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Top Employee Complaints — And How to Handle Them

Posted by Neha De

November 2, 2020

If you are running a business and have people working for you, you are bound to receive complaints from time to time. The complaints can range from something minor in nature to issues that are quite serious. It’s up to you to determine whether complaints are legitimate, and how you should respond to them.

That said, having unhappy employees can hurt your business, in addition to making things unpleasant at the office. When employees are unhappy, their productivity suffers, which can affect your bottom line, too.

Take a look at the four top complaints that usually come from employees — and what you can do about them.

Complaint 1: Low Salaries

According to a study released in 2018, 46 percent of employees feel they're underpaid. If that seems to be a common grievance amongst your staff members, it may be time for you to establish a grounded compensation strategy that helps your employees avoid feeling shorted. With a fair amount of research into the compensation strategy, you can ensure you’re paying your workers what they’re worth, while keeping your business goals in mind.

Complaint 2: Unattractive Benefits

Workplace benefits can play a massive role in employee satisfaction, so if what you offer your employees isn’t up to par, it can lead to a lot of grumbling. This can include vacation or PTO policies to ensure that employees get what they need in terms of time off work.

Another area to reexamine is your health benefits. If your health plans leave your workers with limited coverage and high deductibles, you may find them skimping on healthcare, thereby increasing the number of days they’re out of the office sick.

Additionally, aim to offer a decent retirement plan. If your company is too small to warrant the costs associated with a 401(k), maybe a SIMPLE IRA plan can work as a fair alternative.

Complaint 3: Poor Management

The management team in your company can make or break your employee experience, so if it is falling short in any sense, you must get ahead of the problem. One major issue that you can focus on is communication. If leaders at your company communicate poorly, everyone is bound to be affected. In such a case, it might be a good idea to institute a policy where managers schedule team meetings at regular intervals to keep everyone on the same page.

At the same time, motivate the managers to be open to feedback and practical with their expectations in order to avoid a situation where their team members are overwhelmingly stressed.

Complaint 4: Lack of Career Growth

From a worker’s perspective, one of the worst things is feeling trapped in a dead-end job. To keep that sentiment away from your employees, establish a career development plan that enables them to keep learning and growing. This could mean giving them opportunities to try out new assignments/projects, providing them with financial support by, say, sponsoring a new course or pairing them with mentors.

Other Complaints

  • Favoritism


    Any time an employee receives unwarranted special treatment at work, it’s bound to upset fellow employees. Whether it’s an undeserved promotion, raise in salary or a better work schedule, favoritism by a manager can effectively destroy employee morale.

  • Lack of job security


    With globalization, downsizing, outsourcing and the pressure to meet targets, job security has become a scarce commodity. And when employees aren’t made to feel valuable to a company, they end up changing jobs every two to three years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, baby boomers hold an average of 12.3 jobs from ages 18 to 52.

  • Overworked


    Employees feeling overworked — whether it’s true or not — can have a negative impact on your business. This feeling can cause insomnia, irritability, fatigue, weight gain and a number of other physical and mental issues.

  • Micromanagement


    Micromanaging gives out the message that you have little trust in your employees, which can take away their ability to do their jobs efficiently.

  • Underappreciation


    When employees feel unmotivated and under-appreciated at work, the stress it creates can directly affect their productivity and ultimately your business’ bottom line.

How to Handle Employee Complaints

Consider these pointers on handling employee complaints:

  • Listen intently to the complaint


    Even if it seems like a frivolous matter, listen closely, so that the staff member feels like their voice is being heard. People don’t always want actions to be taken, they just want to be heard.

  • Ask questions


    During the conversation, ask as many questions as necessary about the complaint to ensure accuracy and avoid misinterpretations and inconsistencies. Paraphrase the complaint to ensure you’ve understood it correctly.

  • Get the complaint in writing


    Request the complainant to submit the issue in writing (via email) detailing the facts of the complaint, including names, locations, dates, times, witnesses, repercussions and so on. This way, if something happens due to the complaint, there will be written documentation as proof for all concerned parties (including you) to refer to.

  • Obtain all relevant documentation.

    If there are files, documents or any other proof points related to the complaint, collect that information to make sure you have all evidence on hand.

  • Ensure action


    Thank the employee for the information and let them know (preferably via email) that you will follow through, but don’t make any further comments or promises (including what you plan to do or when).

  • Ask the complainant to keep the complaint to themselves


    People might love to gossip, but when it comes to a formal complaint, all involved, including you, must keep the issue private.

  • Take timely action


    Time is of the essence when handling staff complaints. The longer you take to address them, the easier it will be for another problem to occur, resulting in another complaint.

  • Keep the complaint at the back of your mind


    This will help you identify any patterns.

  • Never indulge in negative behavior


    This could include making jokes, showing disrespect, making the complaint public, taking sides or gossiping.

As an employer, it’s your job to ensure your employees are reasonably satisfied. Otherwise, you risk losing them. Therefore, try to understand what issues your employees are struggling with and get ahead of them.


Neha De
Neha De

Neha De is a writer and editor with more than 13 years of experience. She has worked on a variety of genres and platforms, including books, magazine articles, blog posts and website copy. She is passionate about producing clear and concise content that is engaging and informative. In her spare time, Neha enjoys dancing, running and spending time with her family.

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