"This process is inefficient" one employee might say.

Another might complain, "I can't get anything done in the office when the music is blasting."

A third might say, "I didn't like how this manager handled my complaint."

Another employee might declare, "My workwear is uncomfortable and doesn't suit me... I hate it!"

These are just a few of the many complaints you might hear if you are an office that is open to employee criticism.

So how do you stop employees complaining?

It may seem overwhelming to be told what is wrong with your business, how employees could be happier, and the fact that the break room kettle has been broken for two weeks, but complaints are actually beneficial for many reasons - one of which is that it demonstrates that your employees actually care about where they work.

It shows that this is more than just a job to them

Image of an office meeting

Here are some reasons why employee complaints are actually a good thing:

  • Complaints demonstrate that employees are invested
  • Complaints provide an opportunity to brainstorm solutions
  • Complaints are a learning process
  • Complaints allow you to grow as a company
  • Complaints demonstrate that employees are invested

Here is an example. Let us call this employee Sharon...

Sharon worked at a gym whilst studying at university. Sharon marches into her bosses office one day proclaiming loudly that the new advert in the local university newspaper sends the wrong message to potential customers on campus. It is sexist. It is inappropriate.

Unfortunately, Sharon does so in front of two clients. Later that day, the boss reprimands her and tells her to never say anything negative in front of clients.

Sharon never complains again, but she also stops caring about her job. It is just a job now.

What went wrong?

The boss could have used that opportunity as a way to discuss how the complaint could be handled in a better way. He could have taken on board the validity of her criticism. Was there something to it?

He could have recognised that Sharon was simply lacking in communication skills and should not be dismissed outright.  

Complaining employees are not bad employees and should not be treated as such. These employees are often passionate about the organisation. After all, why bother complaining if they did not care at all about the outcome of the company?

Complaints should be addressed and handled with care. The manager should listen to the complaint, but also direct that complaint in a way that the employee is communicating effectively.

It is important to ask questions and get to the root cause of complaints. Some complaints are legitimate and others are just complaints, but nothing should be dismissed outright.  

Complaints provide an opportunity to brainstorm solutions

Image of a team brainstorming ideas

When an employee complains, they rarely complain without offering solutions. They may say (x) is wrong, but we can fix it with (y) solution. It may be worth trialling the solution. Remember that the employee will have given great consideration to the solution they bring to you.

You may use the opportunity to talk to your team and see if other team members have the same complaint and see what solutions they have to offer.

Having an open floor where employees feel they can change their workplace for the better is always a great idea. After all, we spend about ⅓ of our lives at work and ⅓ of our lives sleeping, so we ought to be happy at work.

Of course, not everyone will be happy with absolutely every aspect of their job, but if you can make your employees happier and more productive - and that is done initially through a complaint, then why not?  

Complaints are a learning process

Before an employee has brought something up, you may not even have been aware there was a problem in the break room with the microwave or the toaster. These may seem like small matters, but replacing those items increases employee happiness and is the first step.

Handling complaints is a learning process. You can learn what is wrong with your company and find ways to fix it, which makes it a better place to work for everyone, a better company for customers, and - most likely - a better place for you to work too.

You begin to foster loyalty in your workforce by showing them respect, and they will respect each other more too.

Complaints allow you to grow as a company

As a company, you would hear only 1 in 25 customer complaints (assuming you have customers), so that means those other customers who do not complain simply stop being customers. As a business, you can see the direct impact of losing 25 customers even if that is just per quarter.

Employee complaints are no different. Only 1 in so many will actually complain about an issue, and when someone is speaking it, it is most likely because many have complained behind the scenes to their colleagues. You should see complaints as a way for your company to grow.

If you handle complaints appropriately and productively - even if you make mistakes in the process at first - you will allow your employees to know that they work in a place that they can invest in, speak up, present ideas, and be heard.

All of these factors mean that you can grow as a company over time.  

If complaints stop, you may be in trouble

A Panda gets angry at work
We all have a little Panda inside us.

If you refuse to address complaints productively, you will stop hearing them. Employees will keep their thoughts to themselves, which means they won't be as happy with their job. They won't feel there ideas are legitimised or heard, and they simply won't bother. They also won't bother investing emotionally in your business outcome.

Your best and brightest employees will never leave a company in which they feel valued, appreciated, and fairly paid. But many managers complain when the best employees leave without considering what they could have done to prevent it. Your company will lose money and valuable time when good people walk out.

Common complaints are having bad management, being overworked - they feel they are punished for great performance - good work is not rewarded appropriately, employees are not valued, commitments are not honoured, creativity is not engaged, intellectual challenges are not met, skills are not enhanced, and the wrong people are promoted and hired.

It is time to take a look at your company and think if you are in danger of any of these behind-the-scenes complaints. If so, you may lose valuable people, and you may find yourself dwindling instead of growing.  

Here's an idea...

One way to grow as a company and create camaraderie amongst your employees is through providing company uniforms. Uniforms help create teamwork, unity, and promote company values. They also reduce stress by helping employees to "switch off" when they change after work... and even give workers tax relief!

Help your workforce feel valued by making them feel part of something bigger by providing them with a branded uniform.