Call us at 888.919.5300
Which version of Vocoli do you want to log into?


Call us at 888.919.5300

Everything happens in an instance.

Each company or organization sets up a Vocoli "instance" to generate surveys, to build a suggestion box, and to connect with the team.

Which one of these is you?

← Back to Blog

Addressing Employee Complaints Before They Go Viral

Posted on October 02, 2015

In the world of corporate public relations, Starbucks would appear to be leading the pack. Chief Executive Howard Schultz has drawn much praise for positioning the brand as delivering something more meaningful than just a cup of coffee.

As the company’s success demonstrates, consumers are willing to pay higher prices if a brand is aligned along a certain set of values – such as paying employees well, a sustainable environmental policy, and maintaining a high level of service in clean facilities. These strictly held values have lead to profit and growth margins that are the envy of others.

This is all part of the reason that the New York Times expose on problematic working conditions at Starbucks was so shocking. Over a year ago the company vowed to address various worker complaints, largely related to inconsistent and late scheduling and featuring “clopenings” – an exercise in sleep deprivation with employees staying late to close the store then rising early to reopen it the next morning. When the story broke, company officials promised to address these and other concerns.

Unfortunately according to this recent article in the New York Times, it’s a promise largely unfulfilled. A report from the Center of Popular Democracy and The Fair Work Week initiative said, “A 2015 nationwide survey of Starbucks workers reveals that the company is not living up to its commitment to provide predictable, sustainable schedules to its workforce.”

The report continued, “Starbucks’ front line employees bear the brunt of the management imperative to minimize store labor costs, which takes precedence over attempts to stabilize work hours, provide healthy schedules, and to ensure employees have real input into their working conditions.” Ouch.

What Went Wrong?

It appears while executive management was firmly on-board with putting more consistent scheduling in place, there was a disconnect between their message and individual store management.

Despite having scheduling software that accurately forecasts store traffic, an incentive still lies with managers to err on scheduling too few rather than too many. Store managers receive a monthly allotment of labor hours and those who exceed it face being called out on the carpet. It is far safer to under-staff than to over-staff. This chronic under staffing, described as “skeletal” by one manager, results in “clopenings”, lower morale and increased turnover.

Further compounding the problem is a shortage of assistant store managers. When employees attempt to bring their issues to management, the store manager is often too overloaded to heed concerns and address them. There’s no assistant to pick it up and pass it along to the boss.

If so, this is a classic breakdown in vertical communication channels. Information in large organizations has a tendency to exclusively flow downwards from executives to everyone else. In such an environment it can be difficult to send good, actionable intelligence upward from the individual store to corporate HQ.

Issues that aren’t addressed don’t just go away but have a tendency to fester. In a worse case scenario, executive management doesn’t become aware of issues until they’re on the front page of the New York Times.

Best Course of Action

Stories like these don’t have to be Blockbuster, viral, Twitter-touted stories to have a damning impact on an organization. A slew of new job rating sites such as and action-oriented are anonymous forums for employees to post their complaints and negative reviews. Websites like these can easily deter new and prospective talent from applying to an organization, for fear of having to deal with the host of outlined problems from disgruntled current and former employees.

Far better for management to get ahead of the problem before it goes public. An investment in customer surveying or employee suggestion software can create an effective vertical communication channel within an organization that can keep management up-to-date on both issues and opportunities for improvement.

Unaddressed employee issues don’t just go away by themselves. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” - awareness is usually the first step in making things better. Management would be well served by knowing and addressing their internal issues before they go online.

Back to Top ↑



Join us for Vocoli's monthly live demo. Vocoli's monthly demo is your chance to get a real-time view of our product, discover more about the platform and see what the Vocoli system can do for your team!

Your message is being sent...
Thanks for your message!

Your message has been sent successfully. We'll do our best to respond within 24 hours (slightly longer on holidays and weekends).

Vocoli is the digital suggestion box and innovation platform. Your team has great ideas. Make sure to capture them!