The first step to dealing with unhappy employees is finding if their complaints are valid.
September 14, 2018 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In every manager’s journey comes the moment of truth when they discover if they possess the true qualities of leading a team. Leading and managing excited, productive, happy people is not the challenge; the true challenge is dealing with and managing unhappy, difficult and disgruntled employees. A sobering fact is that unhappy or disgruntled employees can damage your company’s culture, resulting in a poor or hostile work environment which often translates to reduced profit margins and dispirited employees.
Disgruntled employees can pose a risk to your company by providing poor service — thus turning customers off — and they can create a negative work environment by creating stress and disharmony within the work group. Some disgruntled employees may purposely set out to cause trouble with unethical behavior, ranging from spreading rumors to stealing money and equipment. Let’s look at how disgruntled employees impact your operation and how to approach their impact in a constructive manner:
Productivity decline, hostile work environment and misappropriation of resources.
Unhappy, disgruntled employees can create a tense, negative and stressful atmosphere in the workplace, which affects the overall productivity of the team. These same employees can cause a hostile work environment. They are a drain on managers because managers, in turn, have to waste their time dealing with and resolving the problems they cause. Disgruntled employees can destroy a company’s culture by the misappropriation of essential company resources as well.
Employees become disgruntled for a variety of reasons, and it’s necessary to address the problem immediately. There are several ways to fix company culture by addressing causes of disgruntlement, but all of the strategies require the supervisor’s leadership and teamwork. Here are some key ways to do so.
Keep your employees actively engaged and productive.
If disgruntled employees can influence the feelings of and cause other employees to become disgruntled, productive employees can help “turn the table” and negate the influences of disgruntled employees. Ways to energize and motivate employees include acknowledging their successes, providing both career growth opportunities and financial incentives, supporting work-life balance, encouraging goodwill between employees, engaging them in work-related social activities and maintaining a team positive atmosphere.
When employees are acknowledged and their good performances are rewarded financially and professionally, they will be predisposed to being gratified and productive. Also, work-life balance is important to today’s employees. They must have time for their career, family and social life. When friendships and goodwill between employees are established, the positive-minded employees can provide support and encouragement to disgruntled employees.
Knowing that their company is a responsible part of the community also increases employees’ trust in their company. Focusing on an employee’s strengths shows you have trust in them, which motivates them because their efforts are acknowledged. This allows you to keep the atmosphere positive; it’s a two-fold strategy. It can easily stop the issue, fix it, and more importantly, prevent or minimize its occurrence.
Determine the cause of their issues and address them.
Open a dialogue with the disgruntled employees and determine their true concern, what their issues are and how you can help them resolve or get a better handle on them. Disgruntlement among employees can stem from various reasons, including perceived disrespectful treatment, need for recognition, culture of favoritism, poor performance evaluations, negative office interactions with peers and management staff, sexual harassment, lack of financial opportunities, or even limited career growth opportunity and domestic and health issues.
Disrespectful behaviors by superiors and/or subordinates generally create negative feelings among employees. Lack of recognition can make employees feel underappreciated. A culture of favoritism and poor performance evaluations can give the impression that hard work is not appreciated — as one person’s definition of hard work can be another’s of not doing much. Poor performance evaluations tend to focus only on negative actions and regrettably don’t offer guidance or help for performance improvement. Work-related issues such as office bullying and sexual harassment can often go unnoticed, and unsafe workplaces can lead to emotional distress, under-performance and negative comments on social media. Lack of financial and career growth opportunities can cause disgruntlement since they also serve as recognition for working hard. Domestic and health issues often affect work performance by impacting an employee’s conduct and attitude.
When these issues are identified, you can help your employees find the best ways to address them. Ensure that there’s a system in place where employees have someone to talk to when they have concerns. Offer skills training to promote career growth. Promotion isn’t always possible, but lucrative projects are good substitutes. And it is always a good practice to follow your employees’ professional developmental progress to show that you care about their well-being and future.
Related: 20 Secrets to Living a Happier Life
Ensure that employees are a right-fit for their job.
Employees are hired to do a job, and you must ensure that the right person is hired to perform that job. Regardless of the efforts you make in recognizing your employees and providing them with incentives, if employees’ interests and goals don’t match the company’s mission and vision, they are a misfit for the job. The best way to avoid the effects of disgruntled employees is to ensure that employees fit the company culture during the hiring process. Given that people can change over time and experiences, once productive employees might eventually change their interests and goals to the point where they no longer fit the company culture. At that point, it is best to determine whether there is a way that the company can still fulfill the employee’s interests and goals; if not, the employee needs to find other opportunities.
Company culture influences employee performance and customer perception, both affect the company’s reputation. Making sure that the company strives to maintain a positive culture diminishes disgruntlement among employees, but when it does happen, you should make sure to immediately address the issue so that it doesn’t destroy the inner workings and character of your company.