It is inevitable that companies will have at least one employee who is unhappy about something or struggling in some way. Even the best companies are not perfect for everyone. Sometimes an employee is struggling due to reasons unrelated to the workplace.
No matter the reason, employees who are not happy can damage office culture and even hurt the business. They can provide inferior service, do their job less often or not at all, and interact poorly with co-workers.
Managers and leaders in the company have a vital role in the state of their employees:
- They can be unaware of the situation and so do nothing about it. In that case, the employee will negatively impact others and most likely resign.
- They can know that workers are unhappy and ignore it. If managers take this route, they will probably find it difficult to be effective in their job and the problem will continue, even spread.
- They can realize that workers are unhappy and find out how to fix it. In this situation, both workers and the company have the best chance of learning and growing together.
The keyword there is learn.
When managers and leaders learn about their employees’ issues and what it is like to be an employee in the company, they show that learning is an important aspect of the company culture.
Listen and learn
When leaders listen to their employees they not only model learning, they create opportunities for learning. This is because most employees express that they want more learning opportunities.
According to recent research, most employees want to feel like they are preparing for their next job while in their current job. A lack of growth opportunities is directly related to how engaged employees are. In a survey of UK civil servants, only 50% were happy with their learning and development opportunities.
Companies have room to grow in regards to learning and development. Struggling employees can be both the biggest supporters of learning as well as the biggest motivators to create a learning culture.
Creating a learning culture
When leaders are ready to make changes and create a learning culture based on feedback from struggling employees there are certain steps they can take to make the process easier.
Know the situation – Before making any assumptions or jumping to any decisions, it is important for leaders to know what is going on. They need to find out why employees are struggling and what kind of changes are needed to help them.
Act fast – Address the situation before it gets worse. This may include meetings, new programs, or communicating with other employees about this issue. Often, unhappy employees share their thoughts with coworkers.
Meet individually – Communication is key to making sure that things get resolved in a private and professional manner.
Use empathy – Learning takes making mistakes and being able to voice thoughts and opinions. Leaders can help build a learning culture by using empathy. They can listen calmly and try to understand the problems employees are having. By doing so, employees will feel that they can voice their thoughts about problems, but also ways of helping the company grow through learning.
Take time – Leaders may want the solution to fix everything overnight. It is rare that this happens. By the time problems are addressed, they have probably been going on for some time. It will take time before employees feel heard and understood. Learning programs do not materialize overnight. They start small and build to something bigger and better with continued employee feedback.
Struggling employees can seem like a drain on the company, and they can be if they are left to spread complaints. Leaders can choose to make them a powerful piece of the learning culture by listening to them and giving them a voice. By doing so, they create an atmosphere of collaboration and problem-solving – vital aspects of learning – and they help build an effective learning program – something most, if not all, employees want, but few actually have.