When unhappy employees are brought to the attention of HR or management, avoiding the problem might seem like one of the easiest things to do. As long as they do their job, you might wrongly assume that their happiness doesn’t come into the equation. 

In reality, unhappy employees can significantly impact an entire business. They may be less productive and can create a hostile environment for other employees. In some situations, disgruntled employees may even negatively impact customer satisfaction. 

Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to address unhappiness in the workplace that can benefit both your business and the staff member in question. 

How Have You Been Feeling Recently?

This question is open-ended, allowing HR teams and management to draw out information from employees who may otherwise vent to friends and colleagues and even post their work woes on social media. 

When you notice that an employee is unhappy or you’ve been told that they are, present the question in a way that acknowledges a recent event while kindly asking how they are. An example of this might be: ‘I noticed that you were short with your colleague about a new project. How have you been feeling recently?’ This approach is non-judgemental while allowing you to learn some potentially helpful information to solve the problem. 

an unhappy employee
Image by PDPics from Pixabay

Are You Performing Tasks You Want to Do?

Job dissatisfaction can be caused by many things, such as burnout and unreasonable expectations. However, it can also be caused by employees doing jobs they don’t particularly want to do. Before long, general dissatisfaction can turn into unhappiness that may even see them resigning from their position at your company. 

When approaching an unhappy employee, ask them if the job they’re currently doing is one they want to be doing. This question makes more sense when their job description is wide-ranging, rather than a role requiring them to perform the same tasks day in and day out. 

For example, the management team may have recently added a new responsibility to their already packed schedule or assigned a task an employee wasn’t confident doing. When you can get to the bottom of their general happiness or unhappiness with their workload, you may be able to make a genuine difference to their contentment and workplace satisfaction

How Can We Make Things Better for You?

One thing might be making an employee unhappy, or several things could be. Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as reassigning some duties, or it might require something more time-intensive, such as revisiting the employee budget to find the money for a pay increase. 

Do You Like Working in Your Team?

Asking whether an employee likes working in their team is an open-ended way of asking whether they have any concerns about their current working environment and the people within it. Some employees enjoy their job and love the company they work for, but specific people they work with are making them genuinely unhappy. 

While they may not be confident or comfortable naming names or coming forward with a complaint, this question may pave the way for them to come forward and voice their concerns about a toxic working environment or workplace bullying

What Are Your Favorite and Least Favorite Parts About Working Here?

Very few employees are ever given the opportunity to be frank about what they like and dislike about their workplace. You could be the very manager or HR spokesperson to offer that platform for honesty. 

When you can learn what makes them happy and unhappy, you may be able to make changes that shift the balance from negative to positive. As you begin learning what they don’t like about the company, ask if they have any feedback about changes they think could help. While you won’t be able to make any promises about those changes happening, you can at least consider them if they prove valuable. 

What Do You See As This Company’s Weaknesses?

If an employee is comfortable enough to share their dissatisfaction with a member of the management team, they may also be comfortable enough to talk about any weaknesses they believe the company has. 

Try to be as open as possible about receiving the staff member’s feedback on company shortfalls. You may be surprised at how much you could learn from them, especially when there’s a chance their dissatisfaction might benefit other employees feeling the same way. 

In an ideal world, all employees would be happy in their line of work, but that’s not always the case. One of the best things you can do for your team is identify signs of dissatisfaction and attempt to address them. Both employees and employers may benefit from this process.