HR professor

Recognize 'Turn Coats': Identify the Disgruntled Employees

You may have a great organization culture. Your employees may be singing praises of the companies' policies, the work environment and their boss. Yet, there could be an undercurrent that misses your trained eye. Result: a disgruntled employee leaves and ten other worthy employees put in their papers after him. You are left dumbfounded. What happened? Why didn't I see the signs? Where did I go wrong?

When you are left in the lurch, you want to probe into every possible reason for the sudden shift. This scenario has been enacted in several organizations and most HR people have been caught off guard. The hiring policies seem fine. And your compensation is one of the best in the industry. Bosses don't have hamstrung management styles either.

More often than not, it is the 'turncoat' who has caused this upheaval. Very often, we hire people who have a negative attitude towards everything in general. So once, this employee joins the firm, he/she starts to find faults with everything -- the system, the rules, the bosses and even the cafeteria food. It doesn't just stop here; this negative minded employee would go on to spread the word of dissent. Misery loves company. Sooner than you know, there would be a bunch of people who would have switched their loyalties for flimsy reasons.

These turncoats broadcast their perceptions using emotional issues to validate their point. Soon enough, many others lend their sympathy and eventually fall under the influence of the disgruntled employee.

To identify the traitor in the organizations, you can watch out for these visible signs:
  • The ones who itch to move out are the ones who are not interested in the work. Watch out for the work patterns. If someone is consistently below average performance, he might be your trouble maker.
  • The traitors are also the ones who walk in late and leave early. Even when at work, they are more involved in networking with other employees rather than getting to their job.
  • The ones who want to move out fast are the ones who are keen to know the deadlines for every existing and future project. They are clearly trying to time their exit well.
  • One interesting point that a friend of mine noted that these troublesome people were also very impatient for their monthly check. They keenly awaited their monthly payment so that they can take flight at the earliest.
  • If you have an employee who often checks his personal emails at office time and uses office stationery for personal work, then you need to watch out.
What can you do? Although, there is no sure shot remedy for such a problem, there are things you can do to prevent loss of personnel:

First of all, your policies have to be reasonable and fair to all employees so that there is no feeling of discrimination or unfairness.

Communicate to all employees. Use all communication media -- formal and informal -- to express the company's continued interest in human resource development. A company with an open communication channel reassures employees that the organization has the best interest of the employees.

Take routine feedback from the grass root level. Don't shy away from criticisms and complaints. Very often managers don't want to hear out their employees' side of the story. This apathetic behavior is what causes employees to grumble about their jobs and their bosses.

Identify the wolf in the sheepskin and find out what his real problem is. Preferably sort out his issues in the presence of other employees so that everybody is aware of the discussion. Address his issues dispassionately; let him know that your decisions are based on reason and logic.

If the negative thinking doesn't stop and the employee is up to his games again, it is time to end the relationship before things go sour. Again be impassive about the termination and use fair measures to evaluate his position, so that it does not seem like a case of personal enmity.

Talk to the other employees about the termination. Reassure them that the company is not on a firing spree. Appreciate their efforts and services. Nothing works like a soothing balm as heart to heart conversation. You can easily mend the strained relationship with your good employees with a little chat.

In order to keep employees happy, maintain a stress free, learning environment. People need to feel that their efforts are valued and there is scope for personal and professional growth within the organization. Hence spread out good project and assignment for every employee so that there is no feeling of favoritism in any department.

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