Being a Human Resources manager for 5+ years made me privy to a lot of things. Early on, I learned that there are always problems when you get two or more people with different personalities working with one another. You have employees who are more sensitive than others, or those who are never satisfied no matter what. Working in the office is a complex thing, and it is the job of HR to make sure everyone’s issues and needs are met.
It’s a careful balance of rules, advocacy, and checks and balances. And everyday, there is always something that needed to be sorted out or handled. And no matter in what industry or field, there are always the same issues that plague offices and cause employees to report their concerns to HR. Through the years of speaking to other managers and generalists in HR, it seemed we were all plagued with the same employee grievances. Some were so minor, you wanted to laugh, but couldn’t because it would not be deemed professional.
So I compiled a list of the items people complained about the most when I was working in Human Resources just 2 short years ago. I doubt the list has changed much in that time. You might be surprised about what is on the list, and what’s not.
Here is my list of the 10 Things People Complain About the Most to HR:
1. Personal hygiene of another employee: I cannot count the number of times an employee has confronted me about the way another employee smelled or kept themselves up. It was a constant issue, especially when everyone has their own idea of personal hygiene and neatness.
2. Burnt popcorn in microwave: I was once asked by an employee to fire another employee because they continuously burnt popcorn in the common microwave in the lunch room. Yes, this is very true.
3. Unprofessional employees: As with personal hygiene, everyone has their own thoughts as they relate to professionalism. And any time someone witnesses something that is questionable, please believe, they are in the HR office immediately to report.
4. Personal lives: You would think that an employee’s personal life would not be a problem for others at work but that is so wrong. Oftentimes, employees blurred the lines of work and play and co-mingled with one another after work hours. And when they suddenly parted ways and the friendship soured, all the “skeletons” of ones closet came out in the HR department.
5. Salaries: Salaries are always a topic on contention in the workplace. Sometimes, it’s because an employee feels they are being underpaid. Sometimes it’s because they feel someone is being overpaid. Whatever the reason, the daily salary discussion is always an issue that is brought up.
6. Rumors: Rumors and gossip are office killers. And no matter how random or preposterous the rumor is, it always finds its way to the HR office where it has to be dissected and analyzed as well as reported by other employees.
7. Location: I had so many employees who complained about the location of the job. My feeling is, if you weren’t feeling the location, why did you apply and take the job offer? It’s as if employees feel that you should move the office specifically to fit their needs. Of course, in this instance, there is nothing we can do about where the office is located.
8. Office supplies: Why don’t we use “brand A” pens? Why do we order from Office Max and not Staples? Yes, these were the questions I was asked on a regular basis, and yes, it was a big deal.
9. Cologne and perfume: Along with personal hygiene, employees constantly came to me and my colleagues about the scent of a fellow co-worker’s perfume or cologne.
10. Furniture: Yes, office furniture is a hot topic in the HR office. There are employees who want to redecorate the office based on their personal tastes, or want us to pay for a special chair for them to sit in, even though they have no medical or physical need for it.
Items like discrimination and sexual harassment were complained about in the office, but would not be on my top 10 list of things I dealt with during my tenure. It seems that small items that annoyed employees were the ones discussed the most. And the more “severe” issues either went unreported or weren’t reported as often.
What are your thoughts about the list? How do you see these issues in your office?