Big Hair, Magnetic Personality Among Oddball Co-worker Complaints

By Kathy Gurchiek Aug 17, 2009

A co-worker has an aura that’s all wrong.

She eats all the good cookies.

He breathes too loudly.

Those are among the unusual complaints hiring managers and HR professionals say they have received from workers about fellow employees or the workplace, according to a CareerBuilder national survey conducted in May and June 2009 with 2,667 hiring managers.

Other complaints they’ve heard:

An employee wears bells on her shoes and it’s not the holidays.

An employee spends too much time caring for stray cats around the building.

An employee is too sun-tanned.

An employee has big hair.

An employee suspects that a co-worker is a pimp.

A male employee keeps using the women’s restroom because the men’s room is not as tidy.

An employee is trying to poison me.

An employee is infuriatingly polite.

An employee wears only slippers or socks at work instead of shoes.

An employee wore pajamas to work.

8 a.m. is too early to get up for work.

An employee was annoyed that the employer didn’t provide a place to take naps during breaks.

A co-worker reminded the complaining employee too much of Bambi.

An employee smells like road ramps.

An employee wants to check a co-worker for ticks.

An employee is personally responsible for a federally mandated tax increase.

An employee’s body is magnetic and keeps de-activating my magnetic access card.

The lack of men was the oddest employee complaint Cynthia McKay, CEO of Colorado-based Le Gourmet Gift Basket Inc., has heard in 2009. The woman who complained quit the predominantly female staff after two months. 

Toilet tissue softness is a sore spot for one employee, one woman told SHRM Online.

“We’re not buying Scott single ply, we’re buying Angel Soft and Quilted Northern, but it isn’t Charmin Extra Soft so this one guy is not happy,” she said.

Pay was the rub for one employee who filed a complaint that the CEO’s pay was larger than his own, recalled Johnny C. Taylor Jr., J.D., SPHR, author of The Trouble with HR and former SHRM Board Chairman. 

The man claimed that the discrepancy “violated the company’s core values, which provided that all employees should be treated equally,” Taylor told SHRM Online.

A lack of mini-marshmallows, not moola, created a mini uproar at North Carolina-based Interior Architecture & Design PLLC. It seemed the packets of hot cocoa, which are among the free beverages the organization provides, didn’t contain the gooey mix-ins like the ones the company usually stocked.

“Our office manager quelled the furor,” managing partner Dawn Gum said, by explaining that the coffee service had been out of that type of cocoa temporarily and “that an ‘emergency’ shipment would be delivered the next day.

“Overall, the staff is extremely diligent and amiable,” Gum told SHRM Online, “so I found this more amusing than annoying.”

Then there was the anonymous employee whose complaint raised a real stink at White-Rodgers, a division of Emerson Electric Co. 

One day an unusual odor emanated from one of the suggestion boxes, recalled Diane Asyre, who described herself as “a career HR person” working as an HR specialist there at the time. Someone had stuck a slice of tomato in one of the boxes with a note stapled to it complaining about the tomato’s puniness.

“This happened more than once and because the system allowed for anonymous input, we couldn’t find the person doing it so we could it talk over with them. We tried emptying the box earlier and earlier each day, but whoever was upset must have arrived very early to insert the tomato-notes” and they couldn’t catch him.

The cafeteria manager “graciously agreed to try and find larger tomatoes for the remainder of the season,” she told SHRM Online.

“I guess that in this case, the early bird got the best tomato.”

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for SHRM Online. She can be reached at


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