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8 Strategies For Dealing With a Disgruntled Employee

What is one strategy for dealing with a disgruntled employee?

To help you deal with a disgruntled employee in a professional manner, we asked CEOs and business owners this question for their best advice. From being discreet when confronting them to finding a common ground, there are several strategies that may help you resolve issues professionally when dealing with a disgruntled employee.

Here are eight strategies for dealing with a disgruntled employee:

  • Be Discreet When Confronting Them

  • Listen First and Offer Them The Opportunity To Quit

  • Factor Their Feedback in Decisions

  • Set Clear Expectations

  • Document Everything Relating To Their Actions

  • Find Out Where You May be at Fault as a Manager

  • Actively Listen To Their Concerns

  • Find a Common Ground

Be Discreet When Confronting Them

Confronting an employee for their behavior is always a sensitive issue and the last thing you want is more attention than necessary. It could not only hurt the team morale and raise unconscious biases but it could also leave the employee in question feeling singled out and further aggravate their hostility. Ensure that you're being discreet when confronting the employee and aren't casually discussing details of the situation in the workplace.

Listen First and Offer Them The Opportunity To Quit

Most of us have met that employee. The one that criticizes everything that is said and done, no matter who or what. The one that sucks all the positive energy the minute s/he walks into the office. The one that has the entire department stressed to no end. The one that you see coming your way, wondering what the complaint of the day will be.

When they end up with me, I let them share their dissatisfaction and complaints. I then point out the obvious. "In listening to you, it is clear to me that you are not happy in your job and/or organization. You spend a good part of your day at work, and it sounds like your personal/ professional needs are not being met here any longer. Have you considered exploring other opportunities elsewhere that may be a better fit for you?".

Believe it or not, I have had some of these individuals do just that. Some have shared how they wished they had made the change before as they are much happier, engaged or satisfied in their new place of employment.

PATTY HICKOK, NANA Regional Corporation

Factor Their Feedback in Decisions

Having a year-round open-door policy supports ongoing employee feedback and workplace engagement, but it doesn’t entirely solve issues with disgruntled employees in a business if used improperly. The team member’s feedback should never be used as a vehicle for punishing those who are willing to share, which is why additional conversations and feedback processes throughout the year are sometimes necessary. For example, a fast-moving business may benefit from a formal process for associates to submit ideas or solutions to work challenges or an escalation policy for issues they are uncomfortable speaking about.

It’s important for all employees to feel seen and heard, even though resolution can feel uncomfortable to navigate at times. Remember that feedback in all forms is a gift that can be a valuable contribution to improving the organization, so be fair and open in these conversations with unhappy employees.

Benjamin Meskin, Cabrella

Set Clear Expectations

If you are dealing with an employee who is disgruntled and agitated, you can work with your team or department to set expectations and guidelines for everyone. Building healthy norms like agreeing as a team to communicate more openly about frustrations can help avoid unneeded stress and resentment within the team. If the employee who is disgruntled tends to ignore things like assignments given during meetings, take notes about who is responsible for what and by when. This can help everyone be held accountable and a little positive peer pressure can sometimes lessen someone’s passive aggressiveness.

Document Everything Relating To Their Actions

I believe it’s unwise to dismiss any complaints from disgruntled employees since you never know when they could complicate the situation by taking legal action. Any responsible employer will start keeping records the minute an angry employee steps into their office with a complaint. After making them understand that you realize the gravity of their situation, write down whatever issues they have with their consent, and confirm what you’ve written with them to avoid miscommunication. Subsequently, each step you take to fix those issues should also be documented.

From my experience, detailed record-keeping can be your savior if the problem escalates and the employee makes claims of discrimination or negligence. As more people get involved, and details unfold, your notes can become a great fact-checking resource for the case.

Anjela Mangrum, Mangrum Career Solutions

Find Out Where You May Be at Fault as a Manager

If something goes wrong with an employee, it is the fault of the manager. Once you understand this, you will become a much more effective leader. First, analyze why the behavior of your employee has changed. There may be a dozen reasons why your colleague is disgruntled. The best thing to start with is a conversation. Show your friendly attitude and the desire to help your employee.

As a good manager, you have to maintain good relations with all the team members. If you feel the problem is deep, it's a good idea to go somewhere after work. After this one on one meet there is a big chance you will understand the problem. Once you have the crucial information, you need to create a plan on how to fix the situation. You could decide to change something in the workflow or other areas, or you could decide that this position is wrong for your employee. Don't hesitate to make the right move based on the information you gathered from the conversation.

Ruslan Piatrou, HypeTrain

Actively Listen To Their Concerns

While it’s possible the disgruntled employee simply has a bad attitude, in the majority of cases these feelings are the result of issues with your company culture, employee expectations, management style, or negative workplace interactions. Identifying the root of the problem will not only help you to restore the disgruntled employee’s morale and productivity, but will also allow you to improve the workplace environment for all team members.

The first step to identifying the underlying issue is to have a private, empathetic conversation with the employee. Give them space to voice their concerns without denying, defending, or otherwise minimizing their issue. During this conversation, ask what change they want to see that would resolve their source of dissatisfaction. Implement this change if possible, and if not work with them to arrive at a mutually-agreeable solution.

Archie Payne, Caltek Staffing

Find a Common Ground

Dealing with disgruntled employees are delicate situations that need to be handled with care. You want to avoid escalating the problem with negative interactions and one way to do that is to find common ground between yourself and the employee. The best way to do that is by listening to their grievances, showing empathy, and finding ways to relate to them. Finding common ground shows employees that they're more than just a number and can improve your perspective of the situation - so the issue can be resolved.

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