Employee Experience

5 Common Employee Gripes And How To Avoid Them  


“It’s not that I’m lazy or anything, it’s just that I don’t care… the real problem is motivation… The only thing that motivates me is Lumbergh bothering me. That, and I guess, the fear of losing my job, but that’ll only make a person work hard enough not to get fired.”

Office Space (20th Century Fox, 1999)

No matter what you do for a living, anyone who’s seen Mike Judge’s disturbingly accurate film, Office Space, will identify with the above quote. Employee complaints are unavoidable, and dealing with them appropriately is critical to maintaining a harmonious and productive workplace.

Bearing this in mind, we take a quick look at some of the most common employee complaints and effective ways of dealing with them:

Feeling underpaid

This is perhaps the biggest generator of employee complaints. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think they should be getting a few extra shekels in their pay packet so there’s no easy fix for this issue.

If the reality is you’re paying below market-rates, why? If under-payment is a perception and not reality, being transparent and arming your people with information on how their salary is calculated is essential. Work with staff to identify ways they might be able to boost their pay packet. For example, if your corporate culture is an around-the-clock operation, less popular but higher paying shifts might be an alternative they’ll consider.

Lack of recognition

Complaints about lack of recognition arise for, essentially, the same reasons employees complain of not being paid enough: a sense of feeling undervalued. The good news: avoiding these kinds of complaints are relatively easy.

Reward and recognition programs boost productivity, reduce absenteeism and staff turnover, and keep your people motivated. The beauty of an effective R&R program is that it doesn’t have to cost the earth. You can reward staff with something as simple as movie tickets, lunch vouchers or gift cards. If your budget is a bit tighter, how about offering staff extended lunch breaks or leaving the office early on a Friday as a reward for high performance? If you have a staff member whose keen on progressing further within the company, maybe a 10-minute one-on-one motivational chat with your company’s CEO would be a good confidence booster?

Ensure you’re recognizing your staff for going above and beyond in a way that resonates with the individual and you’ll see these kinds of complaints reduce.

Poor communication

Communication – or lack thereof – can really get employees complaining. Communicating effectively may seem overwhelming at times of pressure but nailing the basics is important for keeping discontent to a minimum.

Take the time to really listen to your people, respect their opinions (ensuring it works both ways, of course) and engage openly with them in a personal way. A 2015 survey conducted by US communications consultancy Harris and Interact found that 91% of the 1,000 respondents said communication issues could hurt their relationship with their boss.

“Leaders can make themselves visible by periodically showing up at meetings,” says Harris and Interact’s CEO, Lou Solomon. “That way, [you’ll] appear more approachable and trustworthy.”

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Destructive feedback

Negative (or, more appropriately, destructive) feedback is a killer in the workplace, especially if your people are feeling overworked and undervalued, and you’re an absent boss. But, overcoming this problem is not complex.

If you understand your employees and the leadership style that is most effective for them, you’ll find they will respond positively. Sure, some of your people are going to function better with a direct approach but others will prefer a more constructive leadership style.

Instead of “This isn’t good enough, fix it or you’re out,” try “You do [X] so well and that’s exactly what we need. We also need people who are good at [Y]. I believe you’ve got the skills to do [Y] even better, and that’s going to be an enormous feather in your cap if we can get you to improve in that area.”


At times, scrutinizing the output of your employees is unavoidable but too much attention from supervisors generates discontent because it can be perceived as a lack of trust.

Ask yourself honestly: do I micro-manage people when I don’t need to? If the answer is yes, the next question should be, why?

You need to trust that your people can – and will – get the job done without you hovering over their every move. We’re all adults, and treating people with respect and having belief in them is more likely to increase employee satisfaction than needlessly watching their every bathroom break.

REFFIND supports leaders who are great communicators and listeners. Check out how the REFFIND solution can help you better engage with your employees and if you like what you see, request a demo on any page of our website.