21 Warning Signs of Unhappy Employees & Low Morale

warning signs of unhappy employees

Is your team delighted and motivated, or are there signs of unhappiness that you’re missing? Employee happiness and morale are essential to keeping productivity high and retaining your best talent. However, even the most engaged teams can sometimes face low morale.

In this article, we’ll go through some of the most common signs that your employees might be unhappy to help you prevent it from escalating into bigger issues.

21 Warning Signs of Unhappy Employees to Look For

Proactively identifying signs of employee unhappiness can help prevent larger issues down the line, empowering you to maintain a healthy work environment.

By knowing the specific warning signs, you, as a manager, can address concerns quickly and maintain a positive work environment, demonstrating your value in the organization.

Here are some key warning signs of unhappiness to look for:

1. Absenteeism

Absenteeism refers to frequent absence from work, usually without a valid reason. When employees call in sick, show up late, or leave early, it may signal deeper issues. It might be due to stress, burnout, lack of engagement, or personal life problems that management isn’t addressing. Frequent absences disrupt the team’s work and can lower overall productivity.

2. Bad Attitude

A bad attitude in the workplace not only affects the individual but also the entire team. It can spread negativity, disrupt team harmony, and reduce morale, emphasizing the urgency of addressing such issues.

3. Colleague Complaints

Colleague complaints happen when other employees regularly voice concerns about a particular co-worker. You’ll notice this negative attitude through constant reports of arguments, frustration, or disruptive behavior affecting the team. These complaints usually mean the person in question is causing trouble at work, maybe because they’re bad at communicating, not cooperating, or acting inappropriately.

4. Decreased Productivity

Declined productivity means employees aren’t getting as much done as they used to. It can be recognized through missed deadlines, reduced quality of work, and a slower pace in completing tasks. This drop usually hints at problems like low motivation and happiness levels, disengagement, or personal issues. Managers might notice the disengaged employee being less proactive, making more mistakes, or needing more oversight.

5. Needing More Feedback

Needing more feedback means an employee is constantly looking for guidance and reassurance from their supervisor. They ask for approval before doing anything, need detailed instructions, or often want their work checked. This shows they’re not confident, unsure about what’s expected, or afraid of messing up. It might also mean they’re not happy or engaged at work.

6. Not Participating at Work

Not participating at work means an employee isn’t getting involved in team activities, meetings, or group projects. You’ll notice this if the dissatisfied employees stay quiet during discussions, don’t volunteer for tasks, and seem uninterested in working with others.

7. Doing the Bare Minimum

Doing the bare minimum refers to employees completing the least work required to meet job expectations without additional effort. Managers can recognize this if they don’t take the initiative, avoid new tasks, and only contribute the basics to team projects. These employees might meet deadlines and quality standards but don’t go above and beyond or try to improve.

8. Tardiness

Tardiness means an employee is regularly late to work or meetings. This is when they keep showing up after the start time, which can mess up the flow of work and team interactions. Being late regularly messes up the workday and affects team morale and productivity. To stop this, it’s essential to find out why they’re late, whether it’s personal problems, the work environment, or how they’re managed.

9. Deteriorating Work Quality

Deteriorating work quality means an employee’s work isn’t as good as it used to be. If someone who used to do great work starts making mistakes, missing deadlines, or turning in poor results, they might be stressed, unmotivated, or just not engaged.

10. Indifference to Employee Needs

Indifference to colleagues’ needs means employees don’t care about or support their coworkers. You can spot it if they ignore requests for help, avoid working with the team, and show no empathy for others’ struggles or achievements. This attitude can be especially harmful because it can create a divided work environment and reduce team morale among happy employees.

11. Avolition

Avolition means having no drive to start or finish tasks, often showing up as a lack of interest in work tasks or goals. It can be recognized by an employee’s consistent inactivity, procrastination, and failure to complete assignments without constant supervision. To tackle avolition, find out what’s causing it and offer support. Regular check-ins and opportunities for growth can also help a negative person get their drive back.

12. Limited Personal Engagement

Limited personal engagement means an employee barely gets involved in anything beyond their tasks. They avoid team events, social events, or even casual chats with co-workers. This lack of personal engagement shows they feel disconnected and don’t belong, and it can even hurt the overall teamwork in the department.

13. Missed Deadlines

Missed deadlines mean not finishing tasks or projects on time. You can notice this when an employee frequently fails to meet due dates, causing work and project completion delays. This toxic attitude often points to problems like bad time management, lack of motivation, or too much work. Regularly missing deadlines can hurt team productivity and employee satisfaction.

14. More Time Off

Frequent requests for extra days off usually mean the employee is burned out, stressed, or not engaged at work. It can be displayed differently, including increased sick days, personal leave, or unplanned absences. A good strategy is to find out why they need so much time off—maybe something that can be easily fixed, such as if they have too much workload.

15. No Opportunity to Grow

No opportunity to grow means an employee feels stuck with no chance to advance or develop their career. You’ll notice this when they get frustrated with their stagnant role, lack of promotions, or limited chances for training and development. This often makes employees unmotivated and more likely to leave for better opportunities. One way to fix this involves creating clear career advancement paths and offering better development programs.

16. Reluctance to Cooperate

Reluctance to cooperate means an employee doesn’t want to work with others or join team activities. In most cases, they won’t share information, avoid group projects, and seem uninterested in teamwork. This usually means problems like conflicts with co-workers, general unhappiness, or lack of trust in the team.

17. Suddenly Working Longer Hours

Suddenly working longer hours refers to an unexpected increase in an employee’s time beyond their regular hours. They might frequently stay late, arrive early, or work weekends without a clear reason. This could mean they have too much work or struggle with the assigned tasks. It might also be their way of making up for what they think are shortcomings.

18. Conflict with Other Employees

Conflict with other employees refers to ongoing disagreements, tension, or hostility between colleagues personally in the workplace. You can recognize it through frequent arguments, complaints, or visible discomfort during interactions. These conflicts often come from considerable differences in personality, work styles, or misunderstandings, leading to a toxic work environment and lower morale.

19. Attendance Issues

Attendance issues mean an employee regularly has problems being at work on time, including frequent absences, late attendance, or leaving early. They may take repeated unexcused or unexpected time off, which disrupts the entire team’s workflow. It is essential to find out why they’re happening and offer the proper support, like flexible schedules or counseling.

20. Closed Communication

Closed communication refers to an employee’s reluctance to openly share information, ideas, or feedback with colleagues and business leaders. They rarely join discussions, avoid talking directly, and keep critical information to themselves. This usually shows a lack of trust, fear of criticism, or lack of engagement.

21. Feeling Uninspired

Feeling uninspired means employees aren’t as excited or motivated about their work as they used to be. You’ll notice this if they’re less creative, don’t take initiative, and seem generally apathetic. When someone feels uninspired, they might find their tasks boring and meaningless, leading to lower productivity. This often happens because of repetitive work, lack of recognition, or no chance to grow.

The Risks Associated with Unhappy Employees

Recognizing the warning signs of unhappy employees is only the first step. Understanding the risks that come with low employee morale is equally important because they can significantly impact your company’s productivity, security, and overall workplace harmony.

Here are some of the main risks you should be aware of:

Decreased Productivity

When employees are unhappy, their productivity levels drop, leading to lower output and efficiency. This affects their performance and disrupts the team and overall business. Disgruntled employees might miss deadlines, deliver poor-quality work, and need more supervision, putting extra pressure on managers.

Potential Data Loss

When workers are disengaged or dissatisfied, they might become careless with data security practices, leading to accidental breaches or mishandling. Sometimes, disgruntled employees might even leak sensitive information on purpose. This risk is higher if the company doesn’t have strong cybersecurity measures and employee monitoring in place. Data loss can cause severe problems, such as financial hits, legal issues, and a damaged reputation.

Increased Risk of Insider Threats

Workers who feel undervalued or mistreated might become insider threats and resort to malicious actions like stealing data, sabotaging systems, or leaking confidential information. This risk is especially high in workplace environments with low trust and poor oversight. To prevent this, companies should create a positive work environment, enforce strict access controls, and conduct regular security checks.

HR Issues

Unhappy employees can cause a lot of HR problems. They tend to call in sick more often, argue with colleagues, and file more complaints, all of which need HR’s time and attention. Dealing with these issues takes away from other important HR tasks. If these problems aren’t resolved, they can lead to higher staff turnover, meaning more time and money spent on hiring and training new staff.


How can you tell if an employee is unhappy?

To identify signs of an unhappy employee, look for visible changes in their behavior, such as decreased motivation, increased absenteeism, or frequent conflicts with colleagues. Pay attention to subtle cues like a decline in the quality of work or a lack of enthusiasm during team meetings.

How do you tell if your employee is going to quit?

Some signs that an employee is likely to quit include disengagement, lack of enthusiasm, and a sudden decrease in productivity. Additionally, frequent absences or conflicts with colleagues may indicate dissatisfaction with their current job.

What happens when employees are unhappy?

When employees are unhappy, it can lead to decreased motivation, increased absenteeism, and conflicts with colleagues. This can result in lower productivity, higher turnover rates, and negatively impact team morale and overall company performance.

What does it mean when an employee becomes silent?

When an employee becomes silent, it can be a warning sign of unhappiness or disengagement. Employers should proactively communicate with their employees to understand and address any underlying issues to prevent further disengagement or potential resignation.

How can you tell if an employee is secretly struggling?

Some signs that an employee may be secretly struggling include declining performance, increased isolation from colleagues, and a lack of participation in team activities. Employers should foster open communication and provide support to help address any underlying issues.


Recognizing the warning signs of unhappy employees and low morale is crucial for maintaining a healthy and productive work environment. When employees feel appreciated and engaged, they work better and stay positive.

Paying attention to these signs can fix issues early and build a supportive company culture.

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