Friday, June 8, 2012

How to Handle Complaints

Imagine you are walking through the desert and you ran out of food and possibly water. You also have no idea how far you are from civilization.
What do you think about? Do you pray to God to help you or think, just around the next mountain will be water or a village?
Do you blame yourself? Your tour guide, if you had one or the leader of your trip? Where do you start? How do you end?

Now think about the same scenario where you are working with or for a company and you do not have the tools to get your project or work accomplished. You find yourself in a situation that seems hopeless or limiting and you may long for a previous company or project.

What do you do? You go to your management and ask for help. Naturally. But sometimes it doesn't always come out in the best way. Sometimes your needs can be construed as complaints. And so it was when part of the people came to Moshe and complained (11:4-6):
4. But the multitude among them began to have strong cravings. Then even the children of Israel once again began to cry, and they said, "Who will feed us meat?
5. We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.
6. But now, our bodies are dried out, for there is nothing at all; we have nothing but manna to look at."
Notice the split from the initial issue, meat and how that winnowed down to garlic and finally "just the manna". Keep in mind the manna was from god and could taste like anything you want.

So what were they really bothered by? The lack of meat? They were in the desert after all and in previous parshas we read about the sacrifices and animals...where did those all go? They never left, but this group of people would never be happy. If they were not going to be happy with manna, they would never be happy.

The journey in life and work is to move forward, look behind to learn what you need going forward. In keeping with my work life where I deal with competitive issues, the last point made is usually the main point. In this case, the manna which was unexciting perhaps to see, but so excellent to taste, seems to be the whole point of the problem. Here they are in the desert, sand everywhere, each day, so far for 2 years (out of 40) and not much changes and even the food looks the same everyday.

If you do not make the effort in business to provide new ideas, you may start hearing from others that they want the old ways or are bored. If you are constantly changing it makes it harder for people to long for the old ways. In response God says I will give them so much food/meat it will come out of their ears, probably literally, this is God after all. Perhaps not the best answer, but then God really is only addressing those that complained. Does the squeaky wheel get the grease? Sometimes not for the best.

God comes out angry, as would any manager, but not across the board, only to those that failed in their tasks or expectations. Recognize that those who raise issues need to be addressed properly, sometimes sternly and to everyone else you need to communicate what changes will take place.Be social, but be responsible as well to your organization and family.

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Parsha Behaalotecha in the book of Bamidbar, Numbers 8:1-12:16
It is said that the Torah or Bible could be interpreted in over 70 ways. More likely these days 100's of ways. In light of this idea, I am writing some posts that bring a business sense to what we can learn on a weekly basis. Enjoy, Shabbat Shalom