Dealing with a Dissatisfied Employee

To reuse an old adage, “There is just no dealing with some people” and I’m not referring to your customers. Some employees seem to carry a perpetual chip on their shoulder. It doesn’t matter whether it is an established company procedure or a new initiative, there is always something wrong with how the company administers its policies. Even more annoyingly, these “Negative Nancys” never offer any constructive criticism or solutions. It is just complain, complain and complain some more.

Handling this type of negativity can be frustrating and problematic on many levels especially if the complainer is an experienced employee who may even predate the manager assigned to deal with the problem. Still, it is productive to separate the problem into three distinct phases to overcome the inherent difficulties of dealing with the situation.

Deal with the Workplace

Maintaining good morale and superior performance should be the chief goals of any office or location manager. Assigning only routine tasks to the dis-satisfied coworker should minimize friction between them and management and avoid unseemly discussions or arguments in front of the rest of the staff or customers. It is essential, at this point, to not let the dissatisfaction spread to other members of the team.

In addition, it should be made clear to the entire staff that, while there is a time and place for constructive criticism and that management is always willing to listen, disruptions of normal store company procedures will not be tolerated. 

Engage and Counsel the Person

Employee dissatisfaction stems from a wide variety of sources and rarely is it the one that is directly noted.  An honest and open discussion with the employee must take place but it should involve at least one other manager or HR personnel. Do not go overboard and include too many people or the employee will become defensive and no progress will be made.

In any event, a meeting must be had and a solution found. The employee must be counseled that their behavior is inappropriate for the workplace and that further disciplinary actions will be taken if the behavior does not cease. In addition, the employee should be made aware that there are legitimate channels to air their grievances. In particular, most companies devote some HR staff or executives to deal with employee complaints.

Steer the Final Conversation

The key consideration at the end of the counseling session is to obtain a positive result for both the company and the employee. While this may seem difficult if the conversation has become heated or reached an impasse, a clear resolution as to what will happen in the future must be established. The employee must understand that policy is set by the company and that there is an explicit expectation that they follow these policies.

In every case, the meeting and any counseling statements should be properly documented and archived. Of course, the employee should be given a copy and ample time given to respond either immediately or in the near future.

A Further Consideration

Managers, through no fault of their own, are often remiss in following these guidelines precisely. It is difficult to find the time to adequately deal with such an intricate and unpleasant problem as this during a normally busy and hectic day. Too often, they forget to record and store the requisite documents. Thus, when the problem re-occurs, they are back to square one in dealing with it.

A better solution involves the use of a Human Resource Information System which can guide and monitor the entire counseling process. A manager need only confirm the proper procedures and documents required and then perform the counseling session as mandated. In addition, senior management can quickly and easily confirm that all of the necessary steps have been taken. While an HRIS will not completely insulate you from insubordinate or dissatisfied employees, it is an excellent safeguard when you are forced to counsel or terminate them.

About the Author
Carolyn Sokol writes about issues that may affect small businesses such as human resources, hr management software, and HRIS programs. She is a founder of and contributor to, both of which help match businesses to the right HR or payroll service provider for their particular needs. Her background is in marketing and communications, employee education and training, development of policies and procedures and the ongoing delivery of outstanding customer service.