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The Business Case for Positive Employee Communication

December 5, 2023

The Business Case for Positive Employee Communication

As any manager can attest, employee complaints run the gamut. The nature of the industry, group dynamics and individual personalities all can influence what people express and how they do it. Some employee complaints, though, seem to pop up rather frequently in all types of workplaces. Here is a look at ones that managers often encounter and tips on dealing with them.

When confronted with employees who complain, criticize, or try to stir up trouble, managers often feel frustrated and helpless. They may quickly assume that there is no way to change these "personality problems," so they do their best to contain the damage. However, tolerating such harmful behaviors is definitely NOT the smartest strategy.

Complaint: Too much work

Yes, some employees are lazy or just like to whine. However, the possibility exists that the complainer has a legitimate point. Especially in short-staffed workplaces, demands may be unreasonably heavy.

Action: Overwhelmed employees burn out, and many quit. Do not take that risk. Make time to evaluate individual and collective workloads. You may need to redistribute tasks or put some goals on the back burner temporarily.

Complaint: That’s not part of my job

When creating a job description, employers typically include the phrase “other tasks as assigned” after listing common responsibilities. Bring that line to the disgruntled employee’s attention. It also might prove a good time to emphasize that the organization prizes flexible, team-oriented employees willing to pitch in wherever needed.

Action: A manager who keeps hearing this complaint too often, though, may want to examine the situation. The utterer may have a point that her duties are swaying increasingly farther from what she was hired to do. Or she might be frustrated and burned out from regularly being asked to take on more. Heartfelt recognition of efforts (and maybe even a raise) might be in order.

Complaint: Not being paid enough

While this is an evergreen complaint, the Great Resignation brought to the forefront the possibility that better opportunities could exist elsewhere.

Action: Employers worried about retention may want to evaluate their pay scale to ensure it meets industry standards. You can also work with HR to provide staff members with information about how the company determines pay increases. Outline how factors such as years of service, education and certification affect salary. Such information gets rid of feelings of favoritism and shows a path to higher compensation.

Tolerating harmful behaviors is definitely not the best solution.

Chronic negativity frequently starts with only one or two employees, but it can quickly infect an entire department, ruin a culture–and impact the business. When this happens, the inevitable result is reduced productivity, damaged morale, and eventually increased turnover.

Complaint: So-and-so gets away with stuff

Speaking of favoritism, few things get an employee’s goat as much as the impression of unequal treatment.

Action: Managers getting wind of this complaint should examine their behavior. Do you let the wrongdoings of certain people slide? Do you enforce terms stated in the employee handbook across the board? If not, you set the stage for this complaint. And should a former employee pursue legal action down the line for some reason, his case gains strength if he’s able to prove inconsistent treatment of employees with similar offenses.

Complaint: Not wanting to work with a particular colleague

Most everyone has co-workers who they prefer to team up with and others they would rather avoid. Work styles and personalities sometimes jive, and sometimes they clash.

Action: Smart managers find out if this is the case or if problems run deeper. The possibility exists that Worker A does not want to be around Worker B because of belittling, harassment or bullying — and action must be taken.

Complaint: Bureaucracy

Employees often gripe about the way management wants something done. Grumblings could just be letting off steam, or they could be opportunities for improvement.

Action: Explain why things are done a certain way or the reasoning behind specific company policies. Employees may complain less when they understand the rationale. But be open to suggestions. Those doing tasks first-hand may have a better or more efficient idea than what is in place. Take some time, too, to evaluate whether some methods might be outdated or in need of improvement, especially considering the increase in remote work.

Complaint: It’s too hot in here, too cold, too stuffy, too noisy, too dimly lit

Employees can have strong opinions about their work environment. Managers know they cannot please everyone all the time. However, comfortable workers perform better.

Action: Consider their complaints. Maybe it is time to contact maintenance about heat problems, invest in ergonomic chairs or switch to a different type of light bulb.

  • Additional ways to combat complaints
  • Hire positive people. Watch out for job candidates who spend way too much time talking about the ills of their previous employers.
  • Frame problems in terms of finding solutions. Instead of letting complainers go on and on unproductively, challenge them to come up with ways to improve or cope.
  • Watch how much you complain. Your tone influences the general mood.
  • Acknowledge good things. Happy observations, words of encouragement and genuine appreciation help drown out negativity.

Effectively managing employees can be a challenge. We can help! Chamber members looking for assistance with HR questions/issues may contact Jennifer Suppé, Manager, Organizational Culture and HR Services at (585) 256-4608 or email her, or Cindy Owen, HR Services Partner at (585) 256-4606, or email her, or Kathy Richmond, Sr. Director, HR Services, at (585) 256-4618 or email her. HR Helpline access varies by membership tier.

Source: Business Management Daily - December 4, 2023


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