Most of your team members probably like to do a good job at work, gain a sense of accomplishment and have good job satisfaction. But, like all employers, you will sometimes have to deal with unhappy employees.

Dissatisfaction occurs for various reasons and it's up to you to spot the problem and motivate them to turn things around. These are four signs that may indicate your employee isn’t happy.

1. Decline in productivity

While a drop in productivity may be difficult to measure, it’s not usually difficult to notice. When the quality or quantity of an employee’s work starts to drop, it’s important to work out why, as soon as possible. Once the cause of the issue is identified, developing a solution to mitigate the damage to the employee and to the wider office morale should be prioritised.

2. Taking a lot of sick days

A noticeable increase in sick days is a big red flag. Generally, if someone is happy at work, they’re happy to come to work. Of course, this kind of behaviour can also be a sign of psychological issues, so it’s important to determine whether an employee has recently begun to take sick days or they have had reoccurring absences since they started with the company. If it’s the latter, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find a solution and you should treat the issue with sensitivity.

3. Bad attitude

A bad attitude from an employee who has previously been pleasant and hard-working is an indication that something is very wrong. If they’re only aiming their negativity at you and not their colleagues, chances are their dissatisfaction is with management.

4. Complaints by others

Finally, if an employee’s behaviour doesn’t signal to you that there’s a problem (or if you just miss the signs), your other employees often will. Changes in working behaviour, especially negative ones, are usually not overlooked by co-workers. In these situations, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. When two employees complain about each other, it’s not always obvious who’s at fault. Instead, reserve judgment and talk to other employees.

How to help an unhappy employee

Don’t talk at them. Listen. The employee probably has stored up this problem for months and he or she needs time to get it out of their system, so sit back, listen and take notes to refer back to when it's your turn to talk. Try not to offer the unhappy employee false hope. If you cannot help them, just be honest and tell them that you are not able to honour their request.

Ultimately, in order to prevent this situation altogether you need to communicate with your employees, tell them what you expect of them, praise them when they do well, encourage them to move forward and give them the tools they need to do their job well.

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