How to Recognize Unhappy Employees


The reason why you might want to make certain that the people in your employ are happy should go beyond the desire to maintain a pleasant workplace. Happy employees may actually save the company money. Indeed, research has shown that employees who are happy work harder and are more productive — in fact, happy people are up to 12% more productive than unhappy folks.

Naturally, you want your employees to be happy, but how can you tell if someone on your team is dealing with an issue that may be affecting their performance? Here are several tips for how you can spot an unhappy employee.

Unhappy employees are uncooperative

While an unhappy employee won’t necessarily wage an open rebellion, they will often try to quietly rebel in other ways. You might think of it as an overall attitude of resistance that manifests by being uncooperative. They may quietly ignore the rules or be reluctant to take on new tasks or responsibilities. They may sit on the sidelines when it comes to participating in training and meetings.

Unhappy employees will do the bare minimum

Someone who has become disengaged to the point they are no longer interested or passionate about their work and are simply in it for the paycheck will find a way to do just enough work to avoid being reprimanded. Even though their work is adequate, when you compare it to the work they have done in the past, you’ll be able to see the contrast.

Unhappy employees don’t stick around

If an employee begins to develop a pattern of arriving late to work and leaving exactly on time (or even a little early) because they are watching the clock closely, they may be expressing their desire to be somewhere else besides work.

Unhappy employees rarely have friends at work

If your workplace culture is one that encourages friendships and camaraderie, you can often spot the unhappy employee because he is the one who chooses to stand alone at events and avoids taking part in work-related social interactions.

Unhappy employees may be feeling slighted

If you notice a sudden change in someone’s behaviour after passing them up for a promotion in favour of another co-worker, this is the kind of unhappiness that can develop into resentment or anger at the company. They may feel that their work is not appreciated or that their career has hit a dead end.

Unhappy employees complain more often

They also have more complaints lodged against them from co-workers, as well. A common theme with unhappy workers is that a dark cloud tends to follow them around as they move through the office. They will complain to anyone who will listen, or perhaps adopt a general attitude of negativity.

Unhappy employees call in sick more often

If you notice that someone is suddenly taking every sick day they are allotted and missing an hour or even an afternoon here or there to attend doctor’s appointments, you may have an employee who already has one foot out the door and who is interviewing with other companies.

If you spot any of these warning signs in one of your team members, you may want to reach out to them to see if there is anything that you can do to resolve the situation. Like the proverbial bad apple that can spoil the whole bunch, unhappy employees have a way of spreading their discontent to others around them. A quick intervention can save greater trouble down the road.

About the Author

Tess Pajaron is an experienced Community Manager working at Open Colleges, Australia’s leading online educator. When not working, she enjoys reading and traveling.


Photo Credit: Getty Images

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