UPDATED February 10, 2022 This piece has been updated to reflect the emergence of new technology

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Christian Mathews Security Writer

Why would anyone want to know how to handle a disgruntled employee? Consider this for a moment. According to wired.com 16% of office employees have accessed computer systems at their former workplace using their old user IDs and authentication codes. As if that’s not enough, an alarming 19% of office workers would take company data with them i.e. customer data, price lists, etc. if they are aware of their imminent firing. However, this highlights only a portion of disgruntled employees.

The other portion is made up of disgruntled employees you haven’t discovered yet and this second group is even more potent at unleashing harm to your business.

Other than just stealing company data, disgruntled employees can create a toxic environment in your business which may affect other employees or even dissuade customers from engaging with your business.

To avoid any of these, you must understand who is a disgruntled employee, and what you can do about them in case you have some in your staff.

Here’s what you can expect in this article:

  • How a disgruntled employee can be a security risk
  • Steps in dealing with a disgruntled employee

1How could a disgruntled employee be a security risk?

A disgruntled employee presents a security risk on both the physical front as well as on the security and integrity of data.

As you’re about to find out, not only are these risks many, but they are also ever-present and you cannot eliminate all of them.

Here’s where management comes in. Try by all means to ensure these risks never turn to actual threats.

On the physical front, disgruntled employees can present the following risks:

  • They can cause physical harm to you, the business owner/employer or even other employees in case of an altercation/ violent confrontation.
  • A disgruntled employee may collude with malicious individuals to access your business premises and steal property. They can steal property by themselves, with this being done mostly during the “after hours” when the business is closed.

Regarding data security and integrity, the following are risks disgruntled employee(s) may present:

  • Disgruntled employee(s) may sell or even leak company/business data such as customer data, price lists, to the highest bidder.
  • As a way of getting back at you, the employer, disgruntled employee(s) can choose to disregard security policies and measures in place to safeguard data. While this may not present a direct threat, malicious individuals could capitalize on such a loophole to attack and eventually cause a data breach, or even total loss of data.

In all scenarios, the business stands to lose considering the time, effort, and resources to deal with such risks. In extreme cases, incidents like a security breach involving data may ruin your reputation as a business. Besides physical ways of protecting your business like smart entry door locks to prohibit certain people accessing certain areas and information, there are others things that can be done to overcome a disgruntled employee from harming your business.

2Steps in dealing with a disgruntled employee

Let’s first start by defining what the term “disgruntled employee” means.

A disgruntled employee is an employee who is not satisfied with their job. They have unresolved grievances and they tend to make a fuss about it.

The first and most important step in dealing with a disgruntled employee(s) is first identifying them.

So how do you identify a disgruntled?

Here are some common tell-tale signs to watch out for is when the employee:

  1. is uncooperative and shows little effort in team projects.
  2. generally has a negative attitude.
  3. may fail to turn up at work consecutively.
  4. may not be fully engaged at work, or they can seem less motivated to perform duties assigned to them. This will often show in performance reviews.

To be sure when identifying a disgruntled employee, it is best practice to watch for more than one sign.

While absenteeism is one of the signs an employee could be disgruntled, it wouldn’t be correct to deem the employee as disgruntled. It could be that the employee is facing some type of domestic issue/ difficulty which could cause them not to show up at work.

Now that you know how to identify a disgruntled employee, here is how to handle a disgruntled employee.

Address any case of a disgruntled employee as soon as you identify one

While you can always choose to wait it out and hope for the best. The better and probably smartest choice you can make is addressing the issue as soon as it’s identified.

The more you fail to address it, the problem festers more and the disgruntled employee(s) may start to negatively impact other employees and even customers.

Practice empathy as you ask the disgruntled employee on what the issue is

Showing empathy to the employee may be just what you need to turn them around.

Place yourself in their situations, empathize with their situation.

They’ll feel comfortable telling you whatever issues they may be facing, since, for once someone listened and cared.

Always remain fair and maintain professionalism

If there’s one thing that’s for certain leaning to one side or even appearing unfair may escalate the matter further.

Hear them out, and be fair when determining whether their actions were justified.

In all situations, be professional and do not become personally invested in the issue. Some employees may try to manipulate you to achieve their ends.

Listen to their issues and if possible, provide solutions

Listen. Don’t just hear them out.

Find out what is bothering them, the difficulties they’re facing, etc.

You’ll be surprised at the problems you find in your business once you uncover the genuine concerns behind your employee’s grievances.

Once you’ve known what the problem is, provide a solution for the disgruntled employee.

Document everything

This will help in future follow-up sessions, to ensure the employee’s grievances were properly solved. Make sure to store all Employee documentation in a secure document storage case.

This could also serve as proof that you tried what you could to help the disgruntled employee. This is very critical, should the disgruntled employee press charges or even try to tarnish your business’s reputation by lashing out on social media.

You might ask what is the best way to deal with disgruntled employees.

Turns out, there’s no clear cut solution.

But you could learn how to avoid creating or having disgruntled employees in your business. After all, prevention is always better.

So how do you go about it?

Encourage your employees

The number one skill a manager/supervisor must have is the ability to motivate and inspire other people.

Recognize all employees whenever they perform well. Even for under performers, each time they make a positive change, reinforce that with positive words of encouragement.

Encourage trust between you and your employees

Trust goes both ways.

Trust your employees to do the right thing, and gradually they’ll learn to trust you too.

If possible, avoid micro-managing your employees

Always have an open door policy

Repressed emotions or sentiments always come out eventually, and when they do, the results are never good.

Your employees should feel free and safe to come to you if they’re facing any difficulty and if possible try offering a solution.

If possible, provide avenues for career progression and development

3Final thoughts

That brings it to the end on how to handle a disgruntled employee.

When dealing with disgruntled employees, remember to practice compassion, find the real cause/ grievance, and try to solve it.

Always remember, your employees, your people are your business’s greatest asset; and they can also be your greatest liability so take great care of them. To avoid having to deal with disgruntled employees, it is important to know how to do an employee background check, to ensure that you have the fullest picture of who you are bringing into your business.