Workers fading? Here’s how to bring them back

by Managing People at Work on September 4, 2014

frustrated workerRecognizing signs that discontent is brewing or that your staff is stressed out can be the first step in making important changes to get your team back on track. Watch for these warnings before the situation gets out of hand:

1. Absenteeism

Noticing a surge in sick days and requests for time off? Employees may be job hunting and interviewing elsewhere, suffering from exhaustion, or having trouble facing a bad work environment. Whatever the reason, the result is the same: lost productivity.

2. Short tempers

Are disagreements among staff members becoming more frequent and heated? Overburdened workers are quicker to snap at one another as well as at any additional demands on their schedules. The behavior may even spill into interactions with clients, jeopardizing the company’s image and success.

3. Quietness

Are new ideas or requests met with deafening silence? While some folks express dissatisfaction through loud ob­­­jections or hostility, others simply seethe. Failure to offer opinions or seek more information also could signal that workers lack interest in their jobs, have “checked out,” or feel like their voices will be ignored, so why bother speaking up?

4. Lack of socializing

Is the only action around the water cooler someone actually getting a drink? Happy employees tend to seek out friendly interactions with colleagues before and after work, at breaks or lunch, and at company gatherings. A quick test: Notice the atmosphere before your next staff meeting starts. Is there easy chatter across the conference table, or do people appear as strangers absorbed in their own thoughts or cellphones?

5. Reluctance to help

Does your sign-up sheet for volunteers for the company mentoring program remain blank? Workers who already have too much on their plates can be leery about additional commitments. Likewise, an unhappy employee may be less willing to put effort toward anything he or she deems as “not my job”—an attitude detrimental to teamwork.

Taking action

As a leader, it is critical to get to the heart of what is going on. Though such conversations can be challenging, the temporary discomfort is worth the long-term benefit.

“One happy person can affect a thousand people,” says Jackie Ruka, author of Get Happy and Create a Kick Butt Life! and founder of the Get Happy Zone—a personal and professional development organization. “An unhappy person can often have a similar and more deleterious effect.”

Ruka notes that happier employees are more productive and willing to work toward an organization’s goals and mission. Translated into numerical terms, she states that a mere 1% rise in productivity can increase sales $80,000 to $120,000 per month in a midsize organization.

Anger management and conflict resolution expert Janet Pfeiffer, president and CEO of Pfeiffer Power Seminars, suggests assembling your group and asking each person to identify three things they are unhappy about and what improvement they would like to see. While not all recommended changes may be possible, the team may be able to come up with feasible solutions. At the very least, a good manager will help employees learn how to better work under the current conditions.

Pfeiffer also sees value in one-on-one discussions to make certain each employee has the proper training, materials, time and help to complete tasks.

“By taking the time to speak with each worker, the manager demonstrates a real concern for the well-being of each person and not simply production,” Pfeiffer says. “When employees feel valued, listened to, and their needs are considered a priority, they are more willing to work hard and go the extra mile when needed. This one simple strategy benefits each worker as well as the company in general.”

Finally, reflect a moment on your own happiness level. Your attitude and behavior set a tone, so consider the effort spent on increasing your well-being to be an investment in your team’s satisfaction, too.