10 Ways to Know if You're Running an Unhappy Workplace

10 Ways to Know if You’re Running an Unhappy Workplace

According to a recent survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more employees are quitting their jobs and they’re coming from a wide variety of industries. As leaders, it is essential that you know the pulse of your organization, as the cost to the business is staggering and the future viability of the company could be at-risk.

“With an improving job market and more companies gradually returning to their recruiting cycles, worker confidence has increased and more options are appearing on the horizon,” says Lisa Frame-Jacobson, Founder and President of Feature Talent Builders, a national business coaching, search, staffing and training firm. “Add to this the fact that it is easier than ever for other organizations and recruiters to find your employees and work relentlessly to lure them away. It’s important that you don’t get caught in an employee exodus when you have valuable insight to gain right now.”

What’s more, today’s employee mix spans across multiple generations, ranging from Boomers and Generation’s X’s to Y’s and Z’s. It should seem obvious that the workplace preferences of a 55-year-old company veteran will vary from those of a 20-year-old newcomer – but, with so many generational factors coming into play, it’s nearly impossible for an employer to create and implement a “one-size-fits-all” strategy that cultivates a mutually agreed upon “happy” work environment points out Michelle Prince, Senior Vice President, Talent Management, North America of Randstad USA. Therefore, flexibility in the workplace has become an important factor to meet the multigenerational preferences and expectations. Without flexibility, leaders run the risk of an “unhappy” workplace.

Referencing a basic “Business 101” ideology, happy employees make happy customers and, therefore, ultimately increase a business’ bottom line. But what happens when the opposite occurs? Employers who foster an unhappy work environment – knowingly or unknowingly – are more likely to experience higher turnover rates, absenteeism, and less productive workers, having a negative impact to the bottom line. So, how can employers tell if they’re fostering an unhappy work environment? Below, Prince outlines four key reasons your workplace may be an unhappy workplace:

4 key reasons your workplace may be an unhappy workplace

  1. Feeling undervalued and underappreciated
    As a part of its 2014 Engagement Study, Randstad asked more than 2,000 American workers what would be the most likely reasons to leave their current position. Workers were presented with 10 possible factors and asked to select the top three that would most likely push them to leave their job. To no surprise, participants cited pay as the number one reason they would leave. Many employees attribute the misalignment between their contribution and their compensation to being undervalued and underappreciated by their boss. This perception results in feelings of anger and resentment, which negatively impact the employee’s demeanor and contribute to an overall unhappy work environment.
  2. Consistently high stress levels
    In the Randstad study, 24 percent of employees say stress is a major contributor to unhappiness and heavily influences their decision to remain at a job. Although many Americans have come to expect and accept high stress levels as the norm, the effects of a stressful work life greatly impact employees’ desire and ability to perform at peak levels. For example, Randstad’s engagement research reveals almost half (42%) of employees feel obligated to check in with work while on vacation and more than a quarter (26%) feel guilty using all of their allotted vacation time. Moreover, 45 percent of workers feel obligated to respond to email after hours, and 47 percent feel guilty if they don’t work (either on site or from home) when sick. Employees who are unable to disengage when given the opportunity will begin to exhibit signs of exhaustion and diminished interest, will be more likely to show up late or call out sick and are ultimately more susceptible to burnout.
  3. Strained relationship with management
    Engaged leaders help to create engaged employees. Therefore, it’s extremely important that leaders be visible and accessible and also model an engaged attitude and workplace demeanor. Highly engaged employees offer more discretionary effort to their employers and are more motivated to actively contribute to their jobs. A strong manger/employee relationship is the foundation of a happy workplace, so in environments where these relationships are lacking or do not exist, employees begin to distrust leadership and feel less confident in the company, which negatively impacts attitude, motivation and performance levels.
  4. Misalignment with company culture
    Paying attention to company culture is often the secret weapon employers need to create a happy work environment. In a very general sense, company culture describes the way a company’s employees and employers think, feel and act. Employees want to work for companies that they believe in and feel confident about; therefore, at a minimum, it’s crucial for employers to clearly communicate the company’s mission statement, values and goals. That way, employees will feel well-informed and confident when making their employment decisions. Conversely, if that communication is vague or absent, it will likely cause confusion, misunderstanding, feeling out of place and can even lend to disagreements with management or coworkers.

Years ago, HR departments used turnover as the primary measure of employee satisfaction and happiness in the workplace. The old school mentality was to then look at ways to keep employees through compensation strategies – and perhaps free coffee. But progressive leaders and business drivers have researched and learned that the signs of an unhappy workplace are not always so overt but oftentimes rather subtle and need to be measured and translated into an actionable employee satisfaction, engagement and retention plan that encompasses the whole employee experience, states Frame-Jacobson.

If you are seeing any of this in your organization, you may be leading an unhappy workplace include and should dive deeper to determine the impact it causes, says Frame-Jacobson.

6 ways to know you have an unhappy workplace

  1. Absenteeism – though a valid health issue could impact attendance in a negative manner that has nothing to do with how happy or unhappy the employee feels with their workplace.
  2. Employees are not engaging in professional development opportunities that are offered by the company and that would increase their chances of an internal promotion.
  3. Negative social media comments: while not a statistical measure, certainly good to be aware of what is being said about your company as one piece of feedback
  4. The Employee Referral Program, if it exists in the company, is not fueling the pipeline of new talent to interview. This could be signifying that employees don’t want their friends, family or colleagues to work in your environment.
  5. Decreased productivity and quality outcomes: Low customer satisfaction scores. Employee satisfaction survey results score low on a few key areas: The value employees place on their direct supervisor/manager relationship, recognition for their work, and a clear line of sight to their internal career path that is supported by more than one internal champion.
  6. People don’t look like they are having fun – or simply look unhappy. Observing the body language as you walk around various teams and departments on a variety of days and multiple times throughout a month proves invaluable. Looks of frustration, anger, boredom and other indicators of dissatisfaction are telling. Many employees arriving to work looking like it took every last shred of their being to make it in and appear overall slow in getting into the day’s activities Increase in the number of employee relations matters

In Part 2 of this series, Prince will provide specific retention and engagement strategies and Frame-Jacobson will provide real-world and proven strategies for turning around the unhappy workplace based on her experience in coaching and leading business teams with high scores in employee satisfaction and engagement. Until then, take time starting today to look around your organization and share this blog with others who share a drive for fostering and maintaining a happy workplace.

“If a change is needed, the time to address it is now,” says Frame-Jacobson.

Written by

Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via resumesbymatt.com, connect with him on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/mattkrumrie/) and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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