Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

What Is the Biggest Complaint at Work?

February 1st, 2010 | Bob Rosner

Image: Bob RosnerI once ran an online contest asking a very simple question—what is your biggest complaint about work? The responses flooded into Costco.com and were not at all what I’d expected.

I was totally prepared for a ton of responses about low pay, disrespect, poor working conditions, etc. Actually more than half of the responses all touched on the same topic—people who steal food from the company refrigerator. I couldn’t make this up. At first I thought that they’d all come from the same company. But as I read through them I realized they all had different details.

Choosing a winner from all of these tragic cases of lunches lost was a challenge. Until I came across the most painful and pathetic story. This poor person described how her lunch thief not only ate your lunch, but they managed to rub your face in what remained.

She described in painful detail about how her thief opened a box of chicken wings, ate half of them and then carefully put the bones back in the box and resealed the container. Ouch.

Besides being thankful that you don’t have to work with this person, why should you care about this isolated case of cruelty?

Because when it comes to our jobs the big stuff—not getting a big promotion, having a really tough competitor, not feeling like your work is appreciated—fades in comparison to the little annoying stuff like people stealing your lunch. I call it the pebble in the shoe vs. getting hit by a boulder rule. Over time the pebble drives you the craziest.

Don’t believe me? There was another study that asked what is your biggest complaint at work? The number one response? It’s too cold. Wanna guess the second most common complaint? Yep, it’s too hot.

Granted this study was done by the International Facility Management Association, but it does point out that power of the little annoyances can have at where we work.

What is the moral of this story? Management tends to focus on the big stuff in those rare times when it focuses on employee morale. Issues like bullies, food thieves and temperature are not the kind of stuff that most managers think of when they focus on employee satisfaction. Yet these are the very issues that are wearing down your people.

I’m not discounting the big stuff. I’m just trying to shine the spotlight on the little annoyances that have a big impact at work.

Lest you think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here. I recently saw a remarkable survey from the Conference Board. They asked employees in 1995 if they were satisfied at work. 61% said they were. The survey was repeated recently. The number of satisfied workers has dropped to 45%.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Also check out his newly revised best-seller “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected]

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