It can often be a bit cathartic – like screaming or full contact karate. (Actually, screaming and full contact karate are probably not appropriate in the workplace). But, there is occasional normal whining, and then there are the people who have made whining an essential component of their personality. And as any manager in the workplace will tell you, there is no one more frustrating to manage then a full-fledged Whiner, and aside from the Weasel, no personality attribute is potentially more dangerous to the organization.
Whiners are frustrating from a number of perspectives. Often they are otherwise talented individuals with much to offer the organization, but due to their own insecurities, distrust, and ego issues they quickly top out. They create problems and controversy where none exists. They thrive on dissension and the creation of needless politics. They attempt to divert attention from their own inadequacies and lack of self esteem by creating fictional problems for everyone to analyze.
Managers often clearly see the Whiner’s potential, and may invest enormous amounts of time and energy in an effort to convert them into a Worker or Warrior. But unfortunately the Whiner’s mindset is often too deeply ingrained. Instead of working with the team to develop solutions, they prefer to concentrate on and communicate problems. In any case, effective managers need to take immediate action when they see a Whiner emerge in the office, as left unchecked they can reek havoc. In my book I refer to the most damaging kind of Whiners as "Opinionators" – Whiners that for whatever reason have built enough credibility in the organization as to sway attitudes.
Opinionators can be cancer to an otherwise healthy company – spreading discontent, inventing problems, and converting impressionable Workers and budding Warriors into Whiners. I have seen many situations when management took too long to respond to Whiner problem – and let the cancer spread until it was terminal for the organization. Sometimes with proper management a Whiner can be put in check, and while they always pose a bit of a challenge, they can be an asset to the organization. One effective way to deal with Whiners – give them responsibility to solve the problem they are whining about. Make them part of the solution so they can’t complain about the problem. Rabid and unrepentant Whiners need to be eliminated from the company in the most efficient way possible.
One of the reasons I wrote Warriors, Workers, Whiners, & Weasels was to develop an easy lexicon to deal with these kind of problems. In my own organization employees understand the classification system, And so when I say "you are being a Whiner" the problem is clearly defined. And the classification system saves time and adds clarity. For many people transition to becoming a Whiner was subtle and took time and acceptance from those around them. Had they been confronted with their metamorphosis, they might not have become so insufferable.