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Are Your Disgruntled Employees Disgruntled Because of You?

November 24, 2015

By: Crystal Spraggins

If you’re hearing more moans and groans than Christmas cheer around the office this holiday season, you might have a larger problem on your hands than simply a case of employees who are already in vacation-mode.

Unhappy employees tend to be a little more vocal around Christmas and mid-summer, when they’d rather be vacationing than spending time at their desks. In truth,most people tap-out once or twice a year, so this may be something you’re expecting, but it’s never a good idea to brush off grumbles as holiday humbugs. You may have a serious case of a disgruntled employee whose weariness is bubbling to the surface due to an overstretched tolerance for whatever it is that’s pushing them towards the door.

Here are some of the largest and most common sources of employee dissatisfaction and how to turn it around:


1. Home life.

Everything from family pressure, illness, children, loss of a loved one or relationship issues play a factor in a persons’ life. All of these situations are complex and come with their own set of deeper pitfalls that few can be blamed for falling into. We’re all human, and that humanity should be respected and supported.

If you have a good history with your employees (and you most certainly should), approach them and offer support. Be delicate and let them know you’ve noticed a change and you’re sure it’s related to some personal burdens. Offer counselling or leave for personal time, where possible and appropriate, and show support for their struggle. It’s easy to forget other people have a whole world to contend with outside of their cubicle, and a great boss doesn’t downplay the importance of a balanced work-home relationship. It’s vital you facilitate a smooth integration of those two. If an employees’ work environment makes it difficult to balance their home life, or even contributes to its difficulty, then you’ve set yourself up to lose that person.

2. Job-related dissatisfaction.

Sometimes the job itself can be the source of a disgruntled employees’ unhappiness. Admittedly, there are undeniably some jobs or job-related tasks that are less than enjoyable, but I’ve experienced that a proper attitude negates the worst part of any job. In my experience in hospitality, there’s one task everyone knows needs to be done, but that no one ever looks forward to doing: cleaning for inspections. Everyone knows it’s coming, and we all know what ugly and neglected work needs to finally be faced (like scrubbing the floors under the grills, contorting to clean inside a muggy dishwasher, or spending frigid hours inside the refrigerator to scrub the corners that crumbs and lemons insist on making their new homes; they are surprisingly persistent about not staying in their crates). We made inspection times more fun by hosting “cleaning parties”, with free pizza and incentives to participate.

Find out what’s grinding your employees gears. If they’re being burdened with work they can’t handle, something that’s not theirs, or something they don’t know how or don’t want to do, find a solution that’s amicable for everyone involved.

3. Company culture.

Great employees and great jobs are killed all too easily by the work environment an employee finds themselves in. My experience managing an upscale chain restaurant is my biggest reminder of the power of culture on the success or failure of any employee. Ruled by a knowledgeable yet dictatorial manager, staff were immediately mistrusting and spiteful of my presence in the restaurant. With a history of inconsistent and often abusive managing previous to my arrival, everyone was in a sad and destructive state. This caused drama that flared up at the earliest signs of tension, which in turn caused unhappy moods and unhappy customers. Staff felt the depressing mood surrounding the restaurant, which caused a general distaste for the job and a despondent attitude towards management. The long term result was high turnover, poor training, and loss in revenue from an unpredictable customer-base that suffered from everyone’s negative attitude.

The environment your staff are coming into every day could be the biggest reason why employees come-and-go, and why talented staff either under-preform or leave completely. Evaluate what’s triggering this easily disrupted workspace, and work to fix or amend it.

4. Management style.

As is often said, teachers who are quick to say that their failing class of students are flunking because they can’t be bothered to learn, should instead be saying, “I suck at my job“. A team, a class or staff will only do as well as their leaders. If staff are wryly, unmotivated and elsewhere focused, it’s perhaps not a flaw within them at all. Managers, especially those with much experience behind them, are reluctant to consider that their management style might be culprit, and some even outright dismiss the idea that their leadership is flawed at all. While your particular management style may not be the root cause of a very complex problem, it is most definitely a contributing factor.

Take a step back from the situation to watch yourself in moments of tension or drama. Chances are there’s something, large or small, that could be adjusted to result in a different outcome. Your staff look to you for directive; if they’re given poor direction, they’ll either act on it, act out of it, react to it, or not act at all. If you want your employees to act and react in less volatile ways, or ideally in productive and cooperative ways, then it’s up to you to encourage that behavior with the right spark. In my next article, we’ll carve out a few of the worst management techniques that persist in toxic environments.

People spend more time at work then at home.  It’s important that they are on your side and working towards a common collective, and are enjoying themselves as much as possible. If you’re determined to keep employees, and keep them happy, focus on looking for the problem sources and use your own determination to flip the situation around.

So what’s leading your staff towards the door?

Being a manager comes with many challenges including understanding and effectively communicating with your staff. Let us help you by giving you insight into yourself and how you can best manage your team with a custom leadership analysis

Crystal Spraggins

Freelance Writer, Editor, and HR Consultant in Philly. You can find more of Crystal's work at:

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