How to Limit Your Employees’ Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days

Nov 12, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

When’s the last time you had a bad day at work?

A recent survey by the Danish firm Woohoo, Inc., asked just this question of employees worldwide. The survey defined a bad day at as:

A day where you feel lousy on the job. You’re unhappy at work and when you come home, you definitely don’t feel like having more of those days.”

Since a bad day is influenced by numerous factors both internal and external to the workplace, it’s not surprising that nearly all of us have had a bad day at work. In fact, only 8 percent claim to never or almost never have experienced such a thing. But out of those many factors that can influence our daily experience of work, which had the most impact?

What makes for a bad day at work?

Here are the top answers in response to the question, “The last time you had a bad day at work, which factors in the workplace made it bad?”

  1. A lack of help and support from my boss (40 percent);
  2. Negative co-workers (39 percent);
  3. Lack of praise or recognition for the work I do (37 percent);
  4. Uncertainty about the workplace’s vision and strategy (37 percent);
  5. Busyness/high work load (36 percent).

I can’t say I’m surprised by any of these factors.

  • Factors 1 and 5 are closely related. Bosses who don’t lead, guide and coach (or roll up their sleeves and dive in when the work gets overwhelming) don’t deserve the title.
  • Factors 3 and 4 are also intertwined. Recognition, at its core, conveys the critical message, “I see you. The work you do matters and makes a difference to how we achieve our mission and strategy.”
  • Factor 2 – co-worker negativity – is a miasma that permeates the atmosphere, bringing down the energy of everyone and making it difficult to pull together as a team.

A solution? Recognize great work

Considering these factors reflect the reasons why people take unnecessary sick days (“pull a sickie” or “take a mental health day” as discussed in a recent post), the ROI factor involved in reducing the number of “bad days” experienced by employees is not insignificant.

Simply by helping employees balance their workload and recognizing them when their efforts contribute to achieving the company strategy and vision, bosses convey their support and help employees see the positive and important impact they have on organization success.

Better yet, enable all employees to recognize and appreciate those they see doing great work. The act of recognition has as much positive impact on the giver as on the receiver and is a tremendous influence to overcome persistent negativity.

It would be unrealistic to think we could eliminate all bad days at work, but as responsible leaders we must acknowledge our role and responsibility in reducing the bad days experienced both by those we directly manage as well as those in our broader circle of influence.

Too many bad days hurts productivity

As the Woohoo study points out:

Of course it should always be allowed for a person to have the occasional bad day at work. No one can be happy every single day and we can’t create perfect workplaces where everyone is ridiculously happy every day. But when workplaces cause their employees to have many bad days at work, it lowers productivity and customer satisfaction and increases absenteeism and employee turnover. In short, it costs a ton of money.”
The survey report is quite interesting and I encourage you to read it in full.

When was the last time you had a bad day at work? What drove that experience? What can you do to help alleviate you own bad days or the bad days experienced by others?

This was originally published at the Compensation Café blog, where you can find a daily dose of caffeinated conversation on everything compensation.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.