Ask any supervisor or manager
what they consider to be their toughest challenge on the job and, eventually,
they will tell you it's a disgruntled or unhappy employee. Forget the
pressures to produce, deadlines or excessive overtime; dealing with a miserable
co-worker drains the entire team. There have been many situations in which a
manager becomes obsessed with this employee and spends the bulk of their day
finding ways to get back at them; an expensive corporate game of cat and mouse.
The consequences of harbouring an unhappy employee without dealing with their
problems can lead to excessive absenteeism, theft, fraud and, in the worst cases,
of the Unhappy Employee
The workplace is a complex
social network. Within this network, life is lived with a complete assortment
of human emotions; fear, anger, joy, trust and suspicion to name just a few.
Every time something goes right -- sales targets are achieved, a project
is completed or a new order is placed -- it's because people got
the job done. Similarly, when something goes wrong -- a project falls apart
or a deal is lost -- it's because people dropped the ball along the
Most employees start their
new jobs with the best intentions. They want to be accepted, respected and loyal
to their employer. After all, we spend more time at our jobs than we do with
our families. As a result, we all want to contribute something of value to society.
Rarely will we find a new employee who wants to cause harm to their employer.
As many people define themselves by the jobs they hold, these same people expect
the job to deliver on a promise of "happily ever after." How then,
do things deteriorate when they start out with such great promise?
Although employees do
promise to love, honour and obey their employer, conflict no doubt will arise
eventually. People are born to disagree; they have individual opinions and
different motivations that lead to an eventual clash. If the clash is dealt
with unfairly, the honeymoon period will end sooner than expected.
Both employee and employer
will question whether the hiring decision was right or a mistake. The feelings
of betrayal are no different than those found in personal relationships. "You're
not who I thought you were" or "you've changed" echo
in the minds of the employee and employer. Second-guessing the hiring choice
at this point can start the cycle of insecurity and looking over one's
Conflict is dealt with
in different ways in different companies. Is a differing or dissenting opinion
by a staff member looked upon with disdain or is it considered a healthy difference
of opinion? Are performance reviews carried out in a fair and uniform manner
by all supervisors or are some tougher with their praise than others?
How hard is it to recognize
the unhappy employee? They are the individuals who are the obvious outsiders
looking in and still trying to belong. Ostracizing these people starts small;
usually with a comment or two, undermining their work, forgetting to invite
them to meetings, passing them over for raises and promotions. The other side
of this equation brings an equivalent amount of reactions: anger toward the
boss, defensive behaviour, paranoia, increased sick days, etc. By the time we
reach this point, too many people are sitting on the sidelines watching and
are not willing to get involved. It becomes a poisonous disease permeating the
It Have to Be This Way?
People are motivated by
their emotions. Good, loving emotions lead to wanting to prosper on the job
while negative emotions usually bring on an onslaught of non-productive behaviours
and create malicious employees. It doesn't matter whether at home or at
work, people despise dealing with conflict. It is uncomfortable, yet the conflict
arises because we think, act and are, different from one another. Simple? Yet
this rarely comes in to play when assessing workplace volatility. When we fully
embrace this realization, life at work would become so much simpler. A fortune
cookie contained the message, "Love is like war: easy to begin, hard to
end." No truer than in the workplace.
Accountability for workplace
behaviours begins with the top. Recognizing any of these signs means that an
organization needs delicate intervention:
Conflicts are ignored
for long periods of time
Employee feelings of
Staff spends most of
their time on protecting themselves and their jobs
Lack of teamwork
want to acknowledge conflict.
It is possible to take action
and gain a favourable reaction from the "scorned" employee with
some tender loving care. Express appreciation and praise and make it clear that
you are committed to making things better. Consider a third party to assist
in bridging conflict and building trust again. Make the commitment to change
the environment with the personnel you currently have. Terminations are not
always the answer. The answer lies with the supervisory practices of each individual
that manages staff.
The Association of Certified
Fraud Examiners estimates that the average firm loses $9 USD per employee per
day, to fraud and abuse in the United States. Those losses amount to about $4
billion USD per year. A similar Canadian study conducted by Ernst & Young
in 2001 reported that one in four Canadian employees either committed fraud
against their employer or witnessed it within the previous year. Employees who
are happy with their jobs rarely cause these losses; rather, employees who have
a problem with their employer perpetuate them. CN
the Author Nejolla Korris
is CEO of The Sponsorship Group Ltd., Edmonton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org