Monday Mornings with Madison

Bosses’ Top 10 Pet Peeves about Employees

There are all kinds of bosses in the world.  Management styles vary as widely as people’s personalities.  There is the “do it the way I tell you” directive boss, and the “firm but fair” authoritative manager whose goal is to provide long-term direction and vision.  Then there is the affiliative supervisor who seeks to create harmony amongst employees and management, as well as the “everyone has input” democratic director who is focused on building commitment and encouraging teamwork.  There is also the pacesetting exec who is all about setting high standards and accomplishing tasks and the coaching boss, whose focus is on providing opportunities for professional development.

But while there are as many management styles are there are colors in the rainbow, most bosses seem to have one thing in common.  They share many of the same pet peeves about their employees.  According to LinkedIn survey conducted in 16 countries with data from 17,653 professionals, including 1,953 people in the U.S., bosses worldwide all seemed to have the same bêtes noires about staff.  Here are the top 10 complaints bosses had about staff.

The Average Boss’ Bêtes Noires

1.  Failure to take ownership of their actions

The most common pet peeve chosen by 78 %p of all LI respondents was “People not taking ownership for their actions”.  If an employee has made a mistake or is unable to hit a deadline (for whatever reason), the boss doesn’t want to hear excuses.  He wants to know how the issue will be rectified or when the job will be done.

2.  Not my job

No boss wants to be told by an employee that the task at hand is “not my job.”  At the White House, employees who serve the President of the United States (POTUS) have a saying that they “serve at the pleasure of the President.”  The phrase originates from the Latin “Durante bene placito regis” which means “during the pleasure of the king.”  It meant that a person could not hold an official position against the King’s will.  Fast forward about a thousand years and today, in the U.S., it means “control” or “sole authority.”  A White House employee is appointed by and serves according to the authority or discretion of the President.  Bosses want the same.  Most bosses want employees to do a job without a struggle for control or a dispute about authority.  They just want the job done as requested, when requested.  In that regard, every employee serves as the pleasure of the “President” (a/k/a boss).

3.  Sick… again.

Abuse of sick leave is a hot button for many bosses.  Recent studies cite that one out of three employees who calls in sick is not actually sick, but is dealing with an issue or problem that requires time off.  Of course, the boss only wants the work done so employees who take a lot of sick leave are irritants.  On the other hand, bosses do not want people who actually are very sick to make the rest of the employees sick by spreading germs.  So the best advice for employees who don’t want to get on the boss’ bad side is to take lots of vitamins, use hand sanitizer and try hard not to get sick.

4.  Gossip grind

Gossip is an irritant not only for bosses, but also for coworkers.  A survey of 1,000 employed U.S. adults for Randstad, a leading staffing firm and workforce solutions provider, found that gossip ranked near the top of pet peeves.  More than 60% of the respondents said it was their top work pet peeve. Of course it’s not hard to understand why. Gossip is caustic.  It splinters and divides staff and managers, hurting both the person who is being gossiped about and the person doing the gossiping.  Worst of all, most gossip is usually at least partially untrue, if not completely.

5.  Political rants

Just as talking politics is a no-no at social gathers, it is also frowned on by bosses at work.  While involved citizens who campaign for their candidate through political bumper stickers and buttons is very “American”,  political arguments in the lunch room can be risky.  No boss wants to mediate political debates that employees start in the office.  Given this year’s political arena, never has this been truer.

6.  Petty office theft

Taking home things that are provided to employees for use at work is theft, plain and simple.  No boss is fine with employees taking home pads of paper, staplers, Keurig coffee cups, or the stash of Advil packets.  Office, bathroom and kitchen supplies provided at work are meant for use at work.  Obviously, putting an office pen in a coat pocket is not the issue.  It’s the intentional pocketing of other supplies that is really vexing.

7.  Bad attitudes

No one appreciates an office sourpuss.  Neither bosses nor coworkers want to deal with a grouchy Gus, a Debbie downer or a chronic complaining Carl.  This can be anything from dissatisfaction over pay raises, bonuses or lack of bonuses, or even work load. Or it can just be an overall bad attitude. Whiners are a drain on office morale and can bring down an entire department.

8.  Too much noise

Bosses want a workplace that is conducive to creativity, concentration and results.  Noise usually interferes with that. Noise pollution includes such things as loud typing, loud talkers / people who take calls on speakerphone, loud or irritating mobile phone ringtones, listening to music or videos without headphones, and people chatting by others’ workspaces.

9.  Poor manners, attire or hygiene

Bad manners, grooming and improper work attire are part of a wide range of minor but offending behaviors that irritate bosses.  These might be fine outside the workplace but are grating inside a productivity-focused environment.  For example, humming/whistling/tapping, loud gum chewing, handling personal grooming in the office such as filing nails, wearing too much perfume, eating a pungent-smelling lunch outside of the break room, taking food from the refrigerator that isn’t yours, not putting things in the office or kitchen back where they belong, throwing your trash in someone else’s garbage can, borrowing office supplies from another desk and not returning it, and wearing clothing that is inappropriate or too casual for the setting.

10.  Lack of Professionalism

Bosses want employees who take their job seriously and treat their work and work space with respect.  Managers loathe employees who behave in ways that say “unprofessional”.  This includes having a perpetually messy desk or workspace, eavesdropping on other people’s conversations, getting to meetings late or bowing out of meetings to handle other matters, using a smartphone or laptop during a meeting (even to take notes, as it might be perceived as doing something else), hitting “reply all” on mass employee emails, cc’ing the boss on a long email string that doesn’t really pertain to him, not responding to emails that require a response, sending too many unimportant emails, and people who are first in and last out “just because”.

In the end, each employee should focus on doing a job well and as professionally as possible, working well with others, and being an asset to the team.  Those who do that usually don’t have to worry about irritating the boss.  But it helps to realize that even the nicest, most-easy going bosses have things that aggravate them and the savviest employees know to avoid those irritants.

Quote of the Week

“Dad often told me, ‘My job is to help my boss do his job and make him look good.’ That was my dad’s objective. Everything about the way he conducted himself was to communicate support for his superiors and respect for his coworkers. The way he dressed was his starting point in that communication.” Lyle Lovett


© 2016, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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