How to Take Advantage of Employee Dissatisfaction

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Generally speaking, the word “dissatisfaction” is considered a negative term, especially in the workplace. However, as a manager, you have the unique opportunity to turn employee dissatisfaction into a positive thing that can actually better your workforce. It’s just a matter of knowing how to take advantage of it.

Who are the satisfied employees? Studies show that the employees who consistently report that they are completely satisfied with their jobs are those employees who underperform. Why is that? Really, it’s quite simple: Employees who are in the habit of slacking off at work generally feel less stress because their coworkers are picking up their slack. They arrive to work with a very low performance standard in mind, and are perfectly happy with the way things are.

The advantage of dissatisfaction. With the reality of the satisfied employee in mind, it may be easier to identify those employees who are dissatisfied: They are the employees picking up the slack–or, your best employees. While no one would argue that these are the employees you want to see satisfied, the truth is that their dissatisfaction can actually by a positive catalyst in the office. That’s because dissatisfaction breeds change. It’s unlikely that a dissatisfied employee is going to stay that way without doing something about it. If you are to take advantage of this momentum, then you need to know how to ensure the “doing something about it” equates to a change for the better in the workplace.

Increasing dissatisfaction. This may sound counterintuitive, but it works: You need to increase the dissatisfaction of your slacker employees, to incite them to change. If you aren’t using performance metrics, then you need to start now. Set clear, high but attainable, standards for performance and display them in the workplace for all to see. Chart employees’ performance in a way that is visible to everyone to spark some healthy competition. You’ll be amazed at how much harder underproductive employees will work when they experience dissatisfaction at having their shortcomings made public.

Another use for dissatisfaction. If you need to make a change that your employees seem to be resisting, then there is another way you can use dissatisfaction to your advantage, and that’s by pointing out the negatives of the current situation to paint the proposed change in a better light. For example, if your employees complain about the new office location you plan on moving them to, then you can remind them of their dissatisfaction with how cramped the current break room space is, and how there is not enough cubicle privacy.

Dissatisfaction doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You just have to know how to take advantage of it in a way that can turn a negative into a positive.

This is a guest post from Samuel Grossman. Samuel is a HR rep in charge of employee schedule template setting, hiring, and the peer review process.