7 Signs Your Employees Are Unhappy

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

As an entrepreneur, you have a lot of responsibilities. You have to come up with new ideas, lay the foundation for the business, make executive decisions, and set an example as the leader of the organization (not to mention regular responsibilities like sales and marketing).

So you may not think of keeping your employees happy as one of your core concerns. However, your employees’ happiness is critical to the survival of your business, and you need to know when they exhibit signs of dissatisfaction.

Happy Employees Are Productive Employees

Employee happiness is about more than just making your people feel good. When workers are more satisfied, they’re more productive, which means you’ll be able to do more as an organization. On top of that, satisfied workers are less likely to leave your organization, which means retention will increase and you’ll spend less time recruiting and training new candidates to replace them.

Beyond the Obvious

If an employee openly complains about being unhappy, there’s no ambiguity to hash out; you know what they’re feeling because they told you. But unfortunately, it isn’t always this clear. Instead, you’ll need to watch out for these subtler signs that your employees are unhappy:

1. Reaching only the minimum. If you want to succeed as a business, you need to exceed expectations — not just meet them — and your employees should strive for that mentality as well. If you notice they start only meeting the bare minimums, it could be a sign they no longer care about their work. If they’re genuinely struggling, they may fall behind these “minimum” goals, at which point you can intervene with different options, but meeting exactly the minimum is a sign of disinterest, or maybe even apathy.

2. Clock watching. No matter how cool your job is, almost everyone gets excited for lunch breaks and to go home for the day. That’s not the problem, nor is it a sign of employee unhappiness. Instead, the sign of unhappiness here is “clock watching,” or obsessing over the time in a bid to get done with work as soon as possible. When they start counting down the minutes at 3, it’s a sign they’re unhappy with their work.

3. Limited personal engagement. As an entrepreneur, you’ll likely feel somewhat isolated, but if your workers start closing themselves off, it’s a sign that something is wrong. Ideally, your team would be tight-knit and connected with one another on an almost personal level. That isn’t always possible, but light chatter and humor is a sign things are running smoothly. If your office is eerily quiet, or if you never see your workers talking to one another, they could be suffering from dissatisfaction.

4. A lack of new ideas or feedback. Engaged, happy employees are passionate about their work, and they go out of their way to make their work even better. They freely come up with new ideas for their own roles, and sometimes for the entire organization, and they aren’t afraid to take or receive feedback. If you don’t hear anything from your workers along these lines, it could be a sign of disengagement and unhappiness.

5. Secrecy or lack of transparency. One of the best ways to build trust in a team is to showcase transparency and refuse to keep secrets; do this as a leader, and your employees will likely follow suit. If you notice your employees talking behind your back, or refusing to tell you about problems they’re facing, they could be unsatisfied in their environment.

6. Reluctance to cooperate. When you ask an employee to do something, you expect them to do it. They may question or request clarification, but it should come from a place of genuine desire to help. If you notice an employee consistently unhappy or unwilling to contribute, it’s a clear sign of unhappiness.

7. Visual cues. Visual cues are some of the hardest to pick up on, but they’re important to note, as many workers disguise their unhappiness intentionally to avoid conflict. Visual cues vary based on the individual, but can often clue you into a person’s internal monologue. Do you notice your workers sighing, or showing signs of stress like fidgeting? Do they smile less often? Is their posture frequently closed-off? These could all be indications of unhappiness — but they aren’t the only ones, so look closely for behavioral changes.

When your workers are happier, they’ll work harder for you, AND stay committed to you longer. They won’t be happy 100 percent of the time, but if you can learn to recognize the signs of dissatisfaction and unrest, you’ll be able to nip the problem in the bud and restore your employees’ satisfaction in no time.

CEO of EmailAnalytics (emailanalytics.com), a productivity tool that visualizes team email activity, and measures email response time. Check out the free trial!

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