In today’s economic climate, where the jobless rate is 8.1% overall and 13% for African Americans, many employed Americans are grateful to have jobs— even if they hate doing them. This can breed an environment where many are underemployed, unfulfilled and downright bitter, leading to less productivity and worse — workplace crimes and company sabotage.
In a tough job market, disgruntled workers can be highly detrimental to a company’s bottom line, which is never good in an economic climate that is already challenging. “Disgruntled employees can cause irreversible damage to your brand, alienate your most valuable clients, and create ‘expensive-to-fix’ mistakes. Plus, they give your happier rivals the competitive edge,” says Kathleen Brush, a global management consultant who has worked as the “Turnaround Executive” for companies both domestic and international.
BlackEnterprise.com talked with Brush about how unhappy employees ruin their own brands as well as ruin the companies they work for, and how to avoid problems before they manifest in loss of profits, expensive prevention tactics and brand depreciation.
BlackEnterprise.com: Let’s talk about disgruntled workers. What type of damage can they do to companies?
Kathleen Brush: They can do a lot of damage. There are different types of disgruntled workers. They can be dissatisfied or not motivated, and they can unwittingly do damage to your brand, such as providing bad service to customers. There are also those who are really dissatisfied, and as a result, company can run the risk of having to deal with thefts, tardiness, slander on the Internet and missed deadlines.
Why is it important to boost morale with incentives, even in a challenging economy?
One of the things I see is that you’ll find talk about theft prevention and how to monitor employees. What they don’t talk about is that the biggest reason workers are dissatisfied: bad boss behaviors. A nasty boss or a boss who can’t control their temper can do enormous damage. And the boss has all the cards [in terms of a power position]. Some bosses first response to a disgruntled employee is ‘Oh, just get rid of him.’ But wait, that could be an excellent performer who is simply unhappy with bad boss behaviors and other factors at the job.
Oftentimes incentives can mean salary increases or extra perks that can cost extra money some employers simply don’t have. How can employers boost morale in other ways?
A lot of incentives are no cost. In the case of bosses who are kind, compassionate, inspirational and even tempered, the employees like to work for them so they wouldn’t be inclined to be against the company. Being someone employees respect has no cost. For the most part, money is not a sole motivator when it comes to job satisfaction. There are so many other things that can happen that can demotivate an employee that have nothing to do with salary or incentives.
Even for a person focused on career growth, incentives don’t necessarily have to be tangible. You could have intangible benefits of mentorship or a sponsor who employees like, who they have a great relationship with, and who’s likability is high. People like to work hard for people they like working with or for.
What are some ways to turn around a work environment that seems to breed disgruntlement?
Supervisors, CEOs and managers: Recognize importance of good boss behaviors. It’s not okay to have boss who speaks unkindly to employees. It’s not okay for boss to be disorganized and arrogant. Employees don’t respond well to bosses that exhibit those behaviors. Getting management training or an understanding of awareness of those behaviors might help in eliminating them.
Another big company-wide demotivator is when a company is not operating with a good strategic plan. Employees come to work and are not sure of what they are to achieve. Keeping employees in the know about the goals and values of the company for which they work is key, and be explicit. Let them know the bigger picture.
Also, the small gesture of gratitude or ‘Good job’ goes a long way. Let employees know when they’re doing well and thank them for their hard work from time to time.