How to Connect with Unhappy Staff Members

Employer Advice | PreviewMe | 25 December 2018

In almost every workplace, you are bound to experience an unhappy or disgruntled employee. As we know, there are countless reasons why someone may become unsettled in the workplace. Maybe they are unhappy with their role, feel they are being held back, not getting on with a colleague or maybe the coffee machine isn’t working. Conversely, there could be issues in their personal life that are affecting their professional attitude.

Regardless of whether the issue is work-related or not, it’s your job as a manager to connect with these employees and handle the situation in a professional manner. Here are a few tips on how to connect with an upset employee.


Keep it behind closed doors

If one of your employees trusts you enough to raise an issue in confidence, don’t break this trust. The fastest way to break employee trust or make an employee even more upset is by sharing their issues with others.

If one of your employees shares their displeasure about another colleague, the work they are doing or why they got passed over for a promotion, work on it behind closed doors. Unless the issue directly affects another or you feel another member of staff should be aware, don’t start workplace gossip.

It is important you create an environment where your employees feel safe, secure and free to express themselves. If they feel their personal issues will be shared with others, chances are they will bottle everything up. Which could eventually lead to greater issues in the future. So, if they do share an issue, keep it between yourselves.


Cool, calm and collected

Sometimes, an employee may just need to vent and get something off their chest. We are all prone to needing the occasional rant about a situation, so be mindful that you may just need to be an ear.

If an employee does come to you simply to rant, don’t feed their energy by replicating it, as this will only fuel it and potentially prolong their anger. The best thing you can do is remain calm, listen to their problems, reply when needed and wait for them to finish. Once they have finished, that is your cue to reply.


Be positive

The key to managing these situations and getting the employee to relax is to always approach the situation positively. Don’t approach an inherently negative situation by stonewalling their thoughts and feelings.

Whatever the issue is, it is important you redirect their attention to the positives that may arise from the situation. If you’ve given them negative feedback on a piece of work, sit them down to explain it and outline the positives or if they didn’t get the promotion they’ve been craving, explain why and reestablish your commitment to their development.

This will hopefully redirect their frame-of-mind from a negative one to a positive one. You never know, this could be the thing they needed to re-energise them.


Remember, you are talking to a person

Keep in mind that you are dealing with a human, not a computer. Which means, everybody will react differently to a situation or interaction.

Approach every discussion professionally, but also be mindful to be empathetic. There is no textbook way of dealing with upset employees, so just take it case-by-case.


Implement steps to help

Once your employee has filled you in on what is bugging them, whether it was an explosive rant or an emotionally driven discussion, you need to figure out what the next steps are.

In some cases, all it may take is a pat on the back and to reassure them that they are appreciated. In other situations, you may need to take more serious measures, such as raising the issues with the other party or potentially taking it to your bosses. However you deal with it, it is important you make a real attempt to ensure all issues are rectified.


As a manager, your employees will look to you to as someone they can come to and lean on if they ever have an issue that may be affecting their work. It’s important you take the time to build a relationship with your employees and an environment where they feel they are safe to confide in you.

There are always going to be issues and conflicts within the workplace, a major role of a manager is being able to professionally manage it. So next time you are faced with an upset employee, be careful of how you manage it.