An employee’s dissatisfaction at work isn't an isolated factor — often, it's related to their declining opinion of their boss and/or leadership as a whole. Even if their immediate boss isn’t the problem, they may be affected by a more senior leader’s actions, which could impact their long-term loyalty to your organization.
The good news? The writing is usually on the wall well before unhappy employees jump ship or otherwise act on their falling opinion of the leadership, so you can take preventive action. Here are seven signs you can look for to detect when your employees are losing respect for your company and/or your organization, as well as tips for rectifying the situation.
1. They Show Up Late for Meetings — or Don't Show Up at All
If your meetings often involve berating the staff or dwelling on low-value details, employees will become frustrated — especially with the person conducting these meetings. This reduced opinion typically leads to an increase in excuses to duck these gatherings.
What You Can Do: Change the tone of your meetings. Consider balancing concerns you may have with inspiring and motivational discussions. Call out employee success stories. Invite employees to get involved in meeting agenda planning. Consider reducing the frequency of meetings, especially if employees are suffering from meeting overload. And most importantly, ensure that meetings are only held when there are high-value topics to discuss.
2. They Stop Offering New Ideas
If an employee was once eager to brainstorm and develop better ways of doing things and has now withdrawn, it might be a sign that they're becoming disengaged. After all, when an employee’s ideas are continually overlooked and/or their research on an initiative ignored or trashed altogether, then they will likely feel unmotivated to continue trying to come up with ideas.
What You Can Do: Loosen the reins a bit, and ignite the employee’s energy and outlook by approving the execution of an idea. While it may be unfamiliar territory for you, and you initially may feel that things are not totally in your control, that’s okay. You’ll get used to it over time; as well, you likely will be rewarded with the benefits of this employee’s creativity and hard work.
3. Their Demeanor Has Become All-Business
If an employee who used to stop by your office to discuss the latest football game or other small talk now only interacts when it relates to a project due or a task completed, then they may no longer feel the connection they once had with you.
What You Can Do: This detachment can be a result of some other issue they are having with you, which you may recognize in one of the other six reasons listed here. Invite the employee to lunch and start a conversation; you may be surprised at what further clues come through in a one-on-one, relaxed atmosphere.
4. They Talk About People Behind Their Backs
This may be a bit more difficult to detect, but when you are really tuned into your environment, you can usually unearth signs of gossip. Your employees may also be bending the ear of an immediate supervisor or another manager with whom you can glean the gossip trends. Keep your ears alert to those around you, and if you see signs of this type of behind-your-back chatter, then you may want to take steps to reduce the noise.
What You Can Do: If the complaints are warranted; e.g., you’ve been overworking your staff without a day off for weeks or months, or conditions have been stressful and it is wearing their positivity down, then you can take immediate steps to improve the situation. If you can hire a new staff member to allay the work overload, you should.
5. They've Stopped Laughing
If a once-jovial employee is no longer amused at anything, it could be a sign of issues outside of work. But it also could be that the work environment, including the leadership, has shifted, and they no longer feel the same spirit of fun and camaraderie.
What You Can Do: All work and no play is no way to run a business — in fact, it's a sure-fire way to burn out your employees. One of the easiest solutions to this dilemma is to stop taking everything so seriously. Sure, some subjects require solemnity, but not everything. Learn to laugh at yourself from time to time, as well as the jokes others tell.
6. They No Longer Seek You Out for Mentoring Advice
If you’ve enjoyed a purposeful mentor-mentee relationship with your employee, and suddenly that changes, it may be that the employee has moved on, or, it could be that something in their view of you has changed.
What You Can Do: A bit of introspection may be in order to deduce what may have changed in your relationship with this employee that could have spurred this distance. A heart-to-heart feedback session with the employee also might be in order, discussing what’s going well and what’s not going so well at work and how you can help move challenging aspects of their job forward.
7. They No Longer Provide Meaningful Feedback
At one time, you could count on this employee to be a truth teller, sharing hard feedback, for the good of the company. Now, the employee has retreated into their shell. This could be a clear sign they no longer feel a strong, positive opinion toward leadership or the company.
What You Can Do: Again, scheduling some one-on-one time in a casual environment may help them to open up and to talk through any issues they may be having. It may be something as simple as a misunderstanding that can be resolved through a clarifying conversation.