In every business, there are two types of employees: staff members who have legitimate gripes about how a certain supervisor is behaving or how the company is treating interns, and the chronic complainer, an employee who needs to air his or her grievances on a daily basis.
A boss, manager, supervisor or team leader will have to handle an array of annoying complaints from a certain employee, or a tag team that thrives with simply complaining. Now, you may ask: what are some annoying employee complaints anyway? They can include constant complaining about the office temperature, how the break room only offers one specific brand of coffee, how the workload is too heavy, or how someone reeks of cigarette smoke. The list is endless.
Oh, and let’s not forget about that one employee who constantly whines and moans about how much they hate their job!
Despite the validity of some of these complaints, a manager’s responsibility is to take them seriously and attempt to come up with a reasonable solution. A leader simply can’t be honest and inform the chronic complainer just how dumb or ridiculous their complaints are.
Here are nine ways to handle annoying employee complaints:
1. A Deadline for the Undecider
When the undecider is given an assignment, it will usually take him quite a while to come up with a plan to complete this project, or a reasonable solution to a quandary. He then incessantly complains about how he doesn’t have enough time to finish the task at hand. He blames everything on poor management and how the projects are beneath him, which is why he takes his time.
Solution: Either a series of deadlines (finish certain segments of the project at specified dates) or a final deadline when the assignment must be finished. If the undecider can’t come up with a remedy, then a default decision has to be made and maintained even without the employee’s input. Once the deadline has come, there is no room for any further delay or alternative.
2. Express Empathy for the Sensitive
The sensitive employee can’t take constructive criticism, performance reviews or any sort of negative feedback. Any time the sensitive employee is taken aside to be given advice, or when they are allocated an assignment, she will be saddened, worried and she will perhaps even shed some tears. She will complain how management treats her terribly and how her coworkers do not provide any emotional support whatsoever.
Solution: The person in charge must offer the sensitive employee some understanding and empathy. Although the manager should still manage things and come up with solutions to quandaries and answers to things that befuddle her, she will have to be somewhat coddled.
3. A Company Solution for the Competitor
The ultracompetitive worker will arrive to the office with his muscles bulging, sweat coming out of his pores, and profanity exiting his mouth. It’s as if he was just in a WWE 60-minute ironman match! He is ready to take down his colleagues to be the best, receive a raise, and be the next assistant manager. When he isn’t given any credit for his work or isn’t given what he wants (i.e.: a raise or a promotion), he will just complain and complain out loud.
Solution: Create an environment where there is a focus on teamwork. Playing well with others is the goal, and coming up with team solutions is the aim for the business to thrive. If he doesn’t understand, then he can’t excel in his role. This can be achieved by having teamwork slogans around the office or speeches that include words like "us", "we", and "team".
4. A Distraction for the Drama Queen
The drama queen comes to work late, takes personal phone calls at her desk, cries after lunch, and asks to leave early. She even gossips about other workers and supervisors. It’s a soap opera being in her presence. When people don’t want to work with her or she can’t get things completed before the end of the day, she will complain with tears, a throbbing in her voice, and perhaps even yelling. When she’s at work, all what’s missing is an organ!
Solution: A set of rules, boundaries and guidelines need to be laid out. When these office regulations aren’t met, then the person in question won’t be tolerated. A late arrival by the drama queen needs to have consequences. Bringing personal drama into the corporate structure must be met with ramifications. Office gossip must be met with suspensions.
5. A Warning for the Office Rebel
The office rebel thinks he’s the coolest cat since The Fonz. He likes to insult managers, cite bad company news, criticize its business model, and even chastise those around him. The office rebel isn’t the nicest guy around, but he can be effective when he focuses on work rather than uncouth behavior. Aside from data entry, his other role is disparaging the business and complaining about how things are done.
Solution: Transferring the office rebel’s role and tasks will work, as long as it’s in the right direction. The best place for him is in the administration, back end, or bureaucratic department. By directing his hatred in another direction, he will thrive by ensuring customers get what they want and need. He can make things happen, or at least find out how difficult it can be at times.
6. Micromanagement for the Procrastinator
The procrastinator has the right mindset: saying yes and accepting opportunities whenever they come his way. Unfortunately, his work ethic is something not to be desired. He will take assignments but fail to follow through on a number of tasks. The procrastinator, much like his colleague, the undecider, will then complain to management about a paucity of time and assistance.
Solution: For the procrastinator, there is only one solution: micromanagement. Although this type of business practice doesn’t work, it can be effective in certain circumstances, particularly for those who keep putting things off.
7. An Opinion From the Resident Genius
Did you know there’s a genius in your office? Yep! The resident genius, who thinks he is in his own mind, hates his job because it’s beneath him and he wants something better. He wants to change the world. The company he works for now won’t do anything for the betterment of mankind. Therefore, he won’t put 100 percent into the business without a long-term goal. He just complains about how the world is falling apart and his employer isn’t doing anything about it.
Solution: A resident office genius wants to be listened to, watched, and appreciated. To ensure they get the job done, you must heed to this by asking for his opinion from time to time. You may not have to incorporate it into the grand scheme of things, but the gesture of asking can be very effective.
8. Nothing for the Despair
The employee with despair is never happy with anything. She’s given a raise, she’s not happy. She’s given a promotion, she’s not happy. She’s given new assignments, she’s not happy. She has a window seat, she’s not happy. She is never thrilled, excited, cheerful or grateful for anything. The despair worker is never satisfied about anything. She complains, but to herself or online.
Solution: Nothing. There is nothing you can do for the worker suffering from despair. She would only complain more. Even if you made her CEO, she would want to be head of the board of directors. If she was head of the board directors, she’d want 75 percent of shares. And it goes on and on.
9. A One-on-One Session for the Workplace Gestapo
The workplace Gestapo likes to spy on everyone because he thinks he will earn brownie points and favoritism by doing so. Every suspicious act, every violation, every extra five minutes of break time will be reported in his black book. He will then complain to the manager for each infraction and demand they be reprimanded.
Solution: Have one-on-one sessions with the workplace Gestapo to reassure them that their efforts are appreciated. To end this act, encourage them to focus more on their work because they are already paying attention to these things. But, of course, thank them for everything they do.
See Also: Firing an Employee
Here are some other tips to incorporate into your office setting for the complainers:
- A central formal complaint system, either written or electronically.
- Outsource your central formal complaint system.
- Establish and maintain a quarterly report or blog about potential office issues.
- Investigate and confirm the allegations and complaints.
Some complaints from employees are legitimate. Other complaints from staffers are just ludicrous. Nevertheless, you have to file a formal investigation into the more alleged serious ones. For the minuscule complaints, you just have to write it down and look into the matter.
With that being said, constant employee complaints can be as bad as Ned Flanders continually calling Reverend Lovejoy about every single act he thinks may be a sin or against the wishes of God. Whatever you do, don’t metastasize into the Reverend!
Is there a chronic complainer in your office? Let us know in the comments section below!