Disgruntled employees are more than simply unproductive – they can prove dangerous as well. Unhappy workers can exhibit different types of behaviors, including stealing, chronic tardiness or threatening violence. Identifying these individuals gives you the opportunity to potentially help them and keep your other employees as safe as possible.
Disgruntled employees often feel they've been wronged, and that the company "owes them something." Theft in these cases runs the gamut from stealing office supplies or skimming money, to more serious offenses such as theft of intellectual property. Often these people cannot be identified without catching them in the act in-person or on a security video. Many times, these folks act normal when they aren't robbing your company blind. Depending on your company, there may be an immediate termination policy for stealing, or a means to pay back the company.
These disgruntled employees often arrive late and leave early, don't interact with co-workers or generally act disassociated from their workplace. Many times, these workers start off eager and ready, but being repeatedly passed over for promotions or discovering they're paid less than their peers are recipes for negative behavior. Coaching, including performance plans and being able to discuss their concerns with an HR counselor, often solves these issues.
Threatening or passive-aggressive individuals must be monitored closely, especially if they've been fired and ill feelings linger. Warning signs include references to violence or shooting people as a solution to a problem, glaring at co-workers, sexual harassment or being loud and aggressive. If coaching doesn't fix these issues and termination is the only alternative, these individuals cannot be allowed back in the building. Severance packages can be paid out over a period of months, hopefully allowing the ex-employee to cool down. If you think anyone you work with is really suspicious or threatening, you should confidentially report the matter to HR.
Identifying these people is usually not too hard, since they're the serial complainers. Their job in life is to make everyone around them as unhappy as they are while damaging morale. Complainers are generally the sources of rumors and leak confidential information. Every issue is a big deal, and they usually aren't responsive to management. Really unhappy people go to the Internet with their gripes, doing everything possible – although often anonymously – to damage the company's reputation. These individuals are especially problematic since termination likely will not halt their spiteful behavior.
Some employees do have legitimate concerns about their jobs and the organization. Often these folks remain professional and do their jobs -- up until they abruptly serve notice. You might see them get subtly frustrated in meetings. Legitimately disgruntled employees are often upper-level managers who see the big picture, yet have real concerns about their company's lack of direction or its unwillingness to listen to employees.
David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.