According to industry research, today’s employees are more dissatisfied than ever, for a variety of reasons. According to a survey conducted by Gallup, about 70 percent of employees are unhappy at work, which can sour a company’s work culture and lead to high turnover.
There are several reasons why employees may be unhappy at work, but rather than guessing, HR should take initiative by asking them directly why they are frustrated. It’s likely that some of the reasons outlined here will come up. Whether employees feel that there’s poor communication, limited career potential, or some other issue at stake, it’s critical to understand the reasons your employees are unhappy at work.
Dismal Promotion Potential
Most employees come to a company looking for more than just a job—they want to join a company where they can see their hard work pay off in the form of recognition, a promotion, greater responsibility, or freedom to work more independently. Employees want to feel as if their work directly impacts the success of the company, and many studies have shown that when employees are more engaged, they are typically happier at work.
Sometimes, unhappy employees feel as if they’re stuck in their current position with no foreseeable way out, and this can harm their motivation to excel in their current role. One of the biggest gripes of disengaged employees is a perceived lack of upward mobility. If an employee doesn’t feel they can move up within a company, they’re more likely to be unhappy at work. Employees who see no growth potential often feel that they lack the mentorship and support of upper management. In fact, a survey conducted by Randstad USA indicated that only 41 percent of employees believed their manager was actively trying to help them move up.
Management and HR can empower employees by helping them define a career path early on and giving them the tools necessary to make their promotion goals a reality. Show employees that you value their input and be clear about how their contributions can lead to advancement.
Lack of Communication from Upper Management
Another concern of unhappy employees is communication challenges. It can’t be said enough that communication is key in every facet of life, and the workplace is no exception. For a company to succeed, clear communication is critical, and if there’s a disconnect between management and workers, problems are likely to ensue.
To remedy communication problems, HR professionals should take the lead by developing a regular meeting schedule to communicate expectations and changes. HR should ensure that the schedule is adhered to and that concerns from both sides are addressed.
In addition to management, employees might be displeased with the way C-suite executives run the company. Poor leadership has been shown time and time again to be a chief issue for organizations. According to a survey conducted by Tolero Solutions, 65 percent of people looking for a new job cited poor leadership as one of their primary motivating factors. It’s one thing for an employee to have conflicts with their immediate supervisor or disagree with a few company decisions, but it’s quite another to have a totally negative view of those in the highest executive positions.
If transparency is the primary concern, C-suite executives should make an effort to be open and communicate directly with all employees, not just managers—especially regarding major company policy or strategy decisions. If employees understand the reasons behind a decision, they typically feel less confused, anxious, and frustrated, even if they do not agree with it. Another step that can be taken by executives is to lead by example. Evaluate your mission statement and organizational goals, and determine if those in the C-suite are really living up to those ideals. Employees will respect the company’s leaders more if they are just as invested in the company’s success as they are.
Employees Feel Undervalued
Perhaps the biggest complaint of unsatisfied employees is lack of appreciation. Those who don’t feel recognized will undoubtedly have a negative perception of the company. Everyone has an innate desire to be valued, and when this need isn’t met, employees can become unhappy and unproductive. If an employee consistently does a great job or goes above and beyond their stated job duties, a manager’s failure to recognize this can lead to problems. The more an employee is recognized for a job well done, the more likely it is they will work harder and take more pride in their work.
In addition to lack of praise and recognition, employees also feel undervalued when they feel their pay does not reflect their effort or experience. According to research by Glassdoor, wages in the U.S. have not kept pace with inflation. This means that while the cost rises for basic necessities, paychecks stay stagnant, which can lead to resentment and anxiety. Employees with financial problems tend to be more stressed, and this not only affects their work performance, but also their perception of the company.
Employee satisfaction is key to any successful organization—both in terms of reputation and bottom line. The cost it requires to replace an employee is roughly 1.5 times their salary, and this number can be astronomical if the majority of your employees are looking for a new job. If your company is serious about reducing turnover and improving morale, it’s worth it to devise strategies to address employees’ concerns and increase retention.