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How do you spot disgruntled employees?

If you run a business, it's probably no surprise that happy employees make for a better business. The power of happiness can manifest itself in productivity increases up to 12 percent.

The power of unhappiness, however, may be even more profound. One disgruntled employee can act like a cancer within the company, gradually changing the attitudes of everyone that he or she comes into contact with on a regular basis and sowing discontent all around.

If his or her co-workers aren't actively unhappy with their jobs, they may become unhappy just working with someone that's always in a foul humor and constantly negative about the job. A toxic environment can slow down productivity -- but it can also cause good employees to jump ship.

If you can sense a growing discontentment among your staff and you can't figure out where it starts, here's what you should try:

1. Ask yourself, honestly, if your company is a good place to work

If your employees don't feel valued or heard, they're going to be unhappy. If the work outmatches the pay and benefits, they're going to feel used and unhappy. You can't blame that on a bad seed. Once you're reasonably sure that the company itself isn't to blame, move onto the next step.

2. Look for an employee who is "barely there" even when he or she is present

The genuinely disgruntled send out a lot of signals that they're unhappy with their position, even if they stop short of active trouble-making:

  • They arrive late or call off "sick" quite often.
  • They're out the door the second they can leave.
  • They disappear quickly for smoke breaks, lunch breaks, phone calls and whatever other reason they can manage.
  • Their work gets done -- but slowly and with minimal effort.
  • They seem disconnected from their co-workers, but not out of shyness or introversion. Instead, they seem to think ordinary camaraderie among co-workers is worthy of contempt or disdain.

3. Address the issue and document everything

Once you've identified a disgruntled employee, you must address the issue. You can work with some employees to get things back on track. Others really have no interest in being productive, and you'll have to eventually part ways.

To protect the company, however, document each meeting and corrective measure. Your best defense against a lawsuit is a plan of action and good documentation of the problems you've encountered.

Source: ZIPschedules.com, "6 Warning Signs of Disgruntled Employees and How to Manage Them," accessed Feb. 27, 2018

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