If you hear complaints from the troops, don’t just assume they are griping to let off steam. There are people who just like to gripe, but avoid the temptation of painting any complainer with that brush. Treat the complaints as preliminary feedback that something might need further attention.
So you hear Joe say, “Nobody appreciates me around here.” Ha, ha, everyone laughs. Of course Joe is appreciated. But why would he say that? Has anyone asked Joe to elaborate on that?
Here are some common complaints that you may hear, and how you might address these issues:
• "I don’t get enough training." Maybe this doesn’t mean total training; maybe it means specific training that person really wants, but does not get.
• "Our hours are too long." If you hear this and the workday is eight hours, don’t dismiss it as mere griping. Maybe the day starts too late, so the end of the day comes late. Or the day starts too early for some folks. Maybe something about the job is unpleasant and can be easily corrected. Ask for elaboration.
• "We don’t have enough test equipment." You peer into the test equipment cage and see enough digital multimeters (DMMs) for twice your labor force. How can there not be enough? Ask what test equipment they feel is in short supply and why.
• "The stockroom is a mess." Maybe it looks neat to you, and nothing seems out of place. But is it hard to find what you need? How clean is the stockroom? Ask people what needs to change.
• "There’s too much paperwork." The classic complaint of all time! Well, you need this form and that form and so on. Or do you? If you hear this complaint, you’ve probably given people a good reason to gripe. Eliminate forms that ask for information you don’t really need, and simplify other forms. Don’t collect information that will just go into a dead file. Collect the information that moves the job forward. And try to eliminate paper; many companies have gone to purely electronic forms with easy check boxes and other time-savers.