Sports Administration: How to Handle Complaints
Do you often find yourself handling complaints from staff members, students and parents? Here are several time-tested tips for handling complaints without provoking an argument.
- First, make sure complainants can see you relax. If they see you tense up, it stimulates their “fight or flight” reflexes, which prepares them for confrontation.
- Listen intently…and use body language that shows you're doing so (i.e. nodding your head, etc). Sometimes, allowing people to vent their frustrations to an active listener is all that's needed.
- Ask questions to show that you are indeed listening and understanding. Questions will also help the complainant to clarify exactly what the problem is. For example, a series of questions can get you from, “This school sucks!” to “My parking spot is too far away!”).
- Agree with the complainant when they make a good point. Having somebody say, “You're absolutely right—I'd feel the same” can take the wind out of any complainant's sails.
- Finally, set limits as to what you can do for the complainant and establish a solution that you both can live with (e.g. “I don't give out parking spots, the principal does. But I'll recommend you get a closer spot since you have to carry the universal gym into class every day. I'll see him today and report to you tomorrow.”).
1. “Brainstorming: Overcome objections.” Boardroom Reports, July 15, 1984.
2. Robert Lussier, David Kimball, Applied Sport Management Skills, Human Kinetics, 2009.
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