Doing more with less. Current business climate. Unemployment. Still increasing workloads. You have been here? You have seen this before, right? Wrong. Your IT staff, doing the best they can but still getting nothing except a pat on the back has a drained morale, are frustrated, angry and exhausted. And as the human nature dictates, these people are about to rebel. Fortunately, there are signs that this is going to happen.
The first signs that your staff is unhappy is avoiding you and keeping quiet when you walk in. If your staff is not happy with your presence – such as leaving the room when you enter, avoiding upper management, even to the point of avoiding customers/users and ignoring rules/etiquettes, it means something going on. Similarly, if the discussion ends as soon as you enter the room and people quickly turn to their desks, these simply mean that you are not welcome. If you are receiving these signals from one person, you may be facing a member having some problems. If you are receiving these signals from everybody, you, yourself have some problems.
The problems may extend to the work completed. In fact, incompleted. If your staff is not completing their jobs, if the tasks are piling up and not being completed – or completed just for the sake of it, and if all these are building stress for other departments or clients, then be sure that unhappiness is about to strike. It may be so hard that it may reach out of your department’s, even your company’s walls. It may also be that other departments/clients expressing their discomfort before your staff.
Similarly, your staff may be in an indifferent stand towards the events. They may simply not care about developing themselves, do not care about their competency and totally indifferent to what is happening. If nobody is excited about the changes, or simply not caring about the incidents, then something is happening: either they are not caring or their minds are wandering.
Bringing up any argument may lead to stressful argues. If the response you receive from your staff is not in proportion to what you have said, and this is continuous, begin to watch out. But if this is a recurring event, if some or a majority of your staff members are arguing with you to the maximum point they can, the danger is coming from the deep. Instead of trying to win over the argument, which you have slim to no chance, keep calm and turn to yourself. What are the reasons behind this? Most probably it is more than a couple of a tired staff members.
Taking sick days is another signal. If your staff is taking sick days off frequently, then begin to question yourself. Are they really sick, or are they trying to avoid you? Or are they doing their best to avoid bursting at the office? When sick days are getting more frequent, begin to think about something serious.
One of the most classical way to spot someone who is probably going to have a job interview is the one who dress more formal than every day. If people show up with suit and ties (or skirts) when they are normally wearing casuals, most probably they have a job interview. It is even worse if the other staff members do not talk, even joke about it, or join your jokes. All of these mean that the staff members know exactly going on, they are all aware and they know they will be in the same position in the coming days/weeks. The rebellion is silently begun.
The other sign is the employees spending more time on social networks than usual. If they are in social networks that you are not part of then it is worse. Unfortunately you cannot go further to learn what is going on; the networks are “social” and they may not be wanting you in their “social” lives. Blocking access to social networks at the office is not a solution. Once you do that people will bring their own tablets and place them on the desks on purpose, where they can easily socialize throughout the day via the mobile carrier’s network. They will silently express their feelings this way. Do not vent at your staff, try to understand what is going on.
Finally, if more and more people are coming to work late and it has become commonplace, with stranger (and sometimes humorous) excuses, you are faced with indifferent employees. The morale has gone downhill, down to the point that nobody is caring about the business rules and a certain way of respect towards colleagues, including you. Again, don’t talk with them about being late, ask yourself what may be the reason.
I am not arguing that there will not be any unhappy employees, on the contrary, I argue that you cannot make everyone happy. If the unhappiness is beginning to spread, rather than a couple of people, then be sure that something big is about to happen. Not only this will affect your current position – a manager or business owner -, it will affect your business partners, other partners or clients and will cost you much more than you will expect.
The question is, if you made a mistake, or a series of mistakes and brought your people to exhaustion without noticing, will you do something if you understand that they are on the edge? Will you do something to win them?