Employee Engagement

9 Things to Do When Your Employees Are Seriously Unhappy

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Employee unhappiness rots a culture. And as culture disintegrates, so does market share, revenue and sales. So, what should your company do to turn around seriously unhappy employees and protect future sustainability?

1. Ask your employees why they are unhappy. This may sound simplistic and obvious but quite likely is not happening if your employees are visibly miserable. 

Written surveys will not extract the root of discontent — employees will feel vulnerable and at-risk of jeopardizing their jobs. However, if it isn’t apparent, you must find a way to unearth the why behind disgruntlement in order to effectively respond.

One example is to talk with employees one-on-one. Ask specific questions about their accountabilities. If they are a project manager, for example, ask them to describe their most recent achievement in attaining a project goal or achieving a milestone. Then, ask what project they are struggling to get to the finish line, and what resource would help propel it forward.

In other words, just start talking with them about their normal day-to-day and let the conversation evolve. Issues will bubble up if you give the conversation time and attention.

2. Perform after-hour visits. Ensure senior management makes their presence known locally at your service center, dealership, regional branch office, or wherever makes sense. Conduct a town hall meeting after hours. Listen, take notes and then follow-up to divisional or regional leadership with your findings. Follow up on your follow-up and ensure the loops are closed.

3. Examine your company’s values. Does your company see employees as cogs in a wheel? Or, do they balance performance expectations with kindness and respect for employees at all levels of the organization? 

As one executive shared recently, “The way in which you get results is as important as the results themselves.” In other words, the more you treat your employees with respect, the more they will do for you (and the happier they will be).

4. Help your employees become their best. Define a plan for everyone from entry-level to supervisors, managers, directors and vice presidents to advance their careers. Map the goals of your employees with the goals of your company. Clear a path and provide resources for future growth and advancement. Without an inspiring journey in view, employees at all levels begin to feel rudderless.

5. Shift gears from focusing on costs to focusing on service and results. In other words, if your employees feel constantly pressed to trim costs with little opportunity to grow value and increase the business, then it’s likely they are feeling institutionalized. Instead, reframe the conversation and action plan around how not only should they reduce costs but also how they can build a better widget, provide more exceptional service and expand market share.

6. Hire better leaders. If your leaders are stuck in the outdated hierarchical mode of bossing their people around, no questions asked; and, if your leaders wield their “gotcha” attitude, lying in wait for their employees to make a mistake, then you probably have found a source of your unhappy employees.  

Leadership who dictates versus serves and leads their employees often are at the root of withering employee morale. Take a hard look at the behavior of your current leadership and either compel them to make a change or replace them with leaders who will.

7. Organize a retreat for your leaders. Perhaps your company has undergone a series of acquisitions that resulted in leadership silos, which in turn created disharmony and disconnect among and between employees. Whatever the reason for a less than agreeable and collaborative group of leaders, you may consider bringing them together for a brainstorming retreat.

During this initiative, share feedback and discuss methods to unite your region for maximum results. Create a unified message that you can then bring back to your employees – something team members can really get behind.

8. Communicate to your employees every day. In line with number 7, you must be sure every single employee understands – and believes in – what needs to be done to achieve success. As well, translate the financial needs of the business to each individual employee so they can be an ongoing contributor to the bottom line.

9. Eliminate meetings and redundancies. In other words, let your employees do their jobs without the constant interruption of administrative oversight and unproductive meetings. Enable your teams unbroken focus on projects and action plans aimed at completing their deliverables.

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