8 Signs You've Got an Unhappy Employee — and What to Do About It

5 min read
Feb 27, 2017


If all of your employees were happy all of the time, running a company would be a lot easier. Unfortunately, odds are, at least one of your employees will ultimately become dissatisfied with their job and bring a bad attitude into the workplace. These problem employees can be deadly for team morale and company productivity.

While in some instances it’s really easy to tell which of your workers is unhappy, sometimes these employees can slip under the radar. Here are eight signs that may indicate an employee is unhappy — and what you can do to improve the situation:


Sign #1: Their Productivity Takes a Turn for the Worse

When employees are happy and engaged with the work they’re doing, it’s not uncommon for them to regularly go above and beyond in doing their jobs. Sure, they might not always be super productive — but for the most part, you can count on happy employees to produce great work at a steady clip.

If you notice that one of your employees who used to crank out a ton of work is no longer producing at the same rate, that worker may very well be unhappy. Depending on how much their productivity has plummeted, they may have already mentally checked out.


Sign #2: They Start Showing Up Late and Leaving Early

Happy employees love their jobs and they love the people they work with. They’ll have their off days, like anyone else. But for the most part, happy workers will look forward to heading into the office every morning because they believe in the work they’re doing and they love being around their coworkers. You also wouldn’t be surprised to see a happy employee burning the midnight oil from time to time.

Unhappy employees, on the other hand, want to be anywhere other than the office. They dread showing up to work each day because it makes them feel terrible. If you notice one of your workers has started showing up late and leaving before quitting time on a regular basis, it’s time to intervene.


Sign #3: They Don’t Participate in Team Activities Outside of the Office

When workers are content with their jobs, they don’t mind putting in some extra time to get to know their colleagues a bit better. While they might not make it to every single company happy hour, they’ll show up to at least some of them.

Employees who aren’t happy, on the other hand, are less likely to invest the effort to join extracurricular events. The last thing they want to do is spend more time with their coworkers when the workday has ended. If one of your employees is a consistent no-show at your after-work events, they might be unhappy.


Sign #4: They Keep to Themselves at Work

As our 2017 Employee Engagement Report points out, coworkers are the number one driver of employee happiness. When a team member is happy with their job, theyre getting along with their coworkers and talking to them about their work and personal lives.

If you’ve noticed that one of the chattier members of your team has suddenly gone silent, or you have an employee who’s not being social with other members of the team, there’s a chance they are unhappy.



Sign #5: They Don’t Offer Feedback or Suggest New Ideas

When workers are engaged, they are always thinking about how processes can be improved and how their company can be more effective. To this end, they are quick to offer their insight into why things might not be working as well as they could be and their ideas as to how things can become even better. The happiest employees are always sharing their thoughts in both private and team meetings.

Unhappy workers, on the other hand, simply want to leave the meeting room or office as soon as they can. You won’t hear any constructive feedback from these folks. If they do speak up during meetings or brainstorming sessions, its likely they will be tearing other people’s ideas down instead of serving up some of their own.


Sign #6: Their Attitude Becomes Toxic

Because they love their jobs and are personally vested in the success of the companies they work for, happy employees are fun to spend time with. They’re quick to offer to lend a helping hand when their colleagues ask for it and they’re pleasant to be around.

When employees start becoming unhappy, their attitude takes a turn for the worse. They may complain about everything or become rude to coworkers. Whenever someone comes up with a new idea, they trash it. Whenever they have new responsibilities added to their plate, they become agitated.

If you’ve noticed this type of behavior, its not only a sign that the employee has a bad attitude, but also poses a significant risk. This behavior can spread throughout the team and undermine the happiness of the entire organization.


Sign #7: Other Employees Start Complaining

When employees are happy, they do what’s expected of them. If their coworkers have anything to say about their performance, its overwhelmingly positive. That’s because the quality of their work is great, they don’t mind helping others, and they’ve got a great attitude.

If a number of your employees start complaining about the same person, it’s a red flag. There may be things happening behind the scenes that youre not seeing, which can tip off that you've got an unhappy employee. The last thing you want is to let one person bring down the morale of your entire team.


Sign #8: Customers Start Complaining

Unhappy employees are less likely to produce great work. If a client or customer starts complaining about an employees quality of work — and they’ve been happy customers in the past — you may have an unhappy employee on your hands.


Taking Action

Does it seem like any of your employees are unhappy? If so, take immediate steps to rectify the situation. Schedule a 1:1 meeting to talk to your employee about what’s going on. Ask what you can do to help improve their attitude. Consider letting them pursue a pet project so they gain a sense of ownership. Let them know what the consequences will be if their behavior doesn’t change.

Also, take a good look at whats making your employee unhappy. Is it a symptom of the company culture or your management style? This could be a clue that there are larger issues in your organization. Benchmarking with anonymous pulse surveys is a great way to see if theres a problem bubbling under within your team.

Don’t let one unhappy employee bring everyone else down with them. Intervene the moment you recognize one of your workers is no longer happy. The sooner you address the problem, the more likely you’ll be to solve it before it spirals out of control.





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