How to Resolve Staff Complaints for Better Employee Retention and Happiness

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Do you have staff who often complain about their jobs? According to a study, 66% of workers can complain up to 5 times in one day, and 81% of their complaints are targeted at their work.

We know that the Food and Beverage (F&B) industry has many reasons to be an uncomfortable environment for its workers. Fast-paced demands and limited manpower make employees’ workload higher than they can control. This struggle often leaves them feeling overcooked and underappreciated, leading to sensitivity and more complaints.

But think about this: instead of viewing these complaints as obstacles, they could be the very elements that, if addressed effectively, can transform the team into a satisfied, dedicated and united force. Therefore, we need to know what are the most common complaints employees have in the workplace, especially in the F&B industry, to gain a deeper understanding of the core challenges at hand.

Understanding Common Staff Complaints in F&B Workplaces

In any organization, it’s quite typical to come across employee complaints, the act of expressing dissatisfaction or airing grievances, from time to time. While not every grievance demands immediate and significant action, recognizing the significance of addressing each complaint or situation is crucial to fostering a more content and engaged staff.

Different types of complaints have different intentions (both conscious and unconscious) and different impacts. Therefore, it is important to understand each complaint to make it easier for us to choose the best approach in responding to grievances that arise.

According to the article about behavioral problems in the workplace, there are 4 identifications of complaints that commonly occur in organizations. Let’s look at them and understand each impact to the other staff, from the best to the worst.

Productive Complaining

Productive complaints are when someone speaks up to point out a problem or suggest a way to make things better. These complaints are helpful feedback that can help a company fix things that aren’t working well. 

For instance, if employees say there’s not enough light in the kitchen, or the workload is too much, or a new menu isn’t popular, these complaints can highlight issues and give ideas for improvement. When managers listen to these kinds of complaints, they can learn important information and solve problems before they become bigger issues for the whole company.

Emotional Venting

Venting is when someone strongly expresses their unhappiness or frustration to others. People usually vent to let out stress or find people who agree with them and understand their problem. It can help temporarily feel better when you’re upset. 

Talking to a friend or counselor can make you feel less alone and help you see things from a different perspective. However, when you vent, it can be hard for the person listening because they have to deal with your negative feelings and maybe even start feeling bad themselves. 

If venting becomes a habit and everyone does it without trying to solve problems, it can create a culture of chronic stress and negativity. For example, a part-time worker has just had a particularly challenging shift, with emotions drained from dealing with demanding customers and chaos in the kitchen. 

During a break, the part-timer sits down with some of co-workers and starts to vent about what happened during the workday. The part-timer talks about the rude customers and how the kitchen never gets the orders right. Venting gives the part-time worker a brief emotional release and connects with other coworkers who can empathize with the challenges of the workplace.

, How to Resolve Staff Complaints for Better Employee Retention and Happiness

Chronic Complaining

Some people complain chronically about many things, even small stuff like the room temperature or the toilet paper brand in the restroom. These chronic complainers usually have a negative outlook on their job and the world. Their complaints can be tiring for others, and people often stop trying to help them because it doesn’t seem to make a difference; they just find new things to complain about. 

But there’s a silver lining to chronic complainers. They can sometimes spot potential problems early. For instance, when a restaurant introduces a new lunch set menu, chronic complainers might point out issues that others haven’t noticed. For example, they notice smaller portions and one dish that is too spicy from the regular menu and different from the customer’s taste. They point out the portion size issue and suggest toning down the spiciness level.

So, while chronic complaining can be annoying, it’s not always a bad thing. However, if you notice that someone is constantly negative about everything at work, it might be a sign that they’re heading towards burnout.

Malicious Complaining

Malicious complaining is when people complain not because they’re unhappy with something at work, but to hurt their colleagues or get an unfair advantage. It’s different from chronic complaining because it’s all about benefiting themselves at the expense of others. 

This kind of complaining often involves spreading rumors or trying to damage someone’s reputation or career. When this happens, leaders need to step in and stop it because it can create a harmful and unsafe workplace, lower team spirit, and make people less productive. Malicious complaining is never a good thing, and it’s important to address it quickly.

How to Respond to Complaints to Prevent Turnover

When staff think their manager doesn’t care or doesn’t take their complaints seriously, it can make them stressed, less motivated, and more likely to leave their job. A report from 2022 has revealed that 41% of Singaporeans would rather stay jobless than stick with a job that makes them unhappy. Therefore, it’s important to have a plan in place to handle complaints from employees so that they don’t resign from their positions. This means listening to them and taking action when needed.

Here are some points on how to deal with complaints without losing patience.

Begin With Genuine Curiosity and a Desire to Understand

When someone brings you a complaint, start by thanking them for trusting you with it. Even if they’re upset, it’s a sign they care. People who talk to their managers directly are often more committed than those who vent to colleagues. During the conversation, be curious and open-minded. Don’t assume everyone feels the same way you do. Try to understand the complaint’s purpose. Is it to fix a problem, share an idea, or just be heard? If you’re not sure, ask the person what they hope to achieve with their feedback and how you can help.

Promote Constructive Complaints

Promote empathy and constructive, solution-focused feedback. Implement regular feedback sessions and performance reviews to encourage open communication. Create a buffer before discussing complaints to reduce emotional intensity and allow for better problem-solving. Foster group discussions where employees can share concerns and explore different viewpoints. Acknowledge complaints that offer solutions and improvement ideas to cultivate a problem-solving mindset.

Address Harmful Complaints

To keep a good work environment and teamwork, we must deal with bad complaints quickly. If an employee often complains without trying to solve the problem, we should talk to them. Maybe they don’t realize how their negativity affects others and the team. If their complaining continues, and the problem can’t be fixed, they might need help changing their attitude or even leaving the team so they don’t make things worse for everyone.

Reframe the Situation

Sometimes, when people are negative, they might just need to see things differently. You can help them do that. For example, if someone is complaining about a company rule, you can explain why the rule exists and how it can be a good thing. When you say, “Let’s look at this from a different angle,” or “If we understand why things are like this,” it can change the conversation for the better.

Change Your Response

Complainers can be tiring for those who listen to them. Their negative talk can make them feel better because it blames others and makes them feel good about themselves. So, it’s important not to take it personally and understand that this is how they communicate. Don’t try to make them pretend to be positive, as that can be exhausting for them. People should be themselves. Instead, encourage them to find solutions to their problems and make a plan to solve them.

Ask For Solutions

Sometimes, the person who complains might have ideas to improve things. You can ask them questions like, “How do you think we can fix this?” or “What changes would you suggest?” If they’re really interested in making things better, they might have some helpful suggestions.

Guide the Discussion in a Different Direction

When someone keeps complaining without wanting solutions, there’s a way out. It’s like changing the subject in a conversation. Acknowledge what they said, then smoothly move on to a different topic. This helps shift away from negativity. If it doesn’t work, you might need help from someone higher up. But responding appropriately can sometimes make things better. It’s like saying, “I’m glad you brought that up, but I don’t have an answer. However, I have some other thoughts to share.” This helps shift away from negativity and steer the conversation in a new direction, step by step. 

Call It Out

If other methods don’t help, sometimes you need to address the behavior directly. You can mention that the person often has a negative outlook, but do it in a way that doesn’t push them away. It’s possible they’ve developed this habit without realizing it. Instead of accusing them, you can talk about how their negativity makes you feel. For instance, you can say, “I feel uneasy when I hear such criticism,” instead of saying, “You’re always so negative.” Using humor can also help lighten the situation.

How to Respond to Complaints Quickly to Avoid Team Distraction?

In a small business environment where managing operations can be overwhelming, addressing every complaint immediately may not always be possible, even though excessive complaints can disrupt team dynamics and workflows. Even if you are experienced in handling staff complaints, time and energy constraints may limit immediate responses.

In cases like this, StaffAny has a solution called EngageAny, which is an automated program for employee engagement and collecting feedback. With this automation, you can spend more time focusing on your products or services, rather than dealing with chronic complainers among your employees.

EngageAny allows employees to regularly share their thoughts and feelings about their work. Business owners and managers can access this feedback through the Employee Happiness Score Report. By encouraging feedback from employees, you can create a workplace where everyone’s voice is heard, and you can also address any potential issues that might lead to complaints. This helps improve the overall work environment and fosters a more caring atmosphere within the team.

Are You Ready for New Ways to Listen to Employees Who Complain?

Prepare yourself to unlock the potential of EngageAny, a unique offering exclusively brought to you by StaffAny! Are you ready to seamlessly integrate the power of EngageAny into your business? Don’t hesitate any further!

Learn more about EngageAny here.

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