Managers: What’s Your Biggest Gripe?

By Brian O'Connell August 18, 2020
Managers: What’s Your Biggest Gripe?

​Complaining about life on the job is something most people in the workforce—including managers—do.

Company leaders are just as prone to unload on various issues about their jobs, both big and small. So, what gripes top the list of business management complaints?

Negative workers. Ironically, one of managers' top complaints is about workers who complain.

For Jenna Carson, human resources manager at Redmond, Ore.-based Music Grotto, a digital learning center for people who want to learn how to sing or play a musical instrument, colleagues who have a consistently negative attitude are a big problem.

"When people can't be positive and work together with their team to find solutions rather than dwelling on problems, it frustrates me," she said. "This type of mindset spreads very easily among teams and can quickly create a toxic workplace."

Carson notes that it's her job as a manager to motivate her team and move them forward, but if resistance to that motivation sets in, it's an uphill climb.

"It's much more difficult to manage a team of people who aren't even trying to look for solutions and are unwilling to step out of their comfort zone," preferring simply to complain about the situation, she said.

Experienced workers who won't mentor staff. Experience matters, and if that experience is passed along to junior workers, that's even better.

But it's frustrating when managers won't convey workplace wisdom to younger team members.

"While a leader can explain a specific strategy 10 times, someone who currently works on that type of project on a daily basis can always provide more-actionable tips, which can also help build camaraderie," said Chris Gadek, head of growth and marketing at AdQuick, an advertising agency located in Los Angeles.

Too often in today's work culture, Gadek said, more-experienced employees are afraid to give an advantage to a junior member.

"What some people fail to realize is that team leaders are constantly on the lookout for just that—employees who aren't afraid to help others by sharing inside knowledge, showing them a real-world example or just offering some encouragement after a long day," he said. "These are the types of employees who will make great leaders, and companies are always on the search for those who are ready to embrace growth."

Team members who won't respond to queries. Workers who won't respond to e-mails, calls or texts lead the gripe list for Angela Ash, digital marketing manager at Upflip, a commercial real estate and business sales platform in Bellingham, Wash.

"It's important, especially when working with an international workforce, that members of your team are encouraged to send quick responses to important questions as soon as possible," Ash said. "If I happen to be working in Texas for the week and I'm waiting on some information on a source in Berlin from a content writer, a day can easily be lost in dragging methods of communication."

As a solution, Ash encourages her team to work with a messaging platform like Slack, which centralizes all project information in one communication channel so workers don't have to sort through hundreds of e-mails to get pertinent information. "That way, you can easily send a quick message that may take minutes but could keep another member of the team from waiting for a response into their next business day," she said.

Unenforced company policies. "What I really dislike is when policies that are set in place to prevent an uncomfortable environment or hostility aren't respected, but nothing is done about it," said Nelson Sherwin, an HR manager at, a professional employer organization adviser platform based in Tampa, Fla. "I've worked in offices where people would openly say inflammatory things, whether they were political or social, but just opinions that had no place in the workplace."

Such hostile engagements lead to unnecessary conflicts, erode morale and make Sherwin's job more difficult.

"People would come to me with some of these issues and I would naturally want to take action, but when the bigger issue is that leadership does not care to take action, my hands are tied," he said. "If I'd been in charge, that wouldn't have been allowed, but when you've got the CEO discussing politics in the middle of the room ... then why do we even have rules about that?"

Colleagues who are late for meetings. Andrew Roderick, CEO at the Credit Repair Cos., a consumer credit advisory firm in Phoenix, said even small workplace transgressions can stack up and crimp performance.

Exhibit A is staffers who are late for meetings.

"People who are even just a few minutes late are displaying a negative habit," he said. "Being a few minutes late for a meeting may seem innocuous, but it shows a complete lack of respect for the company by the tardy team member, as well as the colleagues they work alongside."

It's the last issue that's a sticking point for Roderick.

"Some employees may have to organize child care, drop children off at school or day care, or manage other important tasks before work, yet they are still on time," he noted. "Seeing another employee waltz in late with a snack or drink can really rile them up."

Tardiness is a workplace habit that Roderick won't tolerate.

"Being punctual for work is a requirement," he said. "If I see anyone do this more than once, then I bring them into my office for a dressing down."

Employees who make excuses on a regular basis. Jon Hill, CEO of The Energists, an executive search and recruiting firm based in Houston, gets particularly frustrated with staffers who frequently make excuses.

"The most annoying habit I come across in the workplace are excuses," he said. "If you've made a mistake, showed up late or missed a deadline, I'm honestly not terribly concerned with why it happened. I want to know how the employee plans to fix any problems caused and prevent them from happening again in the future.

"When I hear a lengthy excuse, I get the impression the person giving it is trying to shirk responsibility for the mistake, even if that's not the intent."

Brian O'Connell is a freelance writer based in Bucks County, Pa. A former Wall Street trader, he is the author of the books CNBC's Creating Wealth and The Career Survival Guide.



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