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10 reasons why unhappy staff could be killing your business

By Bernardo Moya 

The unhappy and demotivated member of staff can seriously affect business, future opportunities and staff morale, so it’s worth looking out for the warning signs that they might be doing your business harm. Here are 10 ways unhappiness might be killing your business:

  1. The unhappy face of the brand. Depressed and low energy employees affect clients and customers. In extreme cases, clients might actively avoid your business because they don’t want to deal with the culture associated with your brand. It’s vital that you take hold of this to prevent company culture scaring clients away.
  2. Unhappiness is contagious. The continually unhappy person might also affect other employees. A troll or a bully can make others less willing or able to work well.
  3. Work is slow and inefficient. Demotivated workers tend to distract themselves with work avoidance. Are you getting a lot of long office discussions, visits to facebook on company time, long periods spent congregating for a smoke? If so, what are they avoiding? How can work be improved?
  4. High expectation causes stress. It’s great to expect more from your staff and employees. It becomes a problem when employees are expected to put the time in just for the sake of putting the time in. Experiments have shown an increase in productivity in the 4 day week in some businesses. Are workers being put off work by no respite?
  5. Unmotivated staff are passengers, not drivers. When staff aren’t engaged or committed, they will become passive. They won’t make suggestions or use their creativity to push new ideas.
  6. The actual workplace can suffer. A genuinely frustrated or angry employee can have more than a psychological effect at work. Deeply disgruntled staff might treat the workplace disrespectfully, leading to wear and tear on furniture or equipment. This can lead to untidiness and even graffiti – all of which takes more time and money to deal with and affects morale further.
  7. Heavy heart, light fingers. The unhappy employee might steal from the company. It may not be a matter of needing to, but of expressing boredom or resentment against the business. Replacement of stock, investigation, security… how much money is there to waste on this?
  8. Rumours and whispers. Inside and outside the workplace, rumours about the job, the boss or other employees might be poisoning your profile without you even knowing about it.
  9. Lack of care and attention. The natural place for someone to upsell, or to seize a business opportunity may be missed and further chances for working together and business lost.
  10. Working against your interests. In extreme cases, the unhappy employee might let information drop to a rival, thus undermining your business and your position.

If any of this seems familiar, remember: unhappy staff can be a symptom something’s not right in the business on a wider level.  Ask yourself – what needs to change? Is it all on the staff, or is there something you need to do?

Sometimes a very simple fix will lead to a change in attitudes. For example, the close curation of a team to ensure that bright personalities move it forward, or asking directly why people are unhappy at work. Sometimes the unhappy person isn’t even aware of the rut they’ve got into. Giving them fresh work and new responsibilities might just swing it.

Much online advice describes the unhappy employee as a “negative asset” or “expense” – not a person at all! Are you engaging with them and providing an environment that meets their needs, as well as them meeting yours? What would engage them as people at work, what’s the vision you share? What’s the work environment like? Is it fun, bright, airy? Do you foster a culture of openness, creativity and reward? There is more to work than the salary, after all.

Is there a place to let off steam – say, a games room, or a place to share a coffee and talk in a unstructured environment where ideas can be shared? Or can you use apps to brighten and enhance the day?

Find out what your staff need from work. Different working hours? A different workplace setup? Do they need a shared sense of vision – the possibility of a brighter or more interesting future in the business? Is something going on at home? How can you support them?

Perhaps you might offer perks to all your employees. Making a long-term commitment may draw the same from them. Hence, offers such as training and development, health care, pensions and the opportunity for more time off might also be part of the mix.

Make it your task to transform the workplace. There’s a fascinating set of opportunities ahead of you limited only by your imagination as to what you can offer. So, it’s time to make work happy.

Bernardo Moya is a leading personal development coach, founder of The Best You and author of The Question: Find Your True Purpose, which is published by Wiley, priced at £10.99, and is available now from

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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