Q: What’s Worse Then An Unhappy Worker Leaving? A: If They Stay…

by drjim on June 21, 2008

Unhappy Workers Who Don't Leave Can Cause Problems

Unhappy Workers Who Don’t Leave Can Cause Problems

We all know that having high turnover can at best be disruptive and at worst can throw projects off schedule, kill budgets, and doom overall employee morale. So you would think that if you are somehow able to have a low number of employees leaving that everything would be hunky dory, right? Wrong — you might now have lots of unhappy employees who have for one reason or another decided that they can’t leave right now. They’ll keep coming into work each day (or logging on if they are unhappily telecommuting), but they will be dragging their virtual feet and just going through the motions. They are not going to be helping the company be a success.

Why are so many non-leaving employees unhappy? I think that I know the reason and the author Patrick Lencioni has captured them quite nicely in his book “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job”. In his book, Patrick states that he believes that people become unhappy in their jobs when their basic social needs are not being met. Yeah, yeah, yeah — we all love a paycheck and the bigger the better. However, we really go to work in order to have some very basic human needs met: to get a sense of accomplishment, to boost self-esteem, and to feel that we are part of a community.

When we aren’t geting these needs met, Patrick calls the problems “anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability”. Great, now you’ve got the silent problem of unhappy IT workers lurking in your department. What to do?

Don’t dispair! In order to reach out and change unhappy workers into committed employees you have to tackle these key issues one by one. One-on-one feedback is the key to providing emplyees with both a sense of accomplishment (they know who I am!) and boosting self-esteem (they like what I do!). Developing a sense of community is somewhat more difficult — in the IT field if this is done incorrectly, it can come across as fake. However, if done correctly you can turn a lackluster department into a team of overachievers. Now that’s something to cheer about!

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