Bryony Gibson, Managing Director of Bryony Gibson Consulting, shares her thoughts on how you can identify unhappy workers before it's too late to turn them around.
A company is only as good as the people it keeps. Irrespective of industry, the success of any business relies on the passion, commitment and productivity of its staff; so if you have unhappy workers you simply can’t afford to ignore them.
Regardless of the level of expertise, it’s people who are on the same page as their employer that are destined to succeed, rather than those who don’t align with the values, aims and beliefs.
When people are disconnected, you need to act quickly. The consequences could be a drop in productivity or a negative influence on your reputation. It could be a loss in revenue or that they start to spread dissatisfaction to colleagues, friends or even on social media. Whatever happens, you need to remove the problem quickly if you want to keep a positive culture in your workplace.
To try and help I’ve picked a few of the most common warning signs to look out for. They should help you to spot where you can intervene and nip problems in the bud.
Look out for people who are repeatedly calling in sick. This can be a sign of someone who is already searching for a new job, or even attending interviews.
Constant lateness shows a reluctance to go to work, with clocking out on the dot every day indicating someone who is desperate to get away from the office.
If people are permanently tired, fidget in meetings or complain constantly, you need to find out why. A shift in attitude or reduction in professionalism and productivity can also mean things aren’t right. People who suddenly stop going ‘over and above’ and only do what needs to be done need support quickly.
Be aware of those who vocally nitpick at company rules and standards. Likewise, keep an eye on anyone who is unsociable and won’t attend work nights out or spend time with their colleagues.
A lack of ambition can be a sign of unhappiness. If you have employees who want to keep the status quo rather than help the business grow, or develop themselves, then you need to address this to make sure it doesn’t become a bigger issue.
These are just a few cautionary flags, but it’s important to remember that job satisfaction and motivation are not directly linked to job dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
If you only rectify the reasons behind someone’s unhappiness whether that is their relationship with managers, working conditions, salary, status or company policies – this doesn’t mean they will automatically become satisfied, they’ll just no longer be unhappy.
To boost performance you need to motivate people by recognising achievement, supporting personal development and allowing a level of responsibility or autonomy.
You can’t build a healthy working culture without trust, support and shared goals, so make sure your door is always open and no one feels like they will get into trouble for sharing honest feedback.
Character comes from within, but if you can’t motivate and keep your employees happy, how can you expect them to keep your customers happy?
Excellence is an attitude to hire for, rather than a skill to train, but no matter how good your recruitment, from time to time you’ll come across unhappy members of staff and when you do, compassion is key.
Everybody deserves to be treated with the same level of respect, regardless of role, length of service, or any other factor. If something is making someone unhappy, we all have a duty to find out what it is and to help them if we can. It’s the least we can do, as the problem may not even be related to the work place.
There’s no doubt that unhappy employees can drain energy and slow down productivity, but people are the most valuable asset of any company and keeping them happy, motivated, engaged and committed should be top of your ‘to-do’ list every day.