Since we’ve already told you the truth about employee satisfaction surveys and suggested a more effective means of achieving real employee feedback in real time, we decided to take a break from our focus on relentless improvement just in case our readers are looking for something different.

If your employees are truly satisfied, and you are satisfied with their level of satisfaction (and all of the happiness that comes with it)—we won’t judge you. Some leaders enjoy a cheerful, productive work environment and aren’t looking to change that. But if having an engaged team that is making you feel like less of a manager, by all means, keep reading.

Some managers miss perpetually putting out fires and settling petty squabbles that often go hand in hand with employee dissatisfaction. The tips in this article are guaranteed to suck the satisfaction out of even your most dedicated employees.

1. Learned Helplessness

Helplessness is the feeling that nothing one does matters, or that all their hard work is for nothing.

Yes, helplessness can be learned, and leaders are capable of both instilling this notion into their team, as well as creating an environment to help sustain it. If you want your employees to feel helpless, simply start by not acknowledging, appreciating or even respecting any of their efforts for trying to do a good job.

You know that employees learn best when they can build on the foundation of what they’re doing well already, and that most minor issues will simply dissipate with time.

You need to shake that foundation by critiquing as many things as you can, and making sure you are consistently giving them the impression you are never satisfied. You can even lie to them by telling them something like this is simply your way of getting them to improve. Of course, you will know all along you are merely disempowering them and creating a feeling of helplessness within them. You just need to make them believe that this is their fault, and not that they’re working for an unreasonable manager.

At the risk of over promising, we believe that if you follow this advice you can achieve learned helplessness across 80% of your staff in just a few months. Throw in some vague instructions for carrying out tasks, assign projects without offering the necessary training to complete them, break a few promises and top it off with an unrealistic goal calculated by confusing metrics and you can speed up the process even more.

2. Disconnection

Once you achieve Helplessness, some sense of Disconnection is likely to ensue, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait out the natural course of things and can’t help speed it along.

Your team may still communicate some real concerns to you, albeit they will not talk to you about the most important matters of the job like they used to. But you still cannot let them think there is any real importance to even the few concerns they might bring to your attention at this phase. This could make them feel somewhat connected to the company in some way, which could sustain any remaining satisfaction they feel. Sparse, non-meaningful discourse, on the other hand, will keep the wheels of dissatisfaction in motion.

3. Silent Hostility

By now you’ve probably managed to piss off some pretty good people. You probably even lost a few of the best members of your team to competitors, but that’s ok. That’s just job security for your HR recruiter. You will start to feel more like a manager again once you start spending several hours of each week interviewing new candidates.

You need to focus on your remaining team. New candidates entering into a pool of already dissatisfied staff members will save you the trouble of having to do this work all over again. Your existing team will help let your new hires know just how dissatisfied they should be right from day one.

You may be wondering why this phase is called Silent Hostility. If they are sharing their grievances with new hires, they are being anything but silent. But we mean Silent Hostility to leadership. Toward you. You won’t personally hear their complaints since you’ve done such an excellent job of training them not to talk to you, but they will complain amongst each other, and of course help facilitate the Dissatisfaction Orientation for any fresh blood entering your company or department.

The good news is that you won’t hear any of their complaints.

They probably can’t afford to take time off to look for other employment so they’ll be sticking around no matter how you treat them, or how disgruntled they become. Most of these guys have likely reached the phase of Silent Hostility. They are Passively Dissatisfied.

Next Steps

We know that there will always be dissatisfied employees regardless of how we treat them. Some people have already learned how to think like unhappy people before they even set foot into the workplace and will act accordingly. Nevertheless, we hope this article helps you understand just how much influence and power you have as a leader over the people in your workplace who might otherwise be satisfied hadn’t you deployed the methods mentioned above.

Now you can go back to interviewing new candidates and arbitrating the silly disputes that frequently arise between dissatisfied, disengaged employees that is often synonymous with management. If you want to.

That being said, you may one day find that you would like to have a team of engaged, productive employees where dissatisfaction is the exception, and not the norm. You may day decide that empowerment is preferable to helplessness. You might want to be more of a manager than a recruiter, more of a mentor than an arbiter. We believe we can help you achieve this goal as well. Just be the opposite of everything you’ve just read.

There’s one positive thing that can be said for Learned Helplessness; since it was learned, it can be unlearned.

And you can help facilitate the unlearning.

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By | April 14th, 2017|Employee Engagement|

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