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How to spot if your employees are unhappy

Business owners have a seemingly endless list of responsibilities, which can mean the happiness of your workforce may not always be at the forefront of your mind, but failing to spot the signs of dissatisfaction among employees could be costly.

Employee happiness involves so much more than making your team feel good about their role within the company and it is important to recognise that staff satisfaction rates can actually have an impact on the organisation as a whole. A 2015 study conducted by the Social Market Foundation and the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy found that happier employees are more productive in the workplace than those who are dissatisfied.

Researchers chose individuals from the 700 participants at random and either showed them a 10-minute comedy clip, or provided them with snacks and drinks, before asking a series of questions to ensure that the “happiness shocks” actually made the respondents happy. The experiment showed that productivity increased by an average of 12 percent and reached as high as 20 percent above the control group.

With this in mind, ensuring members of staff are happy is essential for the success of your business. Here we take a look at several key signs that your employees are unhappy.

  • A decline in productivity

Declines in productivity levels can be difficult to measure, however, they are not usually difficult to notice. If the quality or quantity of an employee’s work begins to drop, it is important to establish the reason why as quickly as possible. If the cause of the issue is highlighted, you should evaluate the impact this has on the individual employee, as well as the wider office morale, immediately.

  • An increase in sickness

A noticeable increase in the number of sick days an employee has is a key indicator of their happiness levels. If a member of staff is happy at work, they are usually happy to attend. However, their dissatisfaction could cause them to take more days off. It is important to be aware that an increase in sick days may also be an indicator of the individual’s mental health, employers should establish the cause quickly and offer help where possible.

  • Complaints from colleagues

If an employee’s attitude and unhappiness is not immediately obvious to you, it is likely their fellow employees will notice. Changes in working behaviour, particularly those that are negative, are usually not overlooked by co-workers. Be sure to reserve judgement while speaking to members of staff, and do your best to establish the cause of their mood.

  • Limited personal engagement

While this can be difficult for business owners to identify, employees closing themselves off can be a tell-tale sign of their levels of satisfaction. Many workplaces enjoy a tight-knit and connected culture, where members of the team are friendly and know each other well. However, this is not always possible, but polite chatting in communal areas or over desks and sharing a joke now and then are usually signs that things are going well.

If you notice that your office is quieter than usual, or if workers are not talking to each other as much as you have become accustomed to, they may be unhappy.

  • Failure to speak out

If your employees are not coming to you, or their immediate line manager, with any concerns they are having, or with any suggestions about the business, when they are usually an active player, they could be feeling hopeless and like they are unable to affect any kind of change. This feeling of powerlessness can often add to existing feelings of unhappiness.

To avoid this, encourage feedback, and ensure you make it known that the opinions of members of the team matter to you, and are important for the success of the business.

  • How to help an unhappy employee

If an employee has displayed some or all of the signs above, make it known that you have noticed by approaching them in a friendly manner, and invite them to talk about their grievances. At this point, it is vital that you promote an environment where their unhappiness can be discussed, and you should give them the opportunity to speak by listening to their issues.

It may be that the employee has probably stored up this problem for months, so listen and take notes that you can refer back to when it is your time to speak. Here, it is the responsibility of the person in charge to make suggestions for the next steps. You could suggest mediation, counselling or further support in the hope of resolving any underlying issues.

Promoting a workplace where employees feel they can openly discuss their issues and where they will be listened to without judgement, is crucial to staff satisfaction levels. Ultimately, it is essential to tell members of staff what you expect from them, while praising them when they do well, and spotting the signs of unhappiness early is vital to avoiding further problems down the line.

Sellick Partnership has over 19 years' experience in helping businesses to find the ideal candidate. To discuss your requirements with us, get in touch today. Or check out the rest of our employer resources here.  

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