How to Identify an Unhappy Employee Before They Quit

Having an unhappy employee can be hard on your business. From the moment they first become disengaged, to time off for interviews, to them actually quitting altogether, you’ll feel its effects. Even in the best of circumstances, unhappy employees are bad for business. But before you start making a mental list, remember that unhappy employees aren’t bad employees, they’re probably just not satisfied with some aspect of the job.

The good news is that there are likely a few changes you can make to help them feel more satisfied at work. However, we first have to be able to identify unhappy employees. It can be easy to overlook the obvious when we have our nose to the grindstone every day. And the best employees can actually make identifying a problem even more difficult. The truth is, even when people are unhappy at work, they typically maintain a level of professionalism that makes it hard to see. Your three-year-old child may throw a screaming temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store when they’re unhappy, but your employee will probably not make the same type of display in your weekly staff meeting. It’s not as obvious, but the signs are there.


Going With the Flow
Of course you or other managers will take the lead when it comes to projects and meetings, but brainstorming and discussing are a productive part of the process. When your employee stops contributing, goes with the flow and doesn’t ever challenge a process or idea, it’s possible that they are unhappy and disengaged. Of course, you should use a baseline for comparison as some employees are more verbal than others, but this can often be a sign that an employee has mentally checked out.

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Bare Minimum, Anyone?
If your shining star can be found walking to their car at 5:01 p.m. during crunch time, you may want to take note. While you may not require extra hours, chances are engaged employees give more than is required of them as they genuinely care about the success of the business. When you find employees who have always gone above and beyond doing the bare minimum, there’s a good possibility that they’re experiencing some unhappiness at work.

Internet and Phone Calls and Long Lunches, Oh My!
Increased downtime is a major sign that your employee is unhappy. Think of it as procrastination at its finest. When an employee isn’t overly concerned with their future at the company or is simply bored, they’ll likely create other things to do during the day. You may find that they’re spending more time on Facebook, Pinterest, or even browsing professional websites, that breaks and lunches extend beyond their normal times and that they spend more time on their phones, whether it’s talking, texting or playing Candy Crush.

Steering Clear of Chit Chat
While an unhappy employee may look for other things besides work to occupy their workday, small talk probably won’t be one of them. Unhappy employees tend to not only be disengaged from their work, but also co-workers and supervisors. It’s likely not personal, but it’s that they associate other employees with the work they’re unhappy about.

What signs have you noticed from disengaged or unhappy employees? Let us know in the comments below.

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