A recent article by Joseph Folkman in the Harvard Business Review, “Are You Creating Disgruntled Employees?“, takes a look at how management has the power to shape employee attitudes. Managing happy, productive, and competent employees isn’t nearly as taxing as leading disgruntled and under-productive employees. Which goes a long way to explaining why Folkman’s research found that there really is, “such a thing as ‘the boss’s favorite.’ “
Leadership Does Have An Impact
Through the course of their research they found that, “while, in any disagreement we inevitably find both parties bear part of the fault — that is, the disgruntled employees do certainly play some role in their own unhappiness — we consistently found in the analysis that their complaints were justified.” They also found, however, that employees behavior was quick to change when their managers changed their behavior. This is great news for anyone who finds themselves managing under-productive or disgruntled employees because it means your leadership does have the ability to change behaviors.
What’s Important To Unhappy Employees
So, what do the unhappy employees in Folkman’s research want? Unsurprisingly, most of the unhappy employees wants revolve around emotional intelligence, communication, and over-all leadership best practices. Unhappy employees want their boss’s to “inspire and motivate others” more than anything else. The ability to inspire and motivate are key skills of any good leader, and can developed through leadership coaching.
Improved communication was another of the unhappy employees demands. Employees are happier and more productive when they know what is going on and when they feel they are being listened to. It’s easy to feel you’re displaced in an organization when you don’t feel like anyone takes your opinions and questions seriously. And few things make you feel like a cog in the machine more than constantly being out of the loop.
Unhappy employees also want greater emotional intelligence out of their managers. They want a boss who encourages them, actually cares if they are developing as a professional, delivers honest feedback about their performance, and who go out of their way to get to know them socially.
The Take Away
Investing time into improving your leadership skills is worth it. You can’t make everyone happy all of the time, but there are a lot of unhappy employees you can impact.