Are Your Employees Unhappy?

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Is your office in a tumultuous state? Do you feel that the staff is upset and plotting their escape? Well, you’re probably just paranoid—calm down, take a deep breath and realize that you haven’t even seen any of the telltale red flags on an unhappy employee—or have you?

The Red Flags

Wow, you look nice: 

Ted from accounting never dresses up like this, what gives? Well, maybe, just maybe—Ted is making calls on company time and stepping out for interviews. As a boss, it’s best to confront Ted. Just come right out and ask him if he’s looking for employment elsewhere. Ask him, and then actually listen to his reply. There could be steps you can take to reinvest Ted, or preventative measures to keep the next “Ted” from leaving.

Blowing through the PTO:

Has Susan from sales had a dozen different excuses for not being at work the last few months? Oh, her kid is sick—or was it her grandmother? Didn’t both her grandmas already die last year? As a boss, OK, you realize that Susan is both trying to use her sick days before she loses them when she quits and most likely interviewing and finding alternate employment during those days. Often, these employees have already checked out—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t confront them and persuade them to stay, just don’t be surprised if they elect not to.

Chicken Little(s):

“Are you kidding me!” Tim would yell that at least a dozen times a week, often followed by ten minutes of inaudible grumbling and loud sighs. Maybe the printer is out of toner or someone took the last of the coffee—who knows with Tim, he’s always moaning. Employees who complain nonstop about small issues usually have larger issues with the company. A happy employee will refill the toner and make more coffee, without making a peep.

Late to arrive, early to leave:

Joe is rarely on time, except when it’s time to leave for the day—he seems to always be punctual then. Dedicated, engaged employees show up early and stay late. Recognizing apathy is usually as easy as walking around the office ten or fifteen minutes after usual arrival time and noting who makes a routine effort to be prompt.

Quality of work is slipping:

Rhonda was once the most thorough and accurate member of the team, now she literally turns in work with spaghetti stains on it—and half the time it’s not even fully complete. One of the most overlooked signs of unhappiness at the office is a steady decline in the quality of work.

As a boss, how do you remedy these situations?

First off, every employee that you feel is unhappy in his or her working environment deserves to be heard. Sit down, one on one, and talk with the employee, listen to their gripes, and respond accordingly. If the working relationship is deemed to be salvageable, get to the root of the problem and devise a strategy to improve the situation. It’s important to act quickly once you sense any distress. Agitated employees love to take hostages and bring other employees to their level of disgust—don’t let that happen. Communicate openly and remind employees to not let matters fester and that you have an open door policy.


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