The Rise of the Disgruntled Employee

2020 has been like no other year! Since the initial turmoil and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, as things have settled into what many are calling ‘the new normal’ we have seen an increase in the number of disgruntled employees. In this article, I discuss ‘The Rise of the Disgruntled Employee’.

Before we go into this in detail, a really good reference point I have used during my research of this article can be found on the Warwick news and events site. Click here to see that reference point.

Let’s go into this in more detail…

What is a disgruntled employee?

A disgruntled employee is an employee who is dissatisfied with their job and/or employer, and is prone to complaining about it.

No matter how well run your organisation, employees may become disgruntled.

Why does this matter?

Research suggests that happy employees are 12% more productive, and unhappy employees are 10% less productive, meaning that unhappy, or disgruntled, employees can have a significant impact upon the success of a business.

Additionally, a disgruntled employee can have a negative impact on the happiness of other employees, and can even negatively affect customer service.

It is therefore important to identify disgruntled employees and learn how to manage them effectively, resolving any issues before they become more serious.

What are the warning signs that an employee is becoming disgruntled?

There are a number of warning signs that an employee is becoming disgruntled:

Lack of motivation

An employee is lacking in motivation and does the bare minimum. A lack of motivation can be down to numerous reasons, both personal and work-based, however, if an employee is lacking in motivation it is important to understand why and provide appropriate support to address any issues they may have.

Poor attendance and timekeeping

Disgruntled employees often have poor attendance and are often late for work. Everyone has days when they are too ill for work, or they are genuinely running late, however, regular absences or lateness should be a cause for concern. Ensure that your systems are robust and that employees attendance and timekeeping is effectively managed.

An employee withdraws

In most cases, employees are required to participate in teams and interact effectively with colleagues. If an employee withdraws from interactions with others, this can be a sign of a deeper issue.

Additionally, this can lead to a lack of collaboration amongst individuals and team members, which can negatively impact the performance of the team and the wider business.

Where this arises, it is important that all employees understand the work of others, how different teams rely on each other and how the business works collaboratively.

Consistent negativity at work

Its natural to moan! As humans, we need to find ways of releasing frustrations, and this includes whilst at work too! It isn’t healthy to keep all our feelings bottled up. But, persistent moaning and complaining over a period of time is a sign of unhappiness and creates a negative atmosphere.

Where an employee seems consistently negative, check in with them to ensure they are ok, identify any issues early, and work with the employee to resolve these if possible.

A negative attitude following a change

Some individuals thrive on change. Others do not, and some people find any change difficult to cope with. Where any change is made, ensure you support employees through the change process to ensure it is successful. Take a look at our change management services to learn more about how OptHR can assist you here.

Managing disgruntled employees

Managing disgruntled employees can be challenging, however, it is important to do so, to improve productivity and to stop any negativity spreading more widely amongst your employees.

It is important to remember that most issues can be resolved quickly and easily.

To manage disgruntled employees effectively, employers should:

  • Maintain open and honest communication with employees
  • Have regular one-to-ones with employees, and during these give employees the opportunity to raise any issues directly with you in private
  • Show empathy, and offer support (where possible) when employees face personal problems or challenges
  • Address any problems that arise immediately, and communicate to those affected about the outcome
  • Ensure your approach is unbiased and that issues are viewed objectively
  • Ensure that your approach is calm, rational and professional at all times
  • Accept that you may not be able to solve all problems immediately. Some problems are complex, and will take time to resolve. Ensure you keep employees informed where this is the case so they feel included and reassured that the issue has not been forgotten
  • Take notes of all meetings and conversations with employees so you can refer back to them if necessary
  • Ensure you comply with the relevant Company policies and procedures

Good Relationships

Good relationships, based on clear expectations, respect and honesty are fundamental to ensuring that employees do not become disgruntled.

Communication is key!

Open and honest communication between managers and employees is key to a happy and productive workplace, and in ensuring that when issues do arise, they are identified and resolved quickly.


We strongly recommend that employers:

  1. Ensure they have policies and procedures (including job descriptions and appraisals) in place so the expectations of employees are clear, and employees also understand what they can expect from the Company as an employer.
  2. Ensure they have good management practices in place to manage employees effectively, including team meetings, one to ones and appraisals.
  3. Communicate with employees regularly and clearly.
  4. Foster open and honest relationships with employees.
  5. Effectively and consistently manage timekeeping and attendance.
  6. Plan any change, and ensure a communication strategy is included in this.

Contact Us

For further information, advice or support to make redundancies, please contact us at

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