It makes good business sense to foster a contented workforce by employing strategies to prevent employee discontentment before it turns toxic. Do you actually care about your employees’ happiness on the job?
Dare to care
Even though it is unwise to become best buddies with everyone on your team, a focus on the staff’s satisfaction is beneficial to the company, with results that can be seen and felt almost immediately.
An ‘I- thou’ approach
Have you stopped to identify the problems your staff is dealing with on a day-to-day basis? When someone complains of a headache, instead of empathising, do you tell her that you have a massive one too? When they are working overtime on a public holiday, do you swan in and boast that you’ve just come off your yacht?
Disgruntled staff members are toxic to an organisation. When it comes to doom and gloom spreading through an office building, hell hath no fury like an unhappy employee. Timely action – both reactive and proactive when needed – towards employees’ complaints, will reduce the high cost of staff turnover, and create employees who are creative and responsive to the company and customers’ needs.
But it’s not all about what they can do for your company it’s about what the company can do for them. A more humanistic approach to management is in keeping with the zeitgeist of the new millennium. Here is a list of some of the most common employee complaints about their workplace, and what you can do to deal with them. They may surprise you. It is not about salary increases, time off, or promotions – it is simply a matter of more respect and consideration.
The boss never says ‘good morning’
We have all seen films where an elegantly dressed CEO strides into a buzzing office block. Usually male, he has a greeting and remark for each of the staff members he passes by. Most importantly, he addresses them by name. It is startling how important such a small act is, contributing to the moral of not just one individual, but to the whole team.
When an employee is ignored by the boss, the person who is the embodiment of the company and the focus of their respect, they cannot fail to feel undermined, disillusioned, and disrespected. And let’s face it, it is an awful way for anyone to start the day.
There’s too much unfairness
Nepotism, ‘preferenzi‘, whatever you want to call it – discrimination is undeniably a natural tendency. A close relative to blatant favouritism is the habit of giving the best assignments, projects, training, perks to the same people, those employees who you think will do the best job.
However, every manager needs to be aware that nothing goes unnoticed by employees. It’s like they develop a super brain, keeping tabs on who was given which promotion, and who is allowed to come in late, take long lunch breaks, given perks etc. After a while it becomes impossible to ignore the blatant fact that all the male staffers have been given a promotion, or that the same few are always chosen to go abroad.
Employees who perceive inequality of roles or levels of visibility become discouraged and demotivated. Ask yourself why you are avoiding the others. Perhaps they need training, or maybe they just need a chance. Widen the circle of whom you ask to take on projects or clients.
Lack of trust and appreciation
Remember what it was like to be mistrusted by your parents? The feeling that they are not trusted is among the most difficult and demotivating things for staff to deal with. Some employees describe it as being micromanaged, with someone supervising every step of the process, while others report the feeling that someone is always looking over their shoulder. Skilled employees feel micro-managers do not appreciate their contributions. Employees not only solve workplace problems but also create and innovate. This type of employee does not appreciate being treated like the assembly-line worker of the past.
When employees frequently receive messages that indicate the manager doesn’t trust them, they become discouraged and give up. Eventually they get angry and defiant, and may even sabotage their manager’s efforts. Managers who want to avoid that kind of destructive dynamic let employees know they are aware of day-to-day operations. They learn to get out of the way and let the employees do their job.
Is there real two-way communication in your company? Do you regularly inform staff about projects, the company’s status and strategies, or does it only occur once a year? Are their avenues and structures in place that facilitate staff communication with management?
Information feeds your employees and keeps your business strong. It is a vital resource, but in some companies, information is treated like a gift; it is metered out to those who have achieved a particular position or level of accomplishment, creating a culture of secrecy and exclusion. Divisions start to exist between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. Being ‘the last to know’ also adds a scar to any other injuries. And anything that prevents people from functioning well together is detrimental to the success of the company.
What can you do develop an environment that is more generous with information? Don’t be afraid that you are communicating too much. Ask yourself: who else needs to know about this? Who else is affected? Appoint someone to take notes at every meeting and circulate notes to the entire team.
Not knowing what each employee’s roles and tasks are, makes staff feel they are merely cogs in the wheel and that all that seems to matter is the bottom line. Many employees feel that their managers are out of touch with what happens in their work environment. The employee often knows more about what they are doing than the manager. These employees feel little support from the people they depend on to direct and evaluate them.
Employees need to know that the manager is willing to be involved, cares, and is interested in asking for their opinion. Employees lament that while they continue to work harder than before, they are not asked for opinions or contributions that do not directly deal with their present tasks.
Workers would like managers to be more present on the floor, talk to them, and be in touch with daily operations.
Remember to ask employees for their opinion. You can collect input from staff prior to setting goals, policies and procedures. Establish a process for collecting feedback and making decisions upfront, and create an environment that permits staff to disagree openly.
Allowing staff members to voice their opinions and become a part of decision-making is paramount to developing an ongoing sense of loyalty and commitment to the workplace.
Support and training
Employees are disappointed when they are not asked about career steps they would like to take in the future, and are not encouraged in their studies and training. Carol Hymowitz, writing about the human resource side of management in the Wall Street Journal, explains that maintaining a quality workforce should include studying the staff’s needs and keeping up with them over time. A company must always have qualified employees that can perform the tasks that are needed.
Professional training and career development
It is essential to provide staff with professional training and adequate career development opportunities. By encouraging staff to develop talents and learn new skills, you can help to prevent a sense of boredom. Experts recommend that if you can’t afford training, regular, light-hearted brainstorming sessions will help improve staff’s professional skills, with everyone learning from each other.
Knowledge workers are expected to be creative, proactive and self-motivated. Yet noise levels and a lack of privacy in the typical open plan environment mean that work areas rarely provide adequate levels of silence and privacy.
In the typical office, phones ring, people drop by; conversation levels escalate; spontaneous meetings occur; file drawers slam. People simply walking by, sudden movements and unexpected sights account for an inability to really concentrate. There is also a natural inclination among workers to stake a claim on certain spaces – and trespassing can cause stress.
Your work environment needs to support every person and all the different ways they work: Determine how much privacy is necessary for each person and group in order for work to be done well.
Presume the worst
One of the problems with communicating complaints, is that while employees have no trouble in grumbling between themselves, they are often reluctant to stand up and be counted, to actively communicate their woes to management. The unequal power structure may not facilitate any expressions of vulnerability, especially in a climate of economic instability. Ask yourself whether your employees could be afraid of speaking their minds for fear of losing their jobs. Then the onus is on you to presume that some of the above-mentioned complaints exist, and take steps to deal with them.
The bottom line is: to be interested in their career and working environment, show staff they are valuable, keep your promises and last but not least, remember to say thank you – every day, not just at the completion of a project.
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