5 Ways to Win Back an Unhappy Employee

There will come a time in every manager’s career where he is forced to deal with employee dissatisfaction.  While this is never something a manager wants to deal with, some simple practices can make the incident easier to deal with. As a result, the manager will be less tense and the company might not lose what is otherwise a productive employee. Do not stress; just take advantage of a few employee retention ideas to get your employee back to a place where the two of you are happy working together.

1. Take time to personally talk with the employee.

The first thing to do is to take some time to talk to the employee one on one. This should be done in your office towards the end of the day.  It will provide you with an opportunity to discuss the problems at hand without leaving the rest of the day to chance. That way the disgruntled employee can go home and think about the conversation without being caught up in a lot of water cooler gossip. You will also have the opportunity to get your questions answered.

If another employee’s name is brought up, you may need to set up a time when the three of you can get together and talk. Of course, you should let all parties involved know of the date and time ahead of schedule. That way everyone has an opportunity to organize his or her thoughts beforehand. At the end of the meeting, you should see if anything can be done immediately in order to alleviate any tension that exists.

2. Listen objectively to the disgruntled employees complaints.

It is important for you to be an active listener any time you are talking to your employees. You need to be direct with them and take note of anything they may be trying to avoid telling you. Therefore, it is important for your professional working relationships to ensure that you are practicing active listening, the steps of which include:

  • Be present. Make sure that you are focusing on what the person is telling you. This will be easier to do whenever the person is right in front of you.
  • Make sure that you are paying attention. You cannot be doing anything else when you are supposed to be listening to what someone is telling you. Therefore, stop whatever it is that you are doing and give the person that is talking to you your full attention.
  • Pay attention to your body language, especially your eye contact and posture. These two aspects play a huge role in good communication. For instance, by leaning towards the speaker you are showing them that you are interested in what they are saying. Make sure that you also smile and laugh whenever appropriate.
  • You should repeat the key pieces of information back to the speaker in your own words. This will ensure that you have heard them without error. Do not interrupt in order to do this. Simply wait until they are finished speaking, and then clarify anything that you feel you may have missed.
  • Whenever the conversation is over, make sure that you summarize the information by rephrasing what you have heard. This will ensure that you have everything correct. This practice also shows your employee that you really do value what they just shared with you.

3. Offer help once you fully understand the issue.

After you fully understand your employee’s complaint, it will be up to you to determine whether the grievance is a work-related or not. This is important because you don’t want to get involved with your employees’ personal lives. On the other hand, you do want to deal with job-related performance issues so as to ensure that your office continues running smoothly. In this case, you will want to ask your employee how you can help them. Sit down with them and develop some concrete goals to work towards — and set a date when these goals need to be achieved by.

Whenever you are formulating new goals, make sure to include your employee. You want to make them feel that they are part of the solution, not just the problem. Therefore, the goals should put the disgruntled employee in a position where they can see the pros and cons of all their actions — as well as ways in which they can grow if they really want to do so.

This is also where you find opportunities for professional employee development. If your company fails to provide such employee development programs, make sure that you create them. This will not only make you a successful manager, but also have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line and productivity. It is important to provide a means for which your employees can continually work to improve — and hone — their skills.

4. Be encouraging.

As a manager, you also need to be encouraging. It is up to you to develop a partnership with your employee in which he or she feels both supported and empowered. If you do not make yourself available to help, support and assist your employees, the situations will continue and worsen with time.

In addition, when you do support your employees and it leads to great accomplishments, successes, or improvements on their behalf, make sure you do not miss the opportunity to acknowledge that. All it takes is a small “thank you” to increase their confidence. Make sure you do this. Do not simply point out their failures and mistakes.

5. Loosen up a bit!

Have some fun with your employees. This is important; you want your employees to enjoy coming to work. Their mindset really does affect their performance and the ways in which they interact with customers and clients. If you really want to inspire your employees to perform better, you should try doing one of the following:

  • Create events each month that will bring together your customers and your employees in a casual environment.
  • Email your employees humorous things that you find online. The sort of things that you feel will put a smile on their faces. Be careful, though, not to send so many that your workforce grinds to a stop in a flood of email messages. And use common sense to avoid sending anything that might be deemed as inappropriate.
  • Have “theme days” that will make the office environment much more enjoyable for them.


In the end, dealing with disgruntled employees is always going to be a part of the manager’s job description. If you are able to keep lines of communication open, you will find the problems are few and far between…and employee job satisfaction will increase over time. Try to remain solution-oriented and focus on the disgruntled employee’s positive qualities. Practice patience and become proactive in your employees’ complaints and grievances. Doing these things will make you more aware of what’s happening within your company and allow you to short-circuit many of these complaints — before they become large problems.


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Joshua Riddle from www.JoshRiddle.com and www.NorcalTechSolutions.com is a freelance web developer and contributing author. His writing specializes in time management, productivity strategies, technology based tutorials, and work-flow. His development specialties are Web 2.0 style interactive PHP / MySQL database applications.


  1. Kidando on the 27th February

    Finally, issue addressed 😀

  2. angelee on the 28th February

    Co-employees should be treated with respect as internal customers. It’s what I learned from my dad’s manager in a corporate world.

  3. Cassie on the 4th March

    I agree with everything except the last part about loosening up. I’m at work to work. I would rather not socialize with the vast majority of my coworkers and if there’s an event that I choose to attend, I get called antisocial. (It’s not just me – other staffers who skip an event here and there called antisocial as well).

    What makes it worse is that we have a toxic environment, with managers who don’t manage and employees (both coworkers and managers) who complain about one another.

    I don’t want to work in a bad environment, with an occasional fun activity. I’d rather work in a “boring” office, but one where people treated each other with respect on a daily basis.

    • Mike Vardy on the 5th March


      Thanks for your comment.

      It sounds as if you may be at a point where it’s time to move on. I had been working for a company for twelve years (a long time in its own right) and found that I was feeling more and more along the same lines as you are now. I didn’t go to the Christmas functions for the last couple of years I was there and I was labelled as a “snob” or “antisocial” as well. I wasn’t happy in my work environment (there were a lot of positions that were available to me there, so the job options weren’t the issue) and so I began to look elsewhere and planned my exit strategy.

      Once I was out of the environment I was much happier…and in the interim I started to explore hobbies and passions elsewhere.

      Maybe that time for you is now.

      Again, thanks for the comment…and good luck!

    • Rocket Spanish on the 17th April

      I fully agree with Mike’s comment: if the only thing that’s keeping you at work is a paycheck, and you aren’t really enjoying what you do, it’s really time to consider changing work. After all, we often spend more time at work than with our family, so making sure it’s a pleasant experience, if not rewarding, will go a long way towards your overall health and happiness.

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