IFMA Survey Ranks Top 10 Office Complaints ...

Dec. 23, 2003
And Some That Score High On the Laugh Meter

Some like the office hot and some like it cold. In a workplace of 100 employees or more, you can’t please everyone, although facility management professionals certainly try. For the third time, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) has surveyed its members to determine the top 10 office complaints and, once again, disagreements about office temperature rank at the top of the list.

“It’s too cold” and “It’s too hot” ranked one and two respectively, followed by, in order: (3) poor janitorial service; (4) not enough conference rooms; (5) not enough storage/filing space in workstation; (6) poor indoor air quality; (7) no privacy in workstation/office; (8) inadequate parking; (9) computer problems; and (10) noise level/too noisy.

When the same survey was conducted in 1991, “too hot” ranked first and “too cold” ranked second, while in 1997, these two complaints reversed positions on the list. All of the other complaints have surfaced on previous surveys in different positions, but this year’s survey marks the first time the noise-level complaint has made the top 10.
The 2003 Corporate Facility Monitor survey, sent to 2,400 IFMA members in early May, yielded a 14.2 percent response rate. The largest percentage of respondents (86 percent) manages facilities where more than 100 employees work.

The most common complaint facility professionals report hearing from upper management is the cost of facility operations. Lack of space, the cleanliness and image of the facility, and the time required to complete construction and renovation projects were also cited. A few respondents indicated that upper management can be more demanding than the general workforce by insisting “you need to fix my problem immediately,” no matter how trivial the matter might be.

Along with complaints about standard workplace issues, a humorous list of write-ins emerged. “The facility professional is the front-line recipient of all kinds of hilarious reports from employees - everything from wild animals running amok to complaints about the color and height of the carpet, disappearing lunches, and coworkers’ annoying habits,” says David Brady, president and chief executive officer, International Facility Management Association. “Considering that their jobs are fraught with the challenge of juggling increasing demands, dwindling budgets, and the responsibility for beefing up security to keep facilities safe, it’s a good thing they have these moments of comic relief.” 

Complaints, Anyone?
The ludicrous nature of complaints from employees shows just how trying a facility manager’s job can be. Anyone who thinks his or her own job is demanding should have to walk in a facility manager’s shoes for a day and respond to comments like these:
• I don’t like the color of the extension cord.
• The bathrooms are boring.
• People are stuck in the revolving door.
• The arms on my task chair are giving me breast cancer.
• The air in the building smells like bacon.
• Come get the mushrooms out of my carpet.
• Too much natural light.
• The elevators make my computer screen wave and I get seasick.
• My workstation isn't located in a place that's going to get me a promotion!
• An executive couldn’t find the beer in his refrigerator.
• The green color of the carpet was making an employee ill and that person threatened to hire an exorcist to remove the evil spirits.
• Someone complained that the off-gassing from the potpourri at the reception desk was killing tropical fish in the wellness center one floor below.
• A person complained his brain was being bombarded by electrons from the overhead fluorescent lights.
•  The vending machine ran out of Cheetos, and the person who reported it suggested I should ensure that this does not happen.
•  An employee did not want to move his complete Star Wars action figure set in order for housekeeping to clean his office.
•  An employee’s tie was caught in the deposit tray of the on-site ATM machine.
Mission Improbable
No matter what kind of workplace they manage, facility professionals are the “go-to” people for Mission Impossible requests:
• One of our tenants wanted us to cease construction on a multi-million-dollar facility since the pile-driving for the foundation was resulting in his desk shaking.
• An employee complained that access to our campus from the highway was too inconvenient for him, and wasn’t there something we could do to have a new interstate exit created?
• Someone complained about colds and flu going around and wanted us to wipe down every faucet handle and doorknob about eight times a day with a bleach solution. They didn’t suggest where the money was going to come from to pay the janitors to do this.
• Please stop the planes from flying overhead and casting shadows on my computer screen.

Big Egos Galore
Facility managers also have to respond to the whims of those who measure their clout in inches or square feet. Size and location really do matter, especially with regard to the amount of office space one has or the size of one’s desk:
• An associate was promoted to a senior management position. His office was six square feet smaller than the one occupied by someone who reported to him. He wanted us to move a wall.
• One executive complained that his desk was one inch shorter than that of a new vice president who had just been hired. The desks had to be swapped before the new VP started in order to keep the existing VP happy.
• The dean wanted to move the entire administrative area to a higher level in the building for a better view.
• A judge felt that we should have sensors around our courthouse that could tell when she was getting close to the underground parking. Then, she wanted the sensors to trigger the elevators to come down so that she could get out of her car and onto the elevator without having to wait.

Sounds Like a Job For the Crocodile Hunter
Hey, it’s a jungle out there! Unpredictable visits from the wild kingdom seem to be a source of many complaints and unusual requests in the workplace as facility managers report having to wrestle with everything from snakes and squirrels in the lobby to cows and bears in the parking lot. Among the more interesting “fur and feather” reports are these:
• Can you remove the skunk that is walking down the hallway of the vice president’s office area?
• Baby ducklings are having trouble climbing out of the on-site lakes.
• Can you help me catch my cat in the underground parking? It must have been under the hood of my car on my trip in to work.
• The rat was so big that the trap didn’t kill it, and it was running around bleeding everywhere.
• The mother-in-law of one of our employees purchased and released several geese on our grounds without our knowledge or consent. They were a nuisance and we had them removed. Shortly after their "disappearance," the lady called me and asked where her geese were, and she wanted them back. I politely informed her that she should not have brought them onto our grounds without asking first, that they attacked our residents and employees and were messy. She was very unhappy, but was unable to recover the geese.

Bathroom Humor
A common cause of complaints is the restroom facility. Along with comments about the softness and ply of the bathroom tissue - as well as complaints about which side of the stall it hangs from - are these gems:
• The women’s restroom floor has too much shine and it reflects up into the neighboring stall like a mirror. Can the janitors dull it down?
• The soap in the men’s room is not viscous enough.
• An employee didn’t like the smell of the hand soap and elevated the request to senior management. Needless to say, the soap selection was changed.
• Someone left dirty underwear on the restroom floor. Could you have them removed?

Obviously, facility managers hear it all and see it all in the course of their day. Sixty-eight percent of respondents reported receiving an average of one to 20 complaints/requests per week, while 10 percent reported receiving anywhere from 50 to several hundred, but most strive for good customer service by responding quickly. Seventy-six percent of respondents said the average turnaround time for an answer or solution is one day.

IFMA is the Houston, TX-based professional association for facility management with approximately 17,300 members in 126 chapters and 55 countries. The organization offers networking opportunities through its regional chapters and councils structure, provides certification and educational programs, conducts research, spots trends, and assists facility managers in developing skills and strategies to manage the human, structural, and real estate assets of an organization. For more information, visit the Association’s Web site at

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