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How to Identify & Handle a Disgruntled Employee - HRDQ

How to Identify & Handle a Disgruntled Employee

One of the keys to growing your business and maintaining high productivity is ensuring that your employees feel engaged, appreciated, and motivated. Engaged employees are much more likely to perform their jobs to their highest potential and help your company achieve its long-term goals.

But despite all you do to try to motivate employees and maintain a positive work culture, you may still find yourself having to deal with a disgruntled employee. As a manager, it’s important for you to be able to identify and handle disgruntled employees to avoid them having a negative impact on your organization. Disgruntled employees can have many negative impacts on the workplace, such as overall decreased morale as they can bring down other team members with their negative attitudes, reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, disruption of work relationships, and more.

Here’s how to identify and handle a disgruntled employee in order to get them back on board before their dissatisfaction negatively affects your company.

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One of the keys to growing your business and maintaining high productivity is ensuring that your employees feel engaged, appreciated, and motivated. Engaged employees are much more likely to perform their jobs to their highest potential and help your company achieve its long-term goals.

But despite all you do to try to motivate employees and maintain a positive work culture, you may still find yourself having to deal with a disgruntled employee. As a manager, it’s important for you to be able to identify and handle disgruntled employees to avoid them having a negative impact on your organization. Disgruntled employees can have many negative impacts on the workplace, such as overall decreased morale as they can bring down other team members with their negative attitudes, reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, disruption of work relationships, and more.

Here’s how to identify and handle a disgruntled employee in order to get them back on board before their dissatisfaction negatively affects your company.

What Is a Disgruntled Employee?

A disgruntled employee is one who is dissatisfied with their job or position in the company, their work environment, or their organization as a whole.

Employees who are disgruntled are less likely to perform their best, and if left unaddressed, they can influence the way other employees feel about their work and your organization.

These employees are not only disengaged and dissatisfied, but they are also often very vocal about their dissatisfaction. As a result, they typically have a negative impact on workplace morale and culture.

While you may already make an effort to maintain positive morale, disgruntled employees are often unavoidable. Workers often become disengaged for a variety of reasons. They may have problems with a specific coworker, are unhappy with their role, or have personal issues that are impacting their work. Some reasons why an employee may become disgruntled include:

  • Job-Related Issues: Employees may become disgruntled because of their work. They may find their job to be monotonous and unchallenging. This can cause them to feel that they are unable to grow and focus on their career development, and they feel that they are not a good fit for their role or company. Not feeling appropriately challenged at work often leads to a decrease in employee satisfaction.
  • Management and Leadership: Poor leadership, a lack of open communication, or one-on-one meetings to discuss projects and progress with leaders and managers, a lack of recognition for achievements, or perceived unfairness among employees can all lead to employees feeling unsatisfied and disgruntled.
  • Work Culture: If an employee feels that they aren’t supported in creating an environment of open communication and fairness and that they are not supported in maintaining a healthy work-life balance because of a demanding workload or long hours, they can feel burnt out and disgruntled.
  • Compensation and Benefits: Employees may feel undervalued and that they are not compensated enough for the work they do. If employees believe they are not being valued and properly compensated for their work, they have no incentive or desire to perform better, and this leads to a lack of employee engagement.

The good news is that disgruntled employees are often able to be effectively dealt with by managers or Human Resources. By talking to these disgruntled employees, listening to their concerns, and addressing any issues they have, you may be able to get them back on board before they begin to negatively impact your company culture.

Identifying a Disgruntled Employee

To help disgruntled employees resolve their issues, you first need to be able to identify a disgruntled employee.

There are some common warning signs and employee behaviors you can watch out for to accomplish this, including:

  • Poor Performance: They will likely show a consistent decline in productivity, miss deadlines, and delay tasks.
  • Lack of Motivation: They may appear disengaged during team meetings, presentations, or discussions. They may also contribute minimally to projects or discussions. They may even spend more of their time on personal activities during work hours.
  • Excessive Absences: They may use sick leave without clear medical reasons, or they may take frequent and unplanned breaks and absences from work.
  • Tardiness: In addition to excessive absences, disengaged employees may start showing up to work and meetings late without offering any reason.
  • Negative Comments from other Employees: There may be employee concerns about this behavior, and others probably feel frustrated with this disgruntled employee and don’t know how to deal with them because they aren’t doing their part on the team. This leads to increased conflicts, strained relationships, and a decline in teamwork. Employees may make these concerns known to leadership or amongst themselves.
  • Poor Attitude: Disgruntled employees may express their feelings of negativity about work, colleagues, or the company. They will often complain about their work and vent their frustration to others.

In general, it’s fairly easy to spot a disgruntled employee as they often make their dissatisfaction known either vocally or through their actions. If an employee isn’t performing well and isn’t getting along with their coworkers, there’s a strong chance they are dissatisfied, and it's important to address this issue as quickly as possible before it starts to rub off on other employees and disrupt the productivity of your team and organization. 

How to Handle a Disgruntled Employee

If you’ve identified a disgruntled employee in your organization, it’s important to act quickly to resolve this issue and address their problems. It requires a thoughtful and proactive approach to address their concerns and see a change in employee performance.

Here are several steps you can take to properly handle a disgruntled employee: 

  • Act quickly. The longer the issue goes on, the more likely the employee will have a negative impact on your company’s culture. As soon as you identify a disgruntled employee, you need to take action to resolve the situation.
  • Listen attentively. The first step to resolving an unhappy worker’s issues is to carefully listen to them. When approached in an honest and professional manner, disgruntled employees are often more than willing to communicate their issues with the hope that you will help them find a solution. Disgruntled employees often don’t want to stay upset, but they may need the help and understanding of their leaders to help them.
  • Provide counseling. Employee dissatisfaction is often a result of stress, harassment, work-induced anxiety, and other issues that require professional counseling to resolve. Providing access to professional counseling is often an effective way to deal with a disgruntled employee and to help them and their well-being so they can confidently do their work.
  • Career pathing. Career pathing is the process of helping an employee plan out their career path at your organization. This helps employees whose dissatisfaction is a result of feeling stuck in their current position find a way to work on their career development and feel like they are growing in the company.
  • Deal with it privately. Don’t confront unhappy employees in front of your workforce. Doing so demonstrates a lack of respect and trust, which can ultimately worsen the situation.
  • Offer training. Employee dissatisfaction may be a result of them not being able to adequately perform their jobs. In this case, you can offer training to help them improve their competency and feel more qualified to perform their daily job duties.
  • Maintain an ongoing dialogue. This type of issue can’t always be resolved with a quick meeting. When dealing with a disgruntled employee, it’s important to maintain an ongoing dialogue and regularly follow up with them to ensure they aren’t having ongoing issues that impact their attitude and performance.

Disgruntled employees can have a significant negative impact on your workplace’s culture, but there are several steps you can take to address these issues. By communicating with your employees and addressing their issues promptly, you can often successfully resolve their dissatisfaction.

Learn to Address Problematic Behaviors with HRDQ

Disgruntled employees often negatively impact other team members’ experience at work. To ensure you are able to maintain a productive culture and positive morale, it’s important for managers to be able to effectively handle employees whose behavior is affecting other employees.

At HRDQ, we provide high-quality training resources to help organizations effectively manage their teams and get the most out of their employees. Check out our customizable course, Handling Challenging Behaviors in the Workplace, to get started on identifying behaviors that are signs of a disgruntled employee and how to overcome those behaviors.

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