5 Ways to Handle a Disgruntled Employee

Small business owners inevitably come across a disgruntled employee or two. Sometimes disgruntlement is acute and workers are dissatisfied due to a combination of stresses, but the feelings of not being satisfied goes away. In other instances, a disgruntled employee has expectations of their place of employment that are not realistic or timely enough to be implemented to their satisfaction. Much of the problems that disgruntled employees have are a product of their own inadequacies, but handling disgruntled situations in a proper way can help to resolve any differences of opinion or at the very least make it known that someone requested a change in circumstances.

Employees might get upset with rules, procedures, work environment or pay, or they might feel as though they are not appreciated in the company or that they are not equipped to complete the tasks that are asked of them. Most workers will have good days and bad days, so it is important for bosses and supervisors to be aware of their workers’ attitudes so that a disgruntled employee does not escalate their frustration into dangerous displays of anger.

Here are five ways for handling a disgruntled employee:

1. Keep your cool.

The worst thing to do when an employee addresses their dissatisfaction is to fight fire with fire. No matter how aggravating or offensive the employee becomes, yelling and exchanging profanities will hardly ever bring about an amiable long term solution. Regardless of whether the employee has a gripe with the business or explicitly with the leadership, it is up to the employer to represent the company in a calm and collected manner and keep the higher ground.

2. Don’t wait.

A disgruntled employee is upset because things are not going the way they want. A disgruntled employee wants to be heard and wants to make sense of the situation that is upsetting them. Ignoring a problem or pushing a problem to the side to address later only allows the frustration to grow into a bigger problem and possibly spread into the minds of those they work with. Taking a moment to find solutions to problems soon after they arise will not only show that you care as a boss, but it also reduces the amount of time that employees spend frustrated or uncomfortable with their working environment.

3. Be discreet.

Asking a disgruntled employee to step away from other workers to discuss issues helps in bringing the guard down that they held up around their peers. A disgruntled employee has likely discussed the nature of their dissatisfaction with those they work with, and they may feel the need to take their attitude to the extreme to gain social favor. Other members of the team may be instigating the behavior, or there might be another side to the story that would not be revealed if the disgruntled employee is there to coerce or intimidate others into agreeing with something they do not believe to be true.

4. Take note.

The fact that an employee is frustrated does not mean that the employee is going to harm the business or other employees in any way, but the workers who have gone off the deep end have almost always given prior indications that they were unhappy. Even if a problem seems trivial and it may seem that a simple misunderstanding was figured out, it is helpful to write down what the employee spoke about and how the situation was handled no matter if the supervisor was right, wrong or indifferent. If employment is terminated down the road, a paper trail of disgruntled behavior from the employee will provide the information needed for understanding the disconnect.

5. Stay in charge.

Never let a disgruntled employee get in the way of keeping the company productive. One worker should not grind everything to a halt so that they can lash out in theatrics, cause a scene or try to stake a claim to an undefined leadership role. Issues should be addressed quickly and in private, and the best people for the solution should be placed in their respective roles by the boss and not the behest of a disgruntled worker. Don’t let a disgruntled worker think that their attitude has any pull on whether or not the company can get work done.

Handling disgruntled employees is not fun, but sooner or later it is a challenge that all supervisors must face. There are some workers who will never be satisfied no matter where they are located in their place of employment. These workers will come and go, causing damage along the way, both physically and financially. Handling disgruntled employees in a professional and timely manner minimizes the impact that they have on the business overall.

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