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Unhappy Employees? What didn't YOU do?


Unhappy Employees? What didn't YOU do?

A client recently told me she believes one of her key employees may be looking for a new job. My client was nervous and feeling a bit defeated at losing another star employee. Sarah (not her real name) is smart, efficient, organized, and articulate. She gets along with everyone, works on any project you ask her to, and is willing to try new things; however, she's apparently very unhappy.

As my client and I talked a bit more, I discovered that Sarah was the last (only) full-time employee left in her department besides the department manager. All the other members of the staff had resigned over the previous year and none of their positions have been filled to date. After more probing, I learned that the department manager is nice, but disorganized and not able to think strategically. In plain words, she’s not a strong manager. Needless to say, it was becoming crystal clear to me why Sarah wasn't happy with her current plight—she was carrying the workload for an entire department and being "managed" by a weak manager. Wouldn't you consider making a change?

What does it really mean when your key employees are unhappy?

It may be an unmistakable indication that there are problems facing your organization, some more difficult than others. These are, more often than not, usually serious issues that have been lurking around for some time. Without beating around the bush, too often their unhappiness is a result of your failure to address known issues. Your job as the leader is to determine what is causing your employees' discontent, obvious or not, and attend to it so they don't disappear and, ultimately, leave you unhappy.

In reviewing the situation and talking with Sarah, we quickly learned how truly frustrated she was with her manager and her current mind-numbing work. Sarah likes to challenge herself mentally as well as to get things done efficiently. After some dynamic strategy and reorganization meetings, my client restructured the department to ensure busy work was eliminated and only mission-critical tasks were still on the departmental To Do list. Next my client asked Sarah to become a key player on a company-wide project. She will now be operating within an aggressive team structure with specific project deliverables and deadlines. Sarah's excited, energized, and looking forward to the challenge. It sounds crazy but she was just handed more work and she is happy about it!

Sarah's manager is receiving coaching to help her become more organized and a stronger manager. And it is working. She is now more productive, actively reorganizing her department and aggressively seeking staff. My client has two employees who are happier and more productive, in large part because my client finally took action.

If you have unhappy employees, what leadership action do you need to take?


Copyright MMVI - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – +1.717.597.8890

Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about me on LinkedIn!

Liz Weber CMCLiz Weber, CMC CSP

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.

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4 thoughts on “Unhappy Employees? What didn't YOU do?”

  1. Peggy Herrman says:

    Liz, interesting & pretty common situation. Rather than guessing & agonizing, how about the manager/leader sitting down with the employee to ask & listen (not defend or attack). If you go to you will see that good listeners start w/open-ended, Rogerian type prompts that invite people to talk & explore. Your manager will learn a lot & open valuable doors for both the company & the employee. Don't assume, listen. best, Peg

  2. Peggy thanks and I agree. Being willing to have honest conversations and listen to one another when the work environment becomes uncomfortable is a must. I hope you'll share you insights on some of my other posts too.

  3. Joan Henshaw says:

    Hi Peggy
    Great post - totally agree with your and Liz's insights. I think one of the issues is managers sometimes not knowing how to talk to thier employees about these issues. I have outlined some ideas on how to do this in my blog 'Four Steps to Improving Employee Job Satisfaction'

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Joan thanks for sharing your insights and the link to your blog. Great post! Four solid, smart steps to enable honest conversations with employees to identify dissatisfaction - and - reengage them. Thanks again for the connection.

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Posted by Liz Weber CMC on April 13, 2011 in Leadership Development and tagged , , , ,