Clearly defining shift expectations on the job application could help prevent this issue.

Share story

Q: A few employees of my business were unhappy with their work schedule, so I gave out a survey asking people to select either the early shift or the late shift. Unfortunately, almost everyone wanted the earlier time.

Because the survey didn’t help, I let people choose based on seniority, but now the junior employees are angry. Our job application asks people whether they can work outside the typical 8-to-5 workday, so I don’t see why they’re upset. What do you think about this?

A: Frankly, I think you’ve done a poor job of establishing expectations. Instead of making a vague inquiry about atypical work hours, you should clearly define shift times on your application. And if shifts may vary, applicants need to know before coming on board.

I also have to wonder why you chose to do a survey. As employee preferences and shift requirements were unlikely to be a perfect match, that was a recipe for discontent. While a seniority system won’t make everyone happy, at least it’s an objective, time-tested method for making such decisions.

The big question, however, is why you are doing this at all. If business needs have changed, that would be a valid reason. But making wholesale reassignments because of a few complainers doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at