How to Handle Unhappy Personnel

In a perfect world, every employee would feel fulfilled and well compensated, every manager would work seamlessly with subordinate personnel, and everyone would get along. Because we don’t live in a perfect world, HR directors sometimes need to adopt a number of roles designed to boost the office happiness quotient. As cheerleaders, peacekeepers, and negotiators, they keep personnel happy and productive while seeing to it that everyone’s needs are met as well as possible. Here’s how to handle one of the biggest challenges HR teams have to face without losing your own job satisfaction in the process.

Keep Listening to Everything

Before you can know which steps to take to improve the situation, you need to assess it thoroughly. From inter-personal disagreements to dissatisfaction with managerial styles, many of the events that make employees unhappy arise from a fundamental misunderstanding that you can help correct – but only if you’ve listened closely. Gather all the information you can before taking action, and your actions will generally be the right ones for everyone involved. Even the process of listening can sometimes be enough to restore an employee’s mood; being heard is important to people, and lending that sympathetic ear might be all that’s needed. If it isn’t, you’re prepared to act decisively.

Keep Up the Pace

Dissatisfaction and unhappiness tend to worsen the longer they’re allowed to remain. What’s worse, they spread; let one unhappy employee air those grievances in the lunch room for a week or two, and you’ll see overall morale decline. While you may need time to take action, never wait to address an issue that’s come to your attention. Finding solutions to problems quickly not only addresses the concern at hand, it also builds trust in you to help with future challenges. When employees trust you to help, they’re more forthcoming about small concerns before they become bigger problems.

Keep It Private

Maintaining people’s privacy throughout any problem-solving process is paramount. Meet with unhappy personnel one-on-one so employees can speak freely to you, especially when dealing with sensitive topics. Maintaining a strict privacy policy also gives you and your organization’s employees legal protection. Depending on the conflict or problem, you might need to address the workplace as a whole to tell them about the resolution of an issue that affected everyone, but avoid giving details.

Keep Your Cool

Employees need to know someone’s listening, but as an HR director, you also need to maintain a certain amount of distance for your own sake and theirs. Professionalism is your protection; stay cool and collected as you deal with employees’ concerns, and you give them a safe space to express themselves while preserving your own morale. One of the greatest challenges HR professionals face is dealing with an employee who’s actively angry or visibly upset. Giving people time to collect themselves so they can interact with you professionally is essential. You may need to meet with employees more than once to hammer out solutions to concerns, so be prepared to invest time and energy into conflict resolution.

Keep Records

Documenting your interactions with personnel is important, but when dealing with unhappy employees, it’s absolutely vital. Not only does this habit protect you and your organization, it also protects the people who come to you for solutions. The records you keep might lay the groundwork for a plan of action to resolve a conflict, improve productivity, or in the worst-case scenario, termination of employment with cause. The records you keep can also be your own road map to better resolutions for similar cases in the future.

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