Even though the sustained success of most businesses depends on employee satisfaction, the more human aspects of team management are often deprioritized in favor of tangible business costs and day-to-day operations.

In other words, workforce planning doesn’t always account for the feelings of the workforce.

Some managers might simply categorize unhappy employees as “bad apples;” however, it’s important to examine the immediate effects of ignoring those employees’ concerns. According to Forbes, disgruntled employees have the power to:

  • Deter potential hires from joining teams
  • Negatively affect the performance of current team members
  • Cause very expensive mistakes

It’s difficult to apply “one size fits all” strategies when it comes to employee satisfaction because happiness in a job means different things for different people. The best approach is to foster a supportive, communicative work environment so that disgruntled employees can voice and resolve their individual concerns.

The following actions will maximize the overall happiness potential of any professional team.

Provide One-on-One Support to Team Members

It’s important to remember that professional teams are made up of individuals. Each employee has his or her own goals, methods, and pain points. Formalizing the acknowledgment of each team member’s unique perspective can work wonders for company-wide employee satisfaction.

Scheduling individual check-ins with each person, if possible, is the ideal scenario. This eliminates peer pressure from the work environment and allows employees to be as honest and reassured as possible. If this is not practical, a “town hall” approach to meetings may be appropriate. This will allow all employees to feel an equal opportunity to contribute and voice concerns.

For issues that require privacy and tact, private follow-ups should promptly be scheduled based on what is discerned from group discussions. In general, managers should make sure each person feels heard. Pre-emptive adjustments to quell feelings of dissatisfaction are far more effective than reactive conflict resolution and employee turnover.

Promote Inclusion in Decision-Making

It’s common for disgruntled employees to express feelings of exclusion from workplace communication and decision-making at several levels. Whether dealing with something as simple as a slight change in the employee work schedule or something as complex as the rollout of an entirely new employee management system, including team members ahead of time is extremely important.

Employees value transparency, and they also feel a sense of worth if they have a stake in a decision. Oftentimes, “inclusion” in such decisions may simply mean communicating that said decision is pending. This is still likely to resonate more positively than an abrupt update after a change has already occurred.

Communication across all levels of a business is key. No-one wants to feel left out, especially by his or her workplace. It is a manager’s responsibility to disperse information in a way that is as transparent and accessible as possible. Even when the news is bad, the manner in which that news is communicated is what matters.

People in any workplace get into routines, and business decisions alter those routines. Employees are more likely to remain satisfied if they feel like they have a say in what is changing.

Invest in People

The typical employee spends one third of his or her life at work. They make an investment by contributing their time and effort, and they are more satisfied when they feel like that investment is mutual. A job comes with tangible income, but this is only one element of what makes an employee feel fulfilled. It’s important for managers to invest in the development and progression of their team members.

Looking at employees as long-term resources is beneficial because it opens doors to mentorship and makes work more than a series of tasks. Unhappy employees often describe the workday as an arduous to-do list while happy employees don’t feel as much of a burden when switching from their personal to professional lives on a weekly basis.

Something as simple as employee scheduling can be greatly enhanced if a manager knows how each of his or employees would like to develop professionally. Managers are able to place team members where they will be the most fulfilled and therefore successful. This yields tremendous business benefits and boosts employee retention since people will be more inclined to invest in and grow with what would otherwise simply be their place of work.

Be On The Employee’s Side

Patterns develop as a result of employees’ varying levels of job satisfaction. The employees who are perceived well tend to be in a cyclical relationship with praise, personal investment from management, and access to development opportunities. This is because those employees present as pleasant and eager to do more. Conversely, disgruntled employees are often labeled as “complainers” by management and kept out of the loop in several ways. This exclusion, whether intentional or not, can be hugely counterproductive for all parties.

Managers can avoid the worst aspects of behavioral workplace patterns by treating all employees equally. Separating the workforce into reliable “good guys” and difficult “bad guys” systematically prohibits all voices from being heard. Instead of standing in opposition when disgruntled employees speak up, managers should view the issue as the “bad guy” and the employee who raises the concern as an ally. This promotes an environment of openness and productive issue resolution.

When more unhappy employees are able to productively voice their concerns, it is likely that organic inclusion and team cohesion will follow. This boosts retention and maximizes potentially untapped resources.


There’s no scientific method for maintaining a satisfied workforce, but managers and others who lead teams at varying levels can practice simple communication, inclusiveness, personal support, and genuine investment to maximize the number of people who feel professionally fulfilled. Ultimately, the human components of the workplace – its employees – are what keep the lights on.

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