3 Dimensions of Employee Complaints and Concerns

3 Dimensions of Employee Complaints and Concerns

Sid Smith


Let's wave a magic wand and take your business from wherever you are today to being in the wonderful land of being a 100% strong on all of the 6 Key Components of EOS. And, while we are at it, let's assume that you and every member of your leadership team are perfect in your mastery and action around the Five Leadership Abilities.

What a perfect world. Well, not so fast. You still employ a bunch of human beings. No matter what you do they are going to always have ongoing complaints and concerns and will, to some degree, express those to you and other members of the leadership team. This not only takes time to listen to these complaints and concerns that are not on the Issues list or that are sufficiently loaded with emotion that just recording them on the Issues list has not taken them out of the conversation in people's minds and mouths.

A key leadership skill is learning to recognize that complaints and concerns typically come in three categories. Only one of these categories deserves much attention from you. The other two just require a respectful listen and a dollop of sincere empathy on occasion.

Building a filter and test for complaints and concerns both saves time and provides insight into the nature of each of your people's values.

The Three Categories of Complaints and Concerns

  1. Recreational - people align and bond with each other and they attempt to do so with you over complaints and concerns. The trick is that the complaints and concerns in this category are simply recreational and their purpose is just alignment and bonding… and fun. They do not want you or anyone else to take action. When in doubt ask if they want you or others to take any action or to put them on the Issues list. In time you will be able to identify the difference and predict what must be done.

  2. Emotional - complaints and concerns arise when something happens that is misaligned with a person's values. In this case it is common that the person just needs to give voice to the misalignment and nothing more. Here a good listen and a dollop of empathy is all that is needed. If in doubt, ask if they want action or to make an addition to the Issues list.

  3. For Action - If they haven't already put the item in question on the issues list you may just need to remind them to do so. Alternatively it may also be an urgent situation that requires some form of action right now. One example might be that another employee is doing something dangerous or that causes a hostile work environment. Most "For Action" complaints and concerns will not be that clear cut or the employee may not have the vocabulary to fully articulate what's happening without your asking if they want/need action now beyond the remedy of the Issues list.

In time your filter of discernment will tell you what the complaint or concern is really all about: recreational, emotional venting or a request for immediate action. When in doubt just test by asking what specific action they feel would be appropriate and who should take that action if it is not clear.

Mailing Address (Sid)

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Portland, OR 97202


Sid: 971-678-1495
Eric: 503-635-2319