At some point in your career as a manager, you are almost guaranteed to have an unhappy employee on your team. How you approach the situation can have a significant impact on the final result. If you handle things properly, an unhappy worker can turn it around and even become a star team member. But, if things aren’t addressed in the right fashion, their dissatisfaction can have serious repercussions.

If you are wondering how best to deal with unhappy employees, here are some best practices that can help get you started.

Assess the Situation First

Before you plan any actions, you first need to understand the situation thoroughly. This ensures you don’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions, both of which can be damaging should you try to repair things.

You can begin by finding out why they are upset, including whether it is you, a co-worker or a situation in their position. This will allow you to find out if something outside the office has gotten them down and is inadvertently affecting their performance or attitude.

If the issue relates to something internal, work to gather as many details as you can before you make a plan on how to address it.

Don’t Delay

The moment you realize someone is unhappy, you need to start addressing the situation. Waiting can allow a problem that was initially very solvable to become more problematic, making it harder to find a solution.

This is especially true if rumors are circulating or if the issue involves other team members. An unaddressed problem can quickly fester, so start exploring what is happening and work towards a solution as soon as possible.

Maintain Their Privacy

Regardless of whether others are involved in the issue, give the unhappy employee a sense of privacy when discussing the situation. For example, meet with them one on one in your office or another space that is away from possible eavesdroppers. If the worker feels safe, they may be more inclined to reveal the true nature of the problem, ensuring you get enough information to act appropriately.

This also gives you both a chance to talk through possible solutions, ensuring the employee won’t be caught off guard by the path you choose to take and has an opportunity to provide input before anything begins.

Give Them Time

An unhappy employee isn’t suddenly going to become a shining light of optimism overnight, no matter how well your conversations go. It may take multiple meetings to get to the core of the issue, and it isn’t uncommon to take additional time, even after the problem is addressed, for them to begin to feel safe, secure and satisfied in their role.

While a slow turnaround can be frustrating, as long as progress is being made, give them time to recover. Ultimately, working with an unhappy employee takes patience and diligence, but it can only be done if you are willing to fully assess the situation and craft a suitable course of action to reach a solution.


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