It can be tough to initially recognize the signs of unhappy employees in an organization, particularly if you don’t gather feedback such as onboarding and exit surveys.
Not recognizing these signs early on can be problematic, and it erodes your corporate culture and ultimately the ability of your business to remain competitive.
The effects of unhappy employees can be wide-reaching.
Even just a few unhappy employees impact culture as well as customer service and innovation. When employees are unhappy or they’re surrounded by unpleasant energy, they’re not going to be as creative or collaborative, both of which are essential to innovation.
If any employee, including those employees who work more behind the scenes and maybe don’t even interact with clients, is unhappy, it’s going to influence everything. Everyone needs to feel like they’re valued in the workplace.
Happy employees are more likely to go out of their way to help both a coworker and a customer. They’re also more likely to embody corporate values, and they’re going to be a reflection of your brand outwardly and also your employer brand.
Your employer brand is what allows you to acquire and retain the best talent, and an inability to do that is one of the biggest headwinds a lot of companies face right now.
According to Huff Post, unhappy employees cost companies billions of dollars a year in lost revenue as well as damages and settlements.
Disgruntled and miserable employees are going to cause productivity to take a hit, and the negligence of employees who aren’t happy can increase the risk of accidents and hazards in the workplace. You’re also not going to have the benefits of employees who serve as brand ambassadors.
Recognizing the red flags of unhappy employees early on and taking steps to remedy the issue is essential.
The following are some of the potential signs that employees are less-than-satisfied.
Employees Don’t Seem Like They’re Friendly with One Another
As long as it’s not crossing any boundaries or interrupting work, it’s good for employees to be friends with one another. This shows there’s a bond and that employees enjoy being around each other.
Friendliness among employees can promote communication and collaboration, and it’s a general reflection of a positive culture.
This doesn’t mean everyone has to be best friends, but if there’s not at least some semblance of comradery, it may be a reflection of a deeper issue.
Limited personal engagement can be one of your first red flags that something’s amiss culturally
They’re Just Skating By
Yes, employees want work-life balance, and they have things they love outside of their job, but employees should have some sort of interest in improving their position at work and thriving.
Employees who are always watching the clock or are just doing the bare minimum to get by are likely unhappy.
A happy employee is going to want to thrive and do their best work. They’re going to take joy in the projects they take on and the results they achieve.
Every employee is not going to operate at a peak productivity level every day, but overall you should see signs that your employees want to work and want to go above and beyond.
Coming In Late and Leaving Early
Again, occasionally being late or leaving early isn’t indicative of a large-scale problem. If it’s happening a lot and it’s happening among multiple employees, it probably is.
When employees are engaged with what they’re working on, and they enjoy their job, there might be times where they choose to stay a little later or come in a little earlier. They’re excited to move forward on what they’re working on.
If employees aren’t happy, they quite literally want to be anywhere but at work.
New Ideas Aren’t Introduced
It almost always goes that happy employees are more innovative. This is often because they’re comfortable sharing their ideas and offering feedback. Unhappy employees may not be willing to give ideas or feedback, and this is going to hamper innovation and growth.
Toxic behaviors can mean many different things in the workplace, but when unhappy employees reach a point of serious decline, their toxic behaviors will often start taking over the workplace.
Toxicity at work might include perpetual complaining, gossiping, or a lack of transparency.
Someone who isn’t happy might put down the ideas of others or be unwilling to listen to anything other people have to say.
Toxicity can spread fast if it’s not dealt with appropriately.
What Can You Do?
So what should you do if you start noticing the signs of discontent in your workplace?
First and foremost, go to the employees you notice it from most and talk to them. You may be able to get to the root of the issue faster than you think. For example, maybe employees feel like their job is a dead-end, and there’s no room for growth.
If this is the case, maybe you work on strengthening your employee development program and offer more opportunities for continual learning.
Maybe the issue is that employees don’t feel appreciated, and if this is the case, start building out a more robust system of employee recognition.
Often with unhappy employees, the changes that you need to make aren’t necessarily going to be especially burdensome or expensive. The biggest challenge is typically recognizing there is an issue and then being willing to work on it.
If you don’t yet see signs of unhappy employees but want to ensure you maintain a positive culture, engage with your employees regularly. Become a more transparent leader and ask for feedback in different formats so you can be the first one to identify an issue before it becomes a bigger problem.
You can’t thrive or even survive as a company with unhappy employees, and this is something organizations have seen increasingly in recent years, particularly when faced when skilled talent shortages across the board.
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