Dissatisfaction among Employees affecting Business

Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 829 , Published on 08 May 2016

Have you ever seen a person complaining about something in your organisation and then asked yourself “How come I never noticed that thing? that is completely wrong”. I would be surprised if you can recall something of this nature. We all get influenced by our surroundings at a subliminal level hence it is impossible to notice the change.

Dissatisfaction spreads from person to person, it is contagious. Like a virus it can spread from one person to another throughout the organisation. As a manager it is very important to stop the problem in the early stages before it reaches the middle of the bell curve and becomes unstoppable. Why? You ask. It’s because an unsatisfied employee is unproductive, such employees have high attrition rate. Satisfied employees on the other hand are productive and dedicated towards organisation. Dissatisfied employees cause losses, either knowingly or unknowingly. And Such dissatisfaction can spread throughout organisation and ultimately doom it for destruction.

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By definition an organisation is a group of people united to achieve a common goal or a set of goals. The constituents of the organisation i.e. people must have a common goal. Which is not always true, most of the organisations follow a 30/50/20 split. Where 30% employees in every organisation are engaged and work actively and 50% do not care about the job. Rest 20% are actively disengaged, they are dissatisfied and purposefully spread it. These 20% employees cause damage to the company, take up important resources and undo all the productive work top 30% try to do.

Martin Linstrom, author of “Brainwashed”, conducted an experiment in a restaurant to phenomenon of spreading dissatisfaction in the organisation. He set up a table in the middle of the restaurant, and placed four actors there. These actors ordered the only available starter on the menu, which was soup. After tasting the soup on of the actors called the waiter and started ranting about it. Soon other diners also started facing similar problems with soup. By the end of dinner as much as 26% of guests had complained similar problems. In the absence of these actors, most of the people won’t complaint. So what had changed? Did the soup suddenly become bad than usual? Or was it simply that people started noticing the things which they previously would not bother about. It might also be the case that people got courage to speak out their problems with group. But the overall effect is, one dissatisfied customer increased the overall dissatisfaction level of an otherwise satisfied restaurant. If ranting of the actor was effectively handled in beginning or if his complaints were stopped from getting noticed by other customers, the outbreak of complaints could be averted. Fix the problem at earliest, apologize, kill the baby in its crib, do anything and stop the contagious dissatisfaction from spreading.

If you want to blame someone for this effect, blame human psychology. We find evidence to support what we expect; we conform to group behaviour. You must’ve heard about the placebo effect in context of pharmacology. Placebo effect is when subjects which are given fake placebo pills which have no pharmacological effect start experiencing stated side effects of the drugs. When people are told that they might expect nausea or headache, they start getting them in most of the cases. Similarly, if people expect some problems perhaps by listening to other people’s complaint, they may also experience or report same problems whether it exist or not.

Well, this behavioural conformity can be leveraged also. What can spread dissatisfaction can spread satisfaction too. If people expect something good out of your product or service, they will experience good out of it. This is leveraged by marketers by hiring brand ambassadors and doing online campaigns. We are affected when our trusted people endorse something. Word-of-mouth publicity is the most effective and is any marketer’s dream. In the digital era virality is the new phenomenon, where things become famous very quickly getting a people reach in the order of millions in a very short time. But most of the time unwanted things become viral more easily.

In your organisation, whatever becomes easily viral, whatever is accepted quickly depends on organisational culture. Culture is system of shared beliefs and values which governs behaviour of people in organisation, how they dress, act and perform their jobs. If dissatisfaction has already spread through the organisation and that 20% has expanded to majority, then any new member of the organisation will have problems doing dedicated work. Such member will get to hear rants and complaints about the system form their colleagues, and will not fit into the culture if they want to work. Their motivation to work will go down, soon they will start noticing issues themselves and finally conform to the group. In such an organisation dissatisfaction spreads to the newly added employees very quickly. Culture is the norms of behaviours shared by people in the organisation. So what do we do when the norm becomes distorted? When people do not work and dissuade others from working? When people efforts are made not for productivity but to survive in the organisation?

The solution is simple, change the norm, change the culture. But changing the culture is like changing the organisation. Managers try but instead of changing the culture they end up increasing the dissatisfaction further. The culture is changed by the same principles dissatisfaction crept into the system. Culture changes when an influential person in the organisation or a large enough group of people decide that the present behaviour need to change. These people figure a vision and start acting differently, they also influence the other to act differently. Thus the culture shifts. Culture shift is a slow and complex process and it is hard to predict the outcome. But it is the only way to bring the dysfunction organisation to productive levels. It is either this or fire the entire staff and hire all new people (good luck pulling this off).

Hence, it is advised to handle dissatisfaction before spreading instead of waiting to achieve a mammoth scale.


This article has been authored by Nitish Tripathi from IIM Kashipur



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