Employee Management: 7 Questions Every Manager Should Ask from Unhappy Employees

by Srikant Chellappa May 6,2022

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

As a manager, you may have heard the phrase: Happy employees make happy customers. This idea rings true as a pool of joyful and contented employees can serve customers better. Doing so will make customers a happy camper, whether they receive goods or services from your company. Ultimately, employee happiness can translate into a boost in your business.

Unfortunately, some employees in many companies and organizations aren’t happy. This feeling can get attributed to several factors such as unjust compensation, lack of benefits, stagnant career growth, zero-to-minimal employee engagement, poor management, and business burnout.

In most cases, these employees end up tendering their resignations. While some employees quit, others choose to stay to pay their bills. However, they become unhealthy at work, influence colleagues, affect productivity, and hurt the business.

As a manager, you do not only conduct stay interviews with your top performers and loyal employees. It’s imperative to sit down and talk to your unhappy and dissatisfied employees. Find out what critical questions you should carefully ask them.

Why It Pays to Have Happy and Content Employees

recent study showed how happy and engaged employees make customers a priority. 

The researchers used the Glassdoor database consisting of several insights about employment experiences. They studied its data and information about jobs, salaries, business ratings, and customer reviews. Their objective was to understand the impact of employee satisfaction on employee retention and not to mention customer satisfaction.

The results revealed a strong correlation between employee happiness and customer satisfaction. It showed that the happier the employees are, the better they can serve and the more satisfied their customers will be. It’s safe to say that employee happiness can lead to a boost in business.

Also read: 10 Actionable Tips to Boost Workplace Satisfaction

On a more specific note, here’s why it pays to have happy and contented employees:

  • Employee retention: It’s easy for unhappy employees to leave the company or organization. They don’t only hurt your attrition and performance, but they can also cost your business. Look at your applicant tracking system and how hard it was for your recruiters to hire the right people. When these employees leave, they’ll have to start from scratch. Making your employees happy ensures that they’ll stay for the long term.
  • Employee engagement: Happy employees are most likely to engage in various activities in your business. They’ll not only be active but proactive in a handful of ways. They can help contribute to the progress and success of your business.
  • Improved workplace culture: Workplace culture boils down to what the management does and how the employees usually react. If you have happy employees, you can have a positive working environment. You’ll have positive energies resonating within the four walls of your office.
  • Increased productivity: Happy employees in the workplace will always go to work on time. But not only are they punctual and always present, but they can also be very hardworking. You’ll be amazed at how productive they can be almost every day.
  • Quality output: Besides productivity, expect happy employees to deliver quality outputs. They have no time to rant and complain. Instead, they focus more on accomplishing their tasks and giving their best.
  • Customer satisfaction: With increased productivity and quality services your happy employees provide, the receiving end will greatly benefit — your customers. They will always be satisfied with your products or services.
  • Business profitability: All the benefits above, from increased productivity to quality outputs to customer satisfaction, can lead to one thing: A boost in your profits!

How to Deal with Unhappy Employees – Ask These Seven Questions:

Happy and content employees can do a lot for your company or organization. On the other hand, miserable and dissatisfied employees can negatively impact your business. 

As a manager, you must be a keen observer. As soon as you notice negativities looming overhead in the workplace, take concrete action immediately. Schedule a one-on-one dialogue with these unhappy employees. 

Most importantly, make sure to ask the following questions:

1. How are you generally feeling at work?

This question will either confirm or dispel your assumption about whether or not your employee is happy at work. It must be the initial question to ask. 

It’s like asking, “how are you?” However, the question gets framed such that it reveals your employee’s general feelings towards work. However, you have to dig in further with the following question.

Also read: Workplace Wellbeing Questionnaire: Best Practices

2. Do you love what you’re doing in the workplace?

This question is a straightforward way of asking if your employee is happy or not. After the subtle initial query, you want to get the answer straight. 

This question will immediately confirm how happy or frustrated your employee is at work. Or chances are, your employee is generally okay but merely has minor issues to be remedied.

3. What do you love the most and least about your work?

This time around, you want to weigh your employee’s level of happiness. So it’s right to ask what they love about their work and what they don’t. 

While some employees are either downright happy or miserable, others have mixed emotions towards their work. 

So never immediately assume the extreme sides of happiness. In some cases, employees merely have a fleeting emotion towards a temporary work issue.

4. How are your working relationships with your colleagues?

Now, you may want to dig in further about the reason for the employee’s unhappiness. For the most, it may have to do with their working relationships with their colleagues that are causing them stress

For instance, they probably have a conflict with another team member. If that’s the case, you can let both meet halfway or put them in different teams.

5. What do you like the most and least about the management?

In most cases, the management makes the employees unhappy. They require employees to work hard to please the clients. These employees become burned out, thus wanting to quit.

As a manager, this scenario is the best time to get actual feedback from your frustrated team members. Have an open dialogue and allow them to express themselves freely. Be sure to collate all their rants and sentiments. 

Ultimately, let them understand what the management does and assure them that you’ll work on some areas of opportunities.

Also read: Continuous Feedback: What Is It and Its Benefits

6. Do you have any requests about your compensation and benefits?

Aside from the management, the salary is the primary culprit employees become unhappy at work. It’s all the more frustrating if they know that they are unpaid. In this case, you can only do so much in motivating your employees to work. 

David Patterson-Cole, the CEO and Co-Founder of Moonchaser said that the best course of action for any salary issue is to refer your employees to HR. 

He said, however, that “As a manager, you can teach your employees how to negotiate if you truly want to help them. Your company probably provides yearly appraisals based on the employees’ performances. You can help them justify their appraisal by providing performance reports.”

7. How can I make things easier for you at work?

The purpose of this one-on-one dialogue isn’t only to know if your employee is happy or not. As a manager, your primary goal is to see what you can do to help them. 

Once you find what area causes their level of unhappiness or dissatisfaction, you can find the right solutions to this. But on the other side of the spectrum, it is also the employee’s responsibility to find their happiness in the workplace. So it’s just right to ask how you can make things easier for them at work.

Keep in mind that workplace happiness entails intrinsic motivation. As a leader, figure this out and see how you can help your employees. In the end, it’s not all about offering extra perks or providing amenities. It’s about recognizing talents and empowering your employees.

Employee Happiness Translates into a Boost in Business

Employees can make or break a business. 

In general, employee happiness can boost a company or organization. As discussed above, it can ensure retention, trigger engagement, and improve workplace culture. It can also increase productivity and yield quality outputs. Ultimately, it can lead to customer satisfaction and business profitability.

But when you have some unhappy and dissatisfied employees, you must take prompt action. Be sure to schedule one-on-one dialogues with these employees individually. While at it, be highly critical in asking the right questions by following those recommended above. 

Once you get valuable insights from them, you can now decide how to help them. As a manager or leader, you have the responsibility to take care of your people. Ultimately, you have the power to make them happy and satisfied!


Want to know how Engagedly can help you mange your employees better? Request us for a demo.

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Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2024.

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