Top 3 frustrations in the workplace

Frustrations in the workplace are not uncommon and can negatively impact productivity and morale. Research shows that the average adult gets angry at least once a day and frustrated or annoyed about three times daily. In the employer-employee relationship certain behaviour can lead to a lot of frustration.

The top three frustrations are as follows:

  • Absenteeism and poor punctuality:

    Absenteeism and poor punctuality are one of the biggest frustrations and a huge time waster in the workplace. Apart from the employee who does not provide services according to agreed hours, absence negatively impacts the team.  Aside from not being at work, absenteeism also means arriving late, leaving early, unauthorised breaks, extended breaks, feigned illness, and other unexplained absences from the workstation or premises.

    How to deal with it:
    It is the employee’s duty to commence and end duties at the times required by the employer.  When employees do not follow the rules, employers have the right to act.  Three important steps include:

    • Interview the employee and record what he/she says;

    • The employee has to prove that the absence was justified;

    • The employee may produce reasons, but even if a reason is valid it can still be unacceptable – apply the disciplinary code.  Always apply progressive discipline according to the seriousness of the offence and keep detailed record thereof.


  • Insubordination:
    Insubordination is defined as “resistance to or defiance of authority, disobedience, refusal or failure to obey reasonable and lawful instructions, insolence, cheekiness, rudeness, bringing the employer’s name into disrepute, and rebellious or mutinous behaviour resulting in an actual work stoppage”.  The most common form of insubordination is when employees wilfully disobey the employer’s instructions.

    How to deal with it:
    Apply progressive discipline.  Take note that in order to prove ‘insubordination’, the employer has to prove that the instruction was performable, fell within the scope of the employee’s duties, was reasonable, and that the employee wilfully refused to obey the instruction.


  • Poor work performance:
    Poor work performance is the failure of an employee to reach and/or maintain the employer’s required work performance standards.  This has a huge impact on a business’s normal operations, as most employers don’t have the luxury of spare capacity concerning their workforce to compensate for this deficit.

How to deal with it:
Firstly, it is crucial to differentiate between misconduct and incapacity, as this will determine what process the employer should follow to address the issue:


    • Misconduct refers to an employee’s failure to adhere to the employer’s rules and policies, and is a behaviour issue of the employee. Such behaviour is normally deliberate or negligent, and employees can be held accountable for their actions.

    • Incapacity refers to when an employee is incompetent and inherently unable to meet fixed performance standards whether due to ill health or poor work performance.  The employer is required to provide an employee with training and guidance, as well as the opportunity to improve, where the employee lacks the required skill or knowledge to perform a certain task.

Labour law pothole!

Frustrations can easily lead to impulsive or explosive reactions.  When the employer dismisses an employee in the heat of the moment without following the correct procedure, it can lead to an unfair dismissal dispute at the CCMA where the employer can face an award to pay up to 12 months compensation to the employee and/or reinstatement.

Each workplace is a unique environment and should be evaluated accordingly in terms of labour relations. Employers are tasked to follow a progressive approach to discipline and to always support an employee to improve on his/her work. This approach not only limits frustration but leads to a better work environment for all.



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