How to Recognize & Deal with a Disgruntled Employee

How can managers recognize and deal professionally with issues of a disgruntled employee at work?

The signs are always there, crystal clear. You cannot mistake them. Yes, he is still late. Multiple warnings have been issued, but the problem persists: He reported to work late, yet again! Every warning seems to fall on deaf ears. 

Indeed, you are aware that the same worker is often reported absent.

Of course, your company allocates workers an equal number of leave days. It, however, seems that this particular employee is almost ever absent from his desk for one reason or another. 

Moreover, he regularly goes out for breaks and is often unavailable. Yes, the telltale signs are here: You have a disgruntled employee at work! As a manager, this is a fact that you have to deal with. The matter lies squarely in your hands.

Let us define “disgruntled

The term ‘disgruntled’ immediately gives us the picture of a person who is angry, dissatisfied, or outright displeased with matters. A ‘disgruntled employee’ is, therefore, a worker who is unhappy about something or someone in the workplace.

These days, disgruntled employees seem to be everywhere. All over the world, companies and corporate executives are lamenting the rise of this new, undesirable workplace phenomenon. No doubt, the scourge must be nipped in the bud before things go out of hand. The time to do that is now.

How can managers recognize and deal professionally with issues of disgruntled employees at work? Indeed, how can they do so successfully? Let us find out.

How to Recognize & Deal with a Disgruntled Employee
Disgruntled employee

Handling a disgruntled employee

In the modern dynamic employment market, it is wise for members of the management to regularly reevaluate the worker’s sentiments or feelings about the company that employs them. The attrition rates for human resource is increasingly getting high. This could hinder a company’s general performance and productivity.

Indeed, unless it is handled well, the problem of disgruntled employees can cause considerable damage to the company’s image, brand, or general reputation. The sooner you deal with, the better. If the matter is not handled expeditiously, disgruntled employees can soon become malicious, former employees! Fortunately, in most cases, things do not have to reach that level.

How, then, can a company deal with the issue of disgruntled employees? How can the management recognize the symptoms? Consider some of the common causes of workplace disgruntlement as tackled below:

How to recognize a disgruntled employee

Before you take steps to remedy the situation and help your disgruntled employee, it is essential to have some knowledge on how to identify them. In most cases, employees commonly make their dissatisfaction clear in the following specific ways:

Signs of disgruntlement

  • Negative attitude
  • Poor performance
  • Absenteeism
  • Poor bonding

Negative attitude

As managers, we can gauge an employee’s quality of job performance, attitude, and conversations, using these as parameters to ‘read’ a worker’s mindset. If this employee proves to be disgruntled, dissatisfied, and unhappy with the company or his work, he is likely going to be a bad influence on the rest. 

The employee’s actions may be characterized by a passive spreading of negativity in the work environment.

Poor performance

One of the easiest ways of detecting that an employee is disgruntled is to review his job performance. If we, as the managers, make sure that we monitor employee output regularly, we can avoid lots of unpleasant incidences within the organization.


Every company has guidelines on a set number of days for worker’s leave. However, as noted, some employees happen to take more days on leave than others. 

Further, they seem to have notoriously gained a reputation for regularly taking breaks from work and being unavailable. This is a clear sign of a lack of interest in their work. It is also a clear sign of being a disgruntled employee.

Poor Bonding

You may discover that an employee has a bone to pick with the management. He may be disgruntled due to reasons ranging from lack of appreciation, sexual harassment, or lack of promotion after years of service. 

His disgruntlement will be quite clear, judging from a distinct disinterest in bonding with other members of his team.

How to Recognize & Deal with a Disgruntled Employee
Disgruntled employee

How to deal with a disgruntled employee

We must ensure the workplace is conducive to all our employees. Indeed, the best approach in dealing with a disgruntled employee is to strive to use our management skills, focused on turning a dissatisfied and unhappy employee into a productive member of the organization. 

Swing into action! Here are some measures that you, a manager, can adopt to help the worker in question improve his attitude and turn around his fortunes and those of the company.

Remedial measures

  • Counseling
  • Skill training
  • Follow up
  • Career progression
  • Trust
  • Quick action
  • Confidentiality
  • Stay professional
  • Right atmosphere


Have you determined that the employee’s dissatisfaction primarily stems from his inability to cope with job responsibilities, harassment, a hostile work environment, bullying, or emotional distress? Organize a professional counseling session as soon as you can. A professionally-qualified person should supervise this. A counseling session could make a big difference in changing the employee’s thinking and attitude to his work.

It is also crucial that the senior management or HR or should accord the disgruntled employee a fair hearing on his complaints and causes of disgruntlement. It is suicidal for the administration to dismiss such complaints and engage in disciplinary measures before making efforts to address the issues fairly. The management should also give subsequent support to the worker.

If you determine that the matter is quite grave, perhaps involving some bullying that leads to emotional distress, you should organize for further counseling sessions with a qualified professional.

The company should ensure that the counseling professional writes a formal report on the case. If there are any recommendations from the counselor, the management should ensure they are strictly adhered to.

The administration should keep this report as a permanent record for future reference.

Skill training

If you determine that the employee’s disgruntlement has a direct bearing on his poor performance at work or inability to fulfill assigned tasks, the management should openly discuss available options for training that the employee could take advantage of. Such a program could likely give the employee an opportunity for career progression.

Hopefully, this would help lessen the disgruntled employee’s dissatisfaction and enhance productivity at work. Further, the results of the training should be documented and possibly made available to the affected worker as well. To give the worker sufficient opportunity to demonstrate results, the management should furnish an appropriate time frame after the execution of these positive remedial initiatives.

Follow up

Make sure that the employee feels appreciated and valued; the company management should proceed to follow up on the employee’s progress in the period following the training. It is also vital to keep checking with the subject regularly if he feels a need for further support and guidance. While doing this, as a manager, try to show the employee that you expect only the best from him, not the worst.

This is a two-way project, with clear responsibilities bestowed on both sides.

How to Recognize & Deal with a Disgruntled Employee
Disgruntled employee

Career progression

It is notable that a primary cause of disgruntlement in many companies is a diminished opportunity for career mobility with a better position or pay for particular individuals. It cannot be possible to offer a promotion or highly lucrative role to all deserving employees. 

Regardless of this, the company’s line managers and HR can put measures in place to ensure that well-performing workers are kept engaged by being assigned to new challenging functions and positive exposure.

How does this reduce harmful levels of dissatisfaction? 

The fact that the employee’s skill-set is being recognized and rewarded in whatever new roles he or she is being assigned will have positive results in the long-term. It grants them the opportunity to learn, thus considerably helping to reduce the possibility of worker dissatisfaction.


Company managers should understand that no relationship thrives in a place full of distrust. The management must, therefore, focus on promoting fair practices within the company. It must take urgent steps to eliminate any feelings of favoritism or bias in the workplace.

The management should nurture a positive culture of honest and open communication at all times. Ensure that any relevant or useful information should be made available to all.

At the same time, all applicable policies and KRAs should be clarified and stated to every employee. Moreover, any feedback derived from employees must be accorded favorable consideration and, if possible, swiftly followed up.

Quick action

Once the management discerns that something is not going right in the workplace, immediate remedial action should be taken. It does not matter if the issue has to do with just one or even two employees. Ignoring it could still be damaging.

Try to deal with the matter expeditiously, while the problem is still manageable. Do not let a storm in a teacup become a raging crisis.


As the manager or boss, ensure to keep confidential matters just like that: Confidential. If an employee reports a case of bullying, for instance, you should keep the issue confidential, at least during the initial stages. 

The matter is even more sensitive if the culprit happens to be a member of the management, perhaps a departmental head. Keeping things private while waiting for the right moment to swing into action is the obvious path of wisdom.

Taking your time will help you gauge the matter, giving it proper consideration and then make a balanced decision that benefits everyone, including the company.

Stay professional

You may be tempted to take quick, adverse action against an employee once you realize that he is acting in a manner that is seemingly detrimental to his colleagues. You may even be tempted to scream at him! Keep your cool, however. Try to stay professional amid the minor disruption. If you succeed to maintain your professional demeanor, the chances are that you will manage the situation better and help calm the temperatures. 

Remember this adage: No matter whether the issue is personal or otherwise, the manager should always keep his cool. The manager’s patience will eventually work for everyone’s good.

Right atmosphere

As a manager, make it clear to your workers that you are proud of them as a team and that the workplace is the best environment for them. You should give motivational talks to the workers from time to time. Use these sessions to reinforce a team spirit, assuring every member that his place in the company is always valued and respected. Yes, you must create and nurture a positive work culture in your organization.

Take action to deal decisively with any incidences of bullying, making it clear to all that this vice has no place within the company. How can you make sure to keep tabs with the disturbing menace of bullying in the workplace? One practical suggestion is to introduce an anonymous feedback box.

Keep this securely in a discreet place in the office. Hopefully, this will help you keep tabs with the issue, subsequently helping you to detect any recurring incidences of bullying. Make the workplace safe for everyone. Be sure this sinks deeply into the heart and mind of all employees, including your departmental heads who are often the culprits.

How to Recognize & Deal with a Disgruntled Employee
Disgruntled employee

How to recognize and deal with a disgruntled employee

It is estimated that the worker will spend about one-third of his lifetime in the workplace. In cognizance of this, companies need to ensure that employees work in a happy, conducive, and productive environment. It is common to hear about vices like office bullying, theft of data, unfair practices, high rates of employee attrition, and even deaths due to undue pressure at work.

As noted, most of these problems stem from stress factors arising out of a work environment that’s not conducive. Many workers commonly leave their employment due to feelings of dissatisfaction, being unappreciated or undervalued. It behooves the management to take note of any clear signs of disgruntlement in the workplace and swing into action without delay.

Moreover, companies should not just focus on building successful brands. They must also focus on building healthy relationships with employees. Yes, a happy workforce provides the best breeding ground for the development of inspiring leaders and the achievement of stellar corporate results.

No doubt, with proper steps and professional techniques of dealing with this rising menace, the workplace will, in time, regain its place as a safe and happy environment for workers of all cadres.

All in all, you have complete control and reigns of the situation. AS long as you portray to your disgruntled employee that their opinions and feelings are valid, and that you are listening to what they have to say, you should have the tools to smooth over the situation.

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