Why Employees Mask Their Unhappiness and How to Handle Them

Have you ever encountered an unhappy person who is trying too hard to look happy? For some reason or the other, we have all done that. However, when it comes to disgruntled employees hiding their unhappiness to keep their jobs, it never ends well. When this happens, look for signs to determine if the conditions of the workplace are conducive to your employees.

You do not want to waste time, energy, and money acquiring and training new employees after some leave unexpectedly. Why do some employees leave when it is least expected of them? Let’s take a hypothetical case of Sam.

Sam is in his mid-thirties and his career is on the verge of taking off. He has been working at X company for over 5 years now, takes home a great package and seems comfortable in his role. He delivers his work as expected, doesn’t go overboard or contribute anything to the team during meetings but he is still a fundamental and valued employee in the company. He seems happily married and recently became a father. His wife stays at home to take care of the kid. He bought a house two years ago and meets the mortgage payments on time. He drives a standard SUV and occasionally joins his friends for a beer or two after work.

In essence, Sam seems happy, and successful with a great future.

Then, out of the blues, Sam wakes up and decides to resign. Reason for resigning: He feels dead, suffocated at his job.

It turns out that the company does not have immediate backup systems to cushion themselves against something like that. There is a void and deadlines cannot be met.

The company needs to replace Sam as fast as possible or get him to come back to work to avoid losing revenues. Sam knows that if he comes back to work, the relationship between him and his superiors will have changed and not for the better. He declines the offer and accepts a lower paying offer from a competing company. Seems nuts, right? Wrong. Sam is justified in his actions. He prioritized his own happiness over the happiness of his boss and took a position in a company where he knew that he would be both valued and happy.

Now let’s go back to company X where Sam resigned unexpectedly. The company had invested money and time in training Sam to fit the position he was occupying. To get someone to replace him, they will still need to train that person and this will take money and time. They lose revenue during this period and if Sam was holding an extremely technical role, some projects may have to be halted until a replacement is found.

Of course, the company will have prevented such a scenario from happening by executing the clause that required Sam to offer a substantial notice period before exiting the company. However, is this the best way for companies to prevent attrition?


5 Strategies Employers can use to Unmask Their Employees’ Dissatisfaction and Handle it Accordingly

(1) Talk to them like they are your friends.

You do not have to play beer pong or black Jack with your employees, but now and then, take a few minutes, step down from your ivory tower and see what is going on with your people. Ask them, with genuine concern, about their day and you will be surprised how much it means to them. This is the time you get to learn more of the challenges they are facing—maybe the air conditioner broke down ages ago and no one has the courage to tell you about it—and the efforts they are putting into making the company become a success.

You might also spot something, or come across a grass root idea that can transform the whole company.

(2) Let them know that their opinion matters.

How would you feel if you were in a polygamous marriage where your opinion wasn’t worth a dime and yet the decisions made affected all of you? That is what your employees feel when you impose decisions and policies and expect them to implement them without a question. Of course, there are boundaries and barriers to that but in most cases, the best performing team is the one that sits down together and builds their own targets and formulates ways of hitting these targets together. By letting these employees contribute towards a cause, they will own it and work towards accomplishing these goals.

(3) Hire the right people.

Always ensure that whoever you bring on board is the right kind of fit in terms of culture, behavior, and qualifications. Employing people who do not share the vision of the company will only lead to strife and a high retention rate in the company in the future. This is done during the recruitment process. If you do not have a solid recruitment department in the company, outsource to a reputable recruiting firm. It will save you a lot of headache and money in the long run.

(4) Recognize and Reward efforts and also be fair on punishment.

Ensure that your company has a solid reward policy for employees who do outstanding work. This will boost their morale tremendously. In the same context, ensure that you have a punishment model in place. This model should be firm but fair and in accordance with the mistake made.

(5) Do not be a jerk.

Everyone hates a jerk. As the boss, do not act entitled and treat your subordinates like trash. You have to find ways to coexist and treat your colleagues with respect. If your employees think you are a jerk, they will lose respect for you and even though they might not openly show it, they will be conspiring behind your back.

There are numerous ways to create a happy and conducive atmosphere at the workplace.

Most of us spend more hours in the office than we spend at home and hence we need to be in an environment that is welcoming and accommodating so that we can do our jobs without the need to mask our unhappiness.

This post was previously published on ThriveGlobal.com and is republished here with the author’s permission.

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