How To Handle An Unhappy Employee

Imagine this scenario as a supervisor or HR professional: an employee comes into your office and asks to speak with you privately. When they close the door and sit down, they divulge to you that they are very unhappy with their job at present, for any number of reasons. How, as their supervisor, superior, or member of HR support, should you field their questions, concerns, and even anger, in order to help them out?

These situations can be complicated and difficult to understand, but as their superior, you should first seek to understand the entire situation, and then act. What are the underlying reasons for this employee’s unhappiness? Are they upset with their compensation? Do they believe their workload is unfair? Do they find it difficult to collaborate with their coworkers? Perhaps their unhappiness is stemming from something in their personal life, an unsupportive spouse or bills that are not being covered. As a supervisor facing this situation, be cognizant of which issues might require the presence of a human resources professional.

When you have assessed the situation for the true cause, ask what the employee has already actively done in order to make their situation better. If they are struggling with a particular employee, have they approached this employee about their behavior and explained how it negatively affects them? If they feel stuck in their current position, have they looked at other openings within the company or actively pursued development opportunities that might align them with promotions? If they haven’t taken action on their own at this point, a gentle reminder to do so may be in order.

If they’ve already exhausted other options, what can you offer them to help revamp their motivation and productivity? Depending on their specific needs, here are some ideas for offering them help:

New projects and tasks: Perhaps it’s time for a shift within your team. When employees do the same tasks every day, they can become complacent about their levels of accuracy and efficiency and quite simply, they can become bored. You can most likely boost accuracy and productivity by shifting some tasks around within your team, putting new eyes and a new perspective on each task.

Continuing education: Can the company afford to send a few employees to a seminar or class about productivity or to learn a new computer program or other skill? If so, perhaps send your disgruntled employee and ask them to share about their experience when they return. Hopefully the time outside the office will be refreshing and the class or seminar will encourage them that they can excel in their job.

Mentoring and professional development: If the employee is genuinely concerned with moving upward and feeling like they have little way of doing that, offer them a few avenues. Maybe suggest having a mentoring relationship with someone in a position they admire. Or, offer other professional development opportunities such as seminars or allow the employee to sit in on a meeting that may give them a higher level understanding of the company.

Most likely, a discouraged or unhappy employee simply needs a new task, new perspective, or new goal in order to motivate them in their job. There are numerous ways this can be accomplished as a supervisor or HR professional, beginning with understanding the employee’s unhappiness for exactly what it is.

Have you ever experienced a scenario like the one first described? What course of action did you take? Drop us a line in the comments below! 

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Son of Groucho