Advice For Employees: There's a Limit To Your Complaints
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Ah, it's good to be an employee in a growing, low-unemployment economy, isn't it? You can move jobs more easily, ask for higher wages and demand better benefits.
You can also walk off your job - like 20,000 Google employees did last November - to protest how your company handles sexual abuse allegations. Or better yet, you can write a strong letter to your bosses complaining about your company's business practices, as other Google employees did a few weeks ago. Or you can pick on other management practices to gripe about. Amazon warehouse workers in Europe recently protested their working conditions. Apple employees publicly voiced their work culture frustrations under CEO Tim Cook. Google employees (what, again?) just this week are writing to tech workers at other firms to join together against forced arbitration -- a dispute resolution process that favors the employer.
And these are just incidents at companies that are considered some of the best places to work in the world!
Employees are now emboldened more than ever to publicly air their disagreements with how their bosses run their companies. Maybe this kind of behavior is acceptable at a large tech firm or a publicly held organization. But I know for a fact that it wouldn’t fly very far at the hundreds of small and mid-sized clients I work with.
That's not to say that we don't value employee input. Most of us do. We like to know what's working and what's not. We want to be aware of any bad behavior or bad business decisions. As business owners, many of us are sometimes too far removed from the day to day working of our businesses and need some information from those with their boots on the ground. Some of the best leaders I meet regularly get input from their employees to help make their organizations better.
But there is a limit.
For example, I do something that some of my people don’t like. My company adds a small overhead fee on top of the hourly rates we charge to our clients to cover the costs of administrative and management time. I admit that I need to do a better job disclosing this practice -- it’s not done consistently. A few of the people working for me aren’t happy with what they think is a sometimes “hidden” fee. They've voiced their opinions to me. I heard them. But I'm still doing it. I know they're still not happy and continue to grumble. I'm ignoring those concerns. Why? I have my reasons and in the end it's my business. Thanks for the feedback. Now get back to work.
There is currently a strong economy, a powerful social media, a never-ending appetite by the press for eye-grabbing and controversial stories and a larger number of younger workers who have, shall we say, a “different” view of their role and status in their company than older management may have of them. All of this is giving rise to employee protests, walkouts, letters and public disagreements with their bosses at firms like Google and Amazon.
But to all employees -- particularly those who are too young to remember what it was like during the 2009 recession -- I do have a warning: you may want to zip it, just a little.
There's nothing wrong with giving feedback and by all means if your employer is doing something illegal you should be reporting it. Otherwise -- and I say this with peace and love -- you may be wise to tread carefully with your concerns about how the owners of the company you work at manage their company. Big firms like Google and Amazon that are in the public eye seem to have a higher tolerance for agitation. But smaller companies? Not as much. We don't need the headaches. If you’re really not happy with how your employer runs his or her company then by all means: take advantage of the strong economy and make a move. That advantage isn’t going to last forever.