18 Ways to Handle a Disgruntled Employee: The HR Guide

how to deal with a disgruntled employee

How do you handle a disgruntled employee without escalating the situation? No matter how experienced you are, unhappy employees can be tough to manage and can hurt team morale and employee productivity if not addressed properly.

Understanding the root causes of dissatisfaction is crucial in resolving conflicts and maintaining a harmonious work environment. This knowledge equips HR professionals with the tools to address issues effectively and keep operations running smoothly.  

In this guide, we’ll cover the common reasons for disgruntled employees, discuss practical strategies for addressing them, and provide actionable tips for preventing future issues.

What is a Disgruntled Employee?

A disgruntled employee is an individual in your company who is dissatisfied and unhappy with their job or workplace. This unhappiness can come from feeling mistreated, not getting enough recognition, poor communication skills, low pay, lousy working conditions, or conflicts with coworkers or managers.

These employees often show negative attitudes, lower productivity, and express dissatisfaction openly or through passive-aggressive behavior. In extreme cases, a disgruntled employee might engage in sabotage or other malicious actions against the company, creating severe risks to the organization’s security. Not addressing these issues promptly and effectively can lead to increased turnover, damaged reputation, and potential legal issues.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with disgruntled employees. There can be many different reasons behind the unhappiness, and what may work with one employee won’t necessarily be the solution for another.

That said, there are some universal best practices that all companies can implement to both fix and prevent employees from becoming disgruntled. These include fostering open communication, providing regular feedback, and offering professional development opportunities.

Let’s check them out below:

1. Listen Actively and Empathetically

Active listening is a key component in addressing employee concerns. By giving the disgruntled employee your full attention and avoiding interruptions, you demonstrate empathy and understanding, which can help alleviate their dissatisfaction.

Start by showing you’re engaged through body language, like keeping eye contact and nodding to show you’re listening. This helps them feel heard and minimizes employee dissatisfaction and negative attitudes. Repeat back what they say in your own words to make sure you understand them correctly. And don’t forget to avoid interrupting or jumping to conclusions while they’re talking.

2. Address Concerns Promptly

Addressing concerns promptly is a proactive approach that demonstrates to the employee that their issues are taken seriously. Setting up a meeting as soon as possible and coming prepared with potential solutions shows responsiveness and a commitment to resolving the problem.

3. Maintain Open Communication Channels

Ensure there are regular chances for angry employees to share their concerns, like through one-on-one meetings, emails, or anonymous feedback options. Create a safe space where they can speak up without worrying about getting in trouble.

Also, set up regular check-ins to stay in the loop on their concerns. Encourage them to share regular feedback and ideas to show you value their input – this leads to more engaged employees.

4. Offer Constructive Feedback

When giving feedback to an unhappy employee, it’s important to be constructive. Focus on specific actions instead of their personality to keep things fair and objective. Provide actionable suggestions for constant improvement, outlining clear steps they can take to boost their performance.

Make sure to mix in some positive feedback too. Point out what they’re doing well and how they can build on that. With this, they don’t just hear the negative comments and face a lack of recognition but also feel appreciated and motivated to improve. Don’t forget to check in regularly to talk about their progress and give more support if needed.

5. Provide Clear Expectations and Goals

Make sure your employees know precisely what their responsibilities are, what standards they need to meet, and any deadlines they have. Be specific and use measurable terms to avoid confusion or negative communication about what’s expected.

A good idea is to set SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound—so they know exactly what to aim for. For instance, a sales representative’s SMART goal could be to increase their sales by 10% in the next quarter. 

Check and update these goals regularly to keep them relevant and doable. Make sure their goals align with the company culture and objectives so the entire team can see how their work fits into the bigger picture.

6. Recognize and Reward Good Performance

Set up a formal recognition program to regularly celebrate achievements. Use a mix of monetary and non-monetary rewards to appeal to everyone’s preferences. If possible, tailor the recognition to what the employee prefers—some might like public praise, while others might appreciate a private conversation and word of thanks.

Public shout-outs for outstanding work can boost employee morale and inspire disengaged employees to do their best. The goal is to reinforce positive actions with the entire team and create a positive work environment where people feel valued and won’t have a lack of motivation to do their best work.

7. Implement a Fair Employee Grievance Procedure

Create a straightforward, step-by-step process for filing employee grievances to ensure transparency and accessibility. Ensure it’s confidential and that employees are protected from retaliation so they feel safe speaking up. Appoint a neutral person or group to review complaints, ensuring they get a fair review.

Also, train managers on how to handle these situations fairly and sensitively. This way, employees will trust the process and feel confident that their concerns will be addressed privately.

8. Conduct Regular Performance Reviews

Schedule performance review check-ins consistently, such as every quarter or bi-annually, to provide regular feedback and support. Use a standardized evaluation form to make sure everyone is assessed fairly, so you don’t risk employee dissatisfaction.

During the review, talk about the employee’s successes, areas they need to work on, and set realistic goals for the future. Make sure the initial conversation is balanced, highlighting both strengths and areas for constant improvement. Use specific examples and give actionable advice. 

Also, make it a two-way conversation where the employee can share their thoughts and concerns. This back-and-forth helps spot areas for continuous improvement and shows upset employees that their opinions matter and that you’re looking for an acceptable solution.

9. Offer Professional Development Opportunities

Give disgruntled employees access to training programs, workshops, and courses that match their career goals and interests. Encourage them to attend industry conferences and seminars to expand their knowledge and expand their network. Support their efforts to earn certifications or advanced degrees that help their professional growth. This can include tuition reimbursements for courses relevant to their role if they otherwise have a lack of opportunities to improve.

Also, talk about their development goals during performance reviews and create a personalized development plan. Investing in their professional development shows you care about their growth and value them in the company. This not only lifts their spirits but also improves poor performance and helps keep them around longer.

10. Create a Positive Work Environment

Work on creating a positive work culture of respect and inclusivity by promoting open communication and promoting different viewpoints. Plan team-building activities and social events to help everyone bond and have fun, and to minimize lack of engagement.

Make sure the physical workspace is comfy and set up for productivity, with good lighting, ergonomic chairs, and all the tools they need. Celebrate achievements, big and small, to keep morale high. And don’t forget to offer flexible work arrangements when possible to support a good work-life balance and promote a positive company culture.

11. Encourage Work-Life Balance

Encouraging work-life balance is crucial for handling dissatisfied employees and improving overall well-being in the company. Whenever possible, offer flexible working hours and remote work options so employees can better juggle their personal issues and professional lives.

You should encourage them to take regular breaks and use their vacation time to recharge, especially if you notice that they’re causing a hostile working environment in the team. Make sure taking time off is seen as essential and not looked down upon. 

Provide resources like wellness programs, mental health support, and work-life balance training to mitigate negative attitudes. This way, they can maintain a healthy balance and feel more satisfied with their jobs, leading to better performance and employee engagement.

12. Mediate Conflicts Between Employees

When issues come up, deal with them quickly to stop them from getting worse. Train your managers in conflict resolution techniques so they know how to handle issues effectively and can go the extra mile if needed. Set up a neutral third-party mediation process to keep things fair and unbiased, but make sure they are in line with labor laws.

Aim for win-win solutions that address both manager and employee concerns and help the team work together better. Write down the agreed solutions and monitor them to ensure everyone sticks to them. This will resolve conflicts quickly and strengthen relationships, making for a more united team without many behavioral issues.

13. Provide Stress Management Resources

Offer stress management workshops so they can learn practical ways to deal with stress, even if it stems from their personal lives. You can also provide access to counseling services for those who need professional support. If possible, try to offer flexible work hours and remind employees to take regular breaks to manage their work better. This proactive measure helps create a supportive atmosphere where employees feel safe talking about their stress without worrying about the fear of judgment.

Encourage them to take regular breaks and try mindfulness practices to help them stay refreshed and focused. This all-around approach to stress management helps everyone feel better and work better. When companies prioritize stress management, it boosts both employee happiness and productivity.

14. Implement an Open-Door Policy

Having an open-door policy is great for keeping communication channels open and honest at work. Clearly communicate the company policy to all employees, ensuring they understand that they are welcome to discuss any concerns or ideas directly with management.

Set specific times when you’re available for drop-in meetings, making it easy for employees to reach out. This lets happy employees bring up their issues, ideas, and feedback directly without needing an appointment. Make sure to follow up on any problems they bring up to show you’re listening and taking action. Lastly, regularly remind everyone about the open-door policy and why open communication skills are essential.

15. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements When Possible

Consider flexible work arrangements such as remote work or flextime to accommodate different employee needs and preferences. Clearly outline expectations for these flexible arrangements to ensure that all parties understand their responsibilities. Also, make sure to encourage disgruntled teams to talk to their managers about what works best for them, finding solutions that work for both sides.

Keep an eye on how these arrangements are working and be willing to make changes based on document conversations to make sure things keep running smoothly on all ends and there’s no bad attitude among employees. This way, they get a better work-life balance in their adult life, and you’ll likely see better retention and morale in your team cohesion.

16. Conduct Exit Interviews to Identify Recurring Issues

Develop a standardized exit interview process to ensure consistency and thoroughness in collecting feedback from a disgruntled person who is leaving the company. Make sure a neutral person conducts these interviews to get honest feedback. Ask open-ended questions about different aspects of their job, like management, work environment, and career growth.

Then, analyze trends in the feedback to identify common concerns and areas for continuous improvement. Use this information to tweak your retention strategies and fix the problems that are making people leave.

17. Provide Mentorship Programs

Match mentors and mentees based on their skills and career goals to create solid and productive relationships. Set clear objectives for the mentorship to guide both parties and establish expectations. Make sure the career development opportunities are well-organized, with clear goals and regular check-ins to see how things are going.

Encourage mentors to share their experiences and give helpful feedback, helping mentees find their career paths and deal with challenges. Promote an environment of respect and make sure there is no poor communication in these relationships, so there’s no lack of respect.

18. Implement Team-Building Activities

Organize both work-related and social activities to build stronger employment relationships and improve teamwork. These can include workshops, retreats, or even casual social gatherings. Focus on cross-departmental collaboration through these activities to break down silos and promote a more integrated workplace where they know each other better.

Use these activities to highlight and reinforce the company’s values and culture, making sure everyone feels connected to the organization’s goals. This goes a long way in improving relationships among employees.

How Teramind Helps Spot Disgruntled Employees

Teramind helps companies spot disgruntled employees through our employee monitoring and behavior analytics capabilities. Here’s how it can be used:

  1. Behavior Monitoring: Teramind tracks employee behavior on company devices such as computers. It analyzes activities such as website visits, application usage, document access, and communication patterns (emails, chats).
  2. Anomaly Detection: Teramind establishes a baseline of normal behavior for each employee. It then flags deviations from this baseline that may indicate disgruntlement or unusual behavior, such as increased visits to job search websites, excessive use of social media during work hours, or access to confidential files without authorization.
  3. Sentiment Analysis: Some advanced monitoring tools within Teramind can analyze the sentiment of employee communications. It can detect negative sentiment expressed in emails, chats, or documents, which might indicate dissatisfaction.
  4. Alerts and Reporting: When Teramind detects suspicious behavior or patterns, it generates alerts for managers or HR personnel. These alerts can prompt further investigation or intervention to address potential issues with the employee.
  5. Risk Scoring: Based on the observed behaviors and alerts, Teramind can assign risk scores to employees. Higher risk scores indicate a higher likelihood of being disgruntled or posing a security risk to the company.


How do you respond to a disgruntled employee?

To respond to a disgruntled employee, listen actively and empathetically to their concerns, validate their feelings, and seek to understand the root cause of their dissatisfaction. Offer support and work together to find a solution that addresses their issues while aligning with company policies and goals.

How do you deal with a difficult employee who doesn’t respect you?

To deal with a difficult employee who doesn’t respect you, set clear expectations for behavior, address any conflicts or misunderstandings promptly, and consider involving HR or management for further assistance if necessary. Foster open communication and provide constructive feedback to promote a positive work environment.

How do you handle a disruptive employee?

To handle a disruptive employee, address the behavior directly and privately, clearly communicating the impact of their actions on the team. In cases where the behavior persists, HR or management should be involved in establishing consequences and developing an improvement plan.

How do you get rid of a difficult employee?

To get rid of a difficult employee, consult with HR and follow the proper procedures to ensure you handle the situation within legal and ethical boundaries. Consider documenting any performance or behavioral issues, provide clear feedback and warnings, and if necessary, take appropriate disciplinary actions or terminate their employment.


Handling a disgruntled employee involves understanding, clear communication, and direct action.

Suppose your HR team can address these issues with a poor attitude head-on and provide the necessary support. In that case, it won’t only resolve the immediate problem but also build a foundation for long-term employee satisfaction.

Remember, a happy team is crucial for your company’s success.

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