A recent article in Huffington Post detailed the things an unhappy employee could do to your business. Starting from decreased productivity to bruised brand reputation, loss of revenue and loss of clients, unhappy employees are every entrepreneur’s nightmare. Such employees may display many signs of disgruntlement by showing up late for work, not participating in meetings, being a bad influence on other employees and spreading negativity at work. And, in most cases, it is not realistic to get rid of such an employee. Unhappy employees are a sign of not-so-good leadership as well. Firing the employee should be your last resort, because as a good businessman, you would know that it is much costlier to hire and train a replacement. So here’s how you can try your hand at talking to and perhaps transforming your unhappy employee into a happier and more productive one.
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There are many reasons why employees can be unhappy. It might be low performance at work, 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 organisation 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.
After hearing them out, the next step is to identify if their problem is something you can help them out with or not. Is it about you, the company, or them? Is their job not challenging enough? Do they have to report to a bad manager? Is someone at work bothering them? Are they overworked? These are things you could help them out with. If you find that their concern is genuine, stand up for them, show support and offer the best solution possible. Remember that happy employees are more productive, and a toxic work environment can kill their motivation to work. Do your best to move a few things around to suit the employee. Put them in a new project, warn the narcissistic supervisor or allow flexibility in their schedules. Small changes like these do not cost much. But do not let it turn into a situation that an employee stalls all work in an organisation and you are being held hostage by them. Offer to ease the situation for them, not empower them.
Most often disgruntled employees are lost and lack motivation. They are either not happy with their work or they just don’t care about it. Pairing them with a co-worker who can speak to them and maybe inspire and guide them to perform better is a great idea. Studies have found that mentoring can lead to a change in attitude and bring about positive career outcomes. According to a Durham University survey, it was found that one-on-one mentoring assists with problem-solving, develops a supportive relationship, improves self-confidence, offers professional development and encourages reflection on work practices.
Understand that your employees did not become unhappy and disgruntled in a single day. It might have been due to experiencing one bad incident after another. So realise that undoing this will take time. Do not expect overnight results. Nor should you fall in the trap of foolishly thinking that one private chat is going to miraculously turn them around. Consider it an ongoing process. As you have identified reasons that are making your team unhappy, check if you need to tweak your culture a bit or reprimand your managers. Revisit the conversation you had with the employee in question, ask them for feedback and trace changes in their performance. Initiate an ongoing conversation with the rest of your team on the subject of happiness and job satisfaction. Nowadays, startups even employ ‘happiness officers’ who make sure that “every single action towards a person regarding their relation with the company – be it recruitment, onboarding, career planning, recognition, off-boarding or retirement – are redefined to ensure a happy experience.” If creating such a position would be going too far out, at least try to think of ways to keep your employees engaged and motivated.
If you have tried all you can in your capacity and nothing has shown an effect or if you realise that the employee himself is toxic, make the decision of letting them go. Firing is not an easy thing to do, but make sure that you have enough reasons to support your decision. Give the employees warnings as soon as you see that the disadvantages of training and setting things right for them is not going to be taken over by the advantages brought about by increased productivity and performance. Accept that sometimes such a decision is in the best interest of both the company and the employee.
A good leader must be able to identify unhappiness among his employees and react quickly to it. Keep in constant touch with your workforce to make this possible. Give them constructive feedback to help them improve their performance and recognise their efforts and reward them accordingly. Sometimes, just a heart-to-heart conversation or a pat on the back might be a great boost of confidence for an employee. Rise up to your position as a leader and keep your employees happy and satisfied to ensure best results.