If you're a supervisor, your relationship with your employees is one of the key factors that determines how satisfied they are with their jobs, according to a 2012 study conducted jointly by the Dale Carnegie Institute and MSW Research. The thing is, if one or more of your subordinates are unsatisfied with the work environment, they are unlikely to tell you directly. So, you have to figure it out on your own. Fortunately, you don't have to be psychic. These telltale signs are right in front of your eyes.
Just like the child who finds a thousand ways to delay doing her homework because she is overwhelmed by concepts she doesn’t understand, dissatisfied employees sometimes avoid meetings or tasks they can’t or just don’t want to deal with. They also may try to transfer to another unit to escape the current situation. Some unsatisfied employees may miss work or show up late with regularity. Frequent absence is sometimes a precursor to quitting the job.
Some unsatisfied employees show up for work and meetings, but they are mentally withdrawn. They are in their own, closed world and don't participate in discussions or problem-solving. They may become indifferent and unresponsive to requests from customers or colleagues. You also may notice unsatisfied employees spending time on personal pursuits like surfing the Internet, sending non-work-related emails or talking on the phone with friends. Although they are with you physically, they are mentally off in another solar system.
Lack of Energy
If you notice a usually productive employee suddenly churning out a lot less work, he may be emotionally distancing himself from the job, or he may be trying to “get even” with the company by producing less. Unsatisfied employees often do the bare minimum, or even less. The quality of their work usually declines as their dissatisfaction increases and they are more inclined to miss deadlines without demonstrating any real concern about this lapse. Unfortunately, other employees end up having to pick the slack and may in turn become dissatisfied themselves.
Unsatisfied employees can't help letting their negative inner thoughts affect what comes out of them. It may be a snide remark about the boss or a pessimistic comment about the unlikelihood of meeting a goal or deadline. Or, employees may hiss at a peer's request for assistance or make a customer feel like she is burdening the employee whose job it is to help her. During meetings, dissatisfied employees may go to great lengths to demonstrate boredom or may be visibly agitated. In commentary around the office, they may try to pull others into their world by establishing an “us” versus “them” scenario, which destroys the cohesiveness of your team.
How to Help
The best way to help turn around unsatisfied employees is to show them that you appreciate their work and value their input. Give your subordinates the opportunity to participate in decision-making and problem solving so that they have a sense of involvement and they feel their voice is heard. Say thanks often and make sure your subordinates understand that they have opportunities for advancement if they choose to work for it.
A retired federal senior executive currently working as a management consultant and communications expert, Mary Bauer has written and edited for senior U.S. government audiences, including the White House, since 1984. She holds a Master of Arts in French from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in English, French and international relations from Aquinas College.