No one ever said that managing employees was an easy job. While most managers enjoy leading and developing their staff’s skills, dealing with unhappy employees can be challenging. At times it can be consuming, awkward, uncomfortable or confrontational. Unhappy employees can take up a manager’s time — time that could be spent encouraging top performers to keep up the good work. These are all reasons why many times unhappy employees and their behaviors are never addressed.

However, no matter how skilled you are at managing people, there will be instances where you will have to deal with an unhappy employee. Whether this is employees’ frustration, dissatisfaction, or anger, a disgruntled employee can spill over his negativity and affect the morale and productivity of the co-workers at the workplace.

Signs of unsatisfied employee:

  • Lack of motivation, excitement, or passion
  • Showing up late, taking long lunches
  • Not participating in meetings, insubordination
  • Talks about the company/ management in a negative way
  • Dresses up and leaves the office (possibly going on interviews)
  • Other people in the office are frustrated with the employee

Here are a few ways you can work with unhappy employees to avert any unpleasant repercussions:

1.) Understand the root of unhappiness

There are many reasons why employees can be unhappy. It might be a low performance at work, a pressure at the home front, bullying by co-workers or seniors, or it could even be lack of direction and motivation from the founder, that is, you. Do not assume that you know what the problem is. Make an effort to find it out. Call the employee in for a meeting, show them you are concerned and listen to them while they speak about the issue. If the problem lies within the organization and is a genuine concern, gather all the information that will help you find the right solution. The idea here is to determine what is affecting the employee and also to give them a chance to make themselves heard.

2.) Act on it,

As soon as you get to know about the problem, address it instantly. Ensure that you do not allow the issue to fester. Nipping the problem in the bud will not only help you, but it will also prevent the unhappy employee from assuming that you don’t care. Timely and appropriate resolution of an issue today will save you a lot of trouble later.

3.) Don’t Assume, Assess

Assuming the problem beforehand instead of assessing the situation is a mistake even the seasoned professionals commit. If an issue is reported by a disgruntled employee, don’t act reactively, instead take your time and garner all the information you can to make the decision. Find out what is the root cause of their unhappiness or ensure that you are sensitive to any lifestyle or personal reasons affecting your employee’s behavior. Look at it as an opportunity to positively influence the employee’s thinking about the company.

4.) Document It

In the present world, even trivial reasons can become the foundation for lawsuits.  So, it is best to follow-up every communication with an unhappy employee and document your interaction. Having various standardized human resources documents such as the issuance of performance improvement plan, disciplinary action form, warnings, and discussions regarding termination of employment etc. will be of immense help in the unfortunate scenario of the employee filing a lawsuit.

5.) Confidential

Confronting a disgruntled employee in the presence of other colleagues is not a wise option. It will give the employee an opportunity to voice their complaints in public or cause them unnecessary embarrassment. Using a private setting, such as meeting in a conference room will be the professional way to handle the situation and keep the matters to only the concerned parties. Besides, it will also save you from legal complications or affect the morale of other co-workers.

6.) Act Calmly!

It is important for leaders to maintain their temperament. They should be sensitive and remain professional and gentle during any private confrontation. Losing your temper and getting angry will only make the situation worse. So step out and clam yourself up before addressing the issue.

7.) Objective approach

Having an objective approach in the entire situation will help you to take better decisions. If your unhappy employee has created a brouhaha at the workplace and stalled the work with their issue, then they are being empowered. You need to handle them tactfully and display an objective and professional mindset.

A Happy employee increase productivity by 12 % whereas on another hand an unhappy employee will decrease productivity by 20%

“Understanding your employee’s perspective can go a long way towards increasing productivity and happiness.”

-Kathryn Minshew