A boss’s job is not complete without hearing gripes, thoughts and ideas from the rank-and-file. But weigh carefully what you hear.
Sometimes, those gripes are just ill-timed utterances and forgivable, but often there’s a deeper problem that lies within the employee.
Here are seven employee complaints that are worth jotting down:
- That’s not in my job description. You just gave a directive and got slapped. Other duties as required. Repeat: Other duties as required. Not to yourself! To your employees. Once they know this catch-all job description from the start, you should never have to hear that jaw-dropping, lip-quivering, career-jeopardizing barb again. Once is enough for this brazen line.
- I don’t think ____ has enough to do. Your response: “Really? And apparently neither do you if you have the time to monitor your co-workers.” This employee is either trying to boost his own stature by pointing out the deficiencies in a cubicle-mate he doesn’t like, or it’s a veiled complaint on his own heavy load. Either way, bring this up at review time. You didn’t hire him to be the arbiter of work distribution.
- I can’t work with ____ anymore. Any worker who comes to you with this line is not only asking you to referee a junior-high-like skirmish, but is pushing you to unfairly penalize the other party for his own Machiavellian reasons. A closer look at this situation will likely reveal that the problem lies in the complainer.
- I don’t have enough time to do that. Psst! Boss, it has nothing to do with time. This employee unabashedly just told you that she just doesn’t want to do what you told her to do. We all are pressed for time. This is the mark of an employee who will not take on extra work or shuffle things around for the benefit of your organization or her career. Good employees will say, “Sure I can get that done, but is there anything that you think I could put on the back burner?”
- It’s not my fault. OK. Sometimes a mistake or goof-up involves more than one person, so there could be others involved. But, c’mon, you didn’t drag her in because she’s just an innocent eyewitness who’s easy to interrogate. She had a hand in it and should admit as much. Those who own up to their mistakes and work to correct them should have nothing to worry about.
- Is it Friday yet? This is an employee’s cutesy, giggly, back-slapping way of telling you the work and the time he puts in is exasperating, and he’s only a little afraid to let you know. But you got the message.
- This place is a sweat shop. This is the ballsier version of “Is it Friday yet?” Any employee who tells you this should not even make it to the next review. But you might get the pleasure of reminding him that a real sweat shop could be his car on the ride home with a pink slip lying on the passenger seat.
Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.