Handling Unrest in the Workplace Using the Two-Sided Approach 

A grumbling employee is a headache. Half a dozen of them griping on their private messengers is a problem. An entire team or department with unresolved issues is an explosion waiting to happen. 

The proverbial lone voice in the wilderness grows into a pack because of the growth of social media and other platforms which can air their grievances. Because this kind of deteriorating situation can demoralize and bog down the workplace, global mobility managers must learn how to recognize unrest and respond to it immediately. 

Sweeping or disregarding it under the rug no longer works. Besides, as the more progressive companies in Northern California have found out, the more open and inclusive leadership is, the more motivated and productive their employees turn out to be.

The Guardian cites a report stating that in the year 2020, only 33 percent of employees will choose to stay with their current organization. This is a huge drop from the 47 percent of last year. 

The movement is not confined to solo staffers, either. An unhappy talent who leaves will bring a colleague or two with them, thus precipitating an exodus. The same report says that these departing talents will leave or are on the brink of doing so, because they feel undervalued. They also state that their supervisors do not listen to what they have to say.

This unrest seething under the surface has led to attrition. But what happens if the collective unhappiness suddenly finds a platform to unleash its angry voice? The law does have their back in one sense.

According to Guthrie-Jensen, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employees can air their legitimate grievances on social media, but check company office policies. For example, employees need to stick to issues that can be discussed. Badmouthing, slandering, and cursing individuals and organizations are not allowed. 

Still, in the intense heat of corporate conflict, some people cannot just hold back, but let loose their unhappiness in a string of diatribes, profanity, and personal attacks. Damage control will be extremely difficult at this point. In this situation, a spoon of prevention is definitely a lot better than a pound of cure. 

Money gives some tips on how human resource leaders and global mobility managers can arrest the development of a revolution, present or future.

  • First, make sure there is a bona fide corporate policy that allows for a safe, confidential process by which staffers can air their complaints. A two-sided approach is recommended: one to their immediate supervisor, the other to the human resource manager. Knowing that there is a legitimate system that can listen to them and address their complaints will alleviate the tension. It also opens a positive dialogue between the staff and the organization. 
  • Second, document the complaint and see that it is addressed. Some of the issues can be resolved quickly, while others may take a longer time. Still, the employee must see that they have been heard, and that the process is at least trying to respond to their issues. Do not overpromise, but do show if there is a realistic light at the end of the tunnel. At that point, the employee will have the option of waiting it out, or leaving. But handled this way, the chances of infecting others with their unease are reduced.

Address the group, if necessary. This is where meetings, town halls, and all the other collaborative meetups shaped in Northern California come in. Be transparent: explain the challenges yet show the planned solutions. 

Answer each question if you can. Avoid emotionality but remain professional throughout. Remind the team of the more positive things that are happening and the future they can expect, to remove any negativity or anxiety lingering in the air. Show your own recommendations to address the issues, while listening to their suggestions. Always project confidence, while leaving the door open for any future discussion.