Don’t Let Employees Reach Their Breaking Point

A new survey reveals some of the things that drive employees crazy and could eventually lead to their leaving an organization. One human resources professional offers tips to soothe the sore spots and keep staff happy.

Quick show of hands—have you ever been annoyed by something going on at work? (We expect there are a lot of hands going up out there.) Maybe it was an email or call from your boss after you’ve checked out for the night or a coworker’s music playing just a little too loud.

Have those annoyances ever driven you to consider looking for a new job?

That’s the focus of a new study by BambooHR. In a survey of 1,000 U.S. employees, the firm identified the top workplace deal breakers—things that drive employees out of an organization—and the top workplace annoyances—things that aren’t so bad but get under an employee’s skin and may later morph into deal breakers.

Respondents said their top workplace annoyances were insufficient recognition for their work (identified by 82 percent), coworkers getting promoted ahead of them (79 percent), and inadequate benefits (74 percent). Top deal breakers included not getting promoted quickly enough (22 percent) and unhealthy work-life balance (14 percent). Low pay also made the list but was identified by just 10 percent of respondents.

“That just goes to show that money isn’t the top motivator,” said Deborah White, vice president of human resources and administration at the American Public Power Association, which was named to the Washington Post’s Top Workplaces of 2014. “What surprises me, though, is that nonflexible work environment didn’t rate higher in the survey. One of the reasons we made the Post’s list is because we do have a flexible work environment—we have differing start times, flex scheduling, and we allow teleworking. Those things seem to be very important to our employees.”

Minor annoyances can’t be completely eliminated, but an employer can prevent those small grievances from becoming a serious problem by communicating often with employees, White said.

“It’s just keeping your finger on the pulse of your workforce. Participating in surveys of your staff is important, as is regularly touching base and being open and available as an HR department to discuss workforce issues.”

Promoting a culture that makes people feel appreciated is another way to keep employees positive about their workplace, White said. “We do that through wellness programs, and just having a respectful and collegial environment. It’s those kinds of intangibles that you should constantly remind employees about.”

One of the bigger “breaking point” problems that many associations face is the inability to promote employees quickly because “a lot of associations are, by nature, flat organizations,” said White. “As a small organization, there are only a finite number of positions available, and so having a philosophy that it has to be an organizational need for somebody to get a promotion sets a certain expectation.”

But there are alternatives, she noted: “What we try to do is offer a lot of professional development opportunities and enhance the job, not necessarily through promotion to the next level, but by broadening job responsibilities.”


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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