Motivating Disgruntled Staff
Words by Francis Kahihu: firstname.lastname@example.org (The writer is an Organisational Development Practitioner)
You must have realized that every workplace has its share of staff who murmur and complain. You come across staff who are speaking of how depressed and stressed they are as a result of certain aspects of their work. These could relate to the work environment in terms of infrastructure and space or could be due to a feeling of being poorly remunerated. All these lead to murmuring as staff engage in their daily duties. Since murmuring is more of a norm than an exception, just what should employers do to motivate staff who murmur and complain?
Seek to understand the root causes of the murmuring: People don’t just complain. There is always a reason why people feel discontented with their current situation in life. As much as some of the reasons could be fake and unjustified, they still remain reasons that need to be addressed. It is prudent for the employers to develop mechanisms that inform them of the reasons why certain staff murmur either about their jobs or about their bosses. This information is helpful in determining the response to the feelings of discontentment.
Respond to the concerns at your earliest convenience: Staff have been known to be open to their bosses with regard to their complaints the moment they realize that their bosses will be helpful in seeking for a solution to their concerns. It is common knowledge that when staff perceive like their employers are not interested in addressing their needs, they keep the murmur to themselves and do not divulge details to the employer. This is a catch 22 situation as your concerns will hence not be addressed when they hide them from your employer.
Opportunities should then be created as part of the organisational culture to encourage staff to freely express their concerns to the management. Such could include suggestion boxes (though these are rarely used by either party), a mood meter at the exit where staff mark against a certain criteria to indicate their feelings as the day passes among other creative ways of harvesting staff feelings.
Don’t disregard murmurs: Murmurs are like gossips. They spread faster than the truth. As much as the murmur starts with an individual or a department, it is helpful to address it as soon as you can. Failure to address it enables it gather its own storm and life making it difficult to respond later. As the whirlwind blows, the initial issues causing the discontent get blurred as staff and management start accusing each other of mischief with no one laying a finger on the exact bone of contention. Other issues crop up that complicate the management of the conflict.
Do not victimize: In most of the cases, it is not easy to tell the exact source of a certain murmur. Staff would murmur around the workplace with no one in particular being the murmur leader. The management team should be keen not to victimize a specific staff since this only leads to a broader based internal revolt. In cases where staff have representatives in the form of a trade union, seek to engage their representatives in the discussions instead of engaging individual staff. Since the loudest staff are the ones who will be heard murmuring, it should not be assumed that those who are quiet about their experiences are happy staff comfortably undertaking their tasks. They could be burning from within.