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Bad bosses are not only the leading cause of stress on the job, but new research finds that employees are not entirely comfortable with the idea of filing a complaint against their bosses for fear of retaliation.
Less than one-third of respondents in Software Advice’s new survey said they would feel “very comfortable” in complaining against manager misconduct, with the rest ranging between “not at all comfortable” and “moderately comfortable.”
The reason for this discomfort is what actually distinguishes the situation from filing a complaint against a co-worker, and that is, the possibility of retaliation, noted the study.
Moreover, older workers (above the age of 65) comprised the highest proportion of those who were “not at all” or “minimally comfortable” with filing a formal complaint against their boss.
“Somebody who’s older, and presumably been employed by their company longer than someone who’s middle-aged or younger — they’ve potentially got a lot of money tied up in a retirement plan,” noted Dr. David Lewin, professor of management, human resources and organisational behaviour at UCLA Anderson School of Management.
“If they have a complaint, and they were to get fired or their complaint wasn’t substantiated, there’s a risk there.”
Despite the discomfort expressed by the respondents, the study found that this factor was critical to employees’ job satisfaction – 45% said it was “very important,” while 30% said it was “moderately important.”
“Should the workplace ever become hostile for employees, they need a safe way to be able to communicate that to management — and they need to feel like something is actually being done about the problem. Otherwise, they might look elsewhere for employment.”
Even so, more than one in three employees admitted that they either were not aware of the proper channel to file a complaint, or that their company didn’t have one.
For those who persevered to look for ways to communicate with the management, they preferred in-person meetings over email (41% versus 19%). Meetings with the offending boss’ manager were as popular as meeting with HR as the most-preferred methods (32% each), followed by sending an email to HR (19%), and using software to file an anonymous complaint (9%).
“Employees want an in-person meeting because they want to explain things. They want the person that they’re speaking to to be able to see them, which you don’t get through a telephone call or email,” said Lewin.
“These kinds of things become very personal, and the more personal they are, the more you want personal contact.”