What can employers do when staff are unhappy at work?

Last month, British Airways was making the headlines as their pilots staged a two-day strike in an ongoing dispute over their pay and conditions. This resulted in the airline cancelling around 1,700 flights to a cost of £121 million.

The strike action was proposed following months of unsuccessful negotiations between the pilots union BALPA and the airline. In July, the airline proposed a pay increase worth 11.5% over three years, but this was rejected by the pilots. A second strike was later cancelled, but the airline had already began cancelling flights to minimise the impact on customers.

Clearly, the pilots felt that taking this action would improve their chances of getting a better deal. They certainly weren't happy with what was on offer.

How big a problem is unhappy staff?

Most of us will be unhappy in our jobs at some point in our careers. Whilst some employees will choose to leave and work for another organisation, others find themselves in a position where they have no choice but to stay and ride it out.

Unhappy employees can have a negative impact on a business, impacting areas such as absenteeism, morale and productivity.

Negative attitudes among a small number of employees or an individual employee can quickly spread to others, including customers. In a sales environment this can affect sales – as the saying goes, people buy from people.

Top reasons for employees being unhappy at work

A survey by Personal Group found that 41% of employees are happy at work with 33% being unhappy occasionally and 26% are almost never happy in the workplace at all.

Top reasons for employees being unhappy at work:

  • Being or Feeling Underpaid

  • Limited Career Growth and Advancement

  • Lack of Interest

  • Poor Management

  • Not feeling valued

  • Poor Communication within companies

What can employers do when staff are unhappy at work?

There are many simple (and often free) ways to make employees feel valued and improve their level of happiness at work. Here's just a few ideas:

Show appreciation

Take time to give praise whenever possible and think about rewards for individuals. Money orientated rewards aren’t always the best reward. Consider extra holiday or other perks that are little or no cost to the company but will have more impact to the employee being rewarded. It is surprising how motivating a ”pat on the back” or an appreciative comment from your boss, in front of the team can be. The added bonus for management is that it actually costs nothing but means a lot to employees. Provide opportunities

Create training opportunities for staff to develop. If you need some inspiration check out our latest training courses here. Share perks

Make sure you share out any freebies or invitations you receive and use your company’s buying power to offer staff discounts.


Meet with your staff on a regular basis to keep them updated and motivated. This could be as informal as a monthly coffee break together, or a regular meeting in everyone's diary. Communicate business updates with staff to reduce the impact of rumours and inaccurate information circulating. Lead by example

If you make a company policy, you need to follow it too. When was the last time you reviewed your employee handbook? Is it still relevant to the way your organisation works? If you think it could do with bringing up to date, get in touch!

Stay positive

If you have a problem with someone, or a mistake has been made, address it in private. Avoid passing your own negativity onto others.

Let your hair down

Socialise with your staff and create regular social events for all staff to attend. Avoid overwork

More hours spent at work do not always lead to more results. Create a good work/life balance and encourage this among staff.

Tom Peters, a leading author on business management practices, dedicated one of his numerous management books to “Celebrating success” because in his quest to find “perfect management” he considered this factor to be immensely important as a tool for happiness and motivation at work.

It is often the small changes that have the biggest impact!

Are you concerned about employee motivation and happiness at work?

If you feel this article has highlighted some areas for improvement, but perhaps you are unsure where to start, get in touch for a confidential chat about your situation.

We help organisations with support from employment documentation right through to fully outsourced HR management. We're here to help employers to be the best that can be. Call on 01722 325833 or email hr@hjssolutions.co.uk

Alternatively, check out the free HR seminars we run every month, and our popular training courses.

12 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


T: 01722 325833


3rd Floor Cross Keys House

22 Queen Street

Salisbury SP1 1EY

 For Insights, news and advice
Join our mailing list here

Privacy Policy

© 2020 HJS Human Resources Limited