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Coworker complaints can be a disruptive part of office life. They may be based on fact or completely false, but in either case you should address them to minimize their negative impact. The faster you deal with the source of coworker complaints, the faster the workplace can return to an environment conducive to productivity and not infighting. The limited resources and thin margins that many small businesses operate with make the presence of coworker disputes that much more potentially damaging.
Implement a policy of common courtesy to reduce the instances of coworker complaints within the company. Make a list of the most frequent complaints and the inconsiderate behavior that leads to them. By placing the list where all can see it, you bring attention to the offenders and to the offending acts without singling anyone out personally. With everyone aware of what's going on and conscious of the fact that the behavior annoys other people, the offenders may begin to pay more attention to their actions and stop causing problems.
Coworker complaints sometimes involve the interactions coworkers have with others in the workplace. Some employees may come across as rough or nasty in conversation, while others may seem confrontational or dismissive. If this is the case, try listening in on a few interactions, with the workers' permission, of course. Listen for language or habits that may indicate issues in attitude or approach. Speak with both parties separately after you've made your assessment and explain how things could be better with a few small changes. Explain that both parties will have to work toward improving the situation and that solving the problem will result in a better workplace for everyone.
Smoothing Things Over
Try your best to handle all of your employees in the same way so that no one can claim favoritism or faces unfair treatment. Some coworkers will always bring in more money or shoulder a greater share of the work. Instead of creating a culture of standouts versus the rest, distribute the work and the praise evenly so no one feels cheated or out of the loop. With fair treatment, the instances of coworker complaints against one another and the management are sure to drop.
Handling Different Types of Complaints
If your employees complain about coworkers, take steps to investigate the complaints fully to determine whether or not they're factual. If they turn out to be untrue, disciplinary action may be in order for the complainant. If the complaint involves unlawful discrimination, on the other hand, the offender might be guilty of a crime. Some complaints could involve harassment, either because the behavior violates your company ethics guidelines or violates the law. You can take care of other, lesser complaints in house with reprimands. In cases where valid complaints arise about behavior like sexual harassment, you should ask the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate.
- The Washington Post: Protect Yourself From Co-Worker's Baseless Complaints
- CBS News: 10 Bogus Coworker Complaints
- The Boston Globe: Most Annoying Co-Worker Etiquette Offenses
- Forbes: How to Deal with Difficult Co-Workers
- Oprah: Scary Work Scenario: And I Have to Spend All Day with These People?
- The Wall Street Journal: Handling Co-Workers
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Facts About Sexual Harassment
Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.
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