It can be daunting for managers to know how to respond to employee resentment and dissatisfaction at work. Substantial research indicates that employees go to work to find purpose, contentment and meaning and not just to earn money. Few things can sabotage performance and productivity as much as festering, corrosive resentment.

There are many examples; you may be excited about managing your team and leading the project until you come into contact with that one employee who is not a happy camper, perhaps someone who wanted your job but didn’t get it. Other valid reasons for resentment include salary cuts, longer hours or increasing workloads. Perhaps assignments are not be in line with an employee’s personal values or they may experience confusion in their job role. Very commonly the feeling that effort has gone unappreciated, or being overlooked for desirable opportunities can lead to dissatisfaction.

Favouritism and prejudicial treatment are the worst triggers for growing resentment. Every worker, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity and appearance should work on a level playing field. Managers must always base their decisions and choices based on merit. Badgering your employees or frequently disrupting the flow of work can also cause much ill-feeling.

With office rental space gradually becoming prohibitively expensive some Australian employers are choosing to move away from city centres to cheaper far away suburban properties. As this makes it more difficult for people to commute to and from work, the added trouble and stress can cause great resentment. Workers often feel that with the move, the organisation has broken a psychological contract with them.

Gentle resentment can gradually morph into genuine animosity over time if grievances are left unaddressed. Growing ill-feeling can result in sub-par performance as workers grow less interested in putting forth their best. Good and poor managers differ in their attitude towards employees. Effective leaders support their team and genuinely care about how they feel. Feeling valued inspires the best work. A proactive attitude helps build strong connections between employee and organisation. Resentment is much less likely to thrive in an organisation that respects workers as human beings.

Our tone, body language and other subtle cues make a huge impact on the way communication is interpreted. Employees may perceive you as disrespectful or rude even if you don’t mean to be. Such misunderstanding can fuel ill-feeling among a team without you being aware of the cause. Alternatively, there could be one or more team members who come across as abrasive or arrogant and others may find it stressful to work with them. Overwork leading to ‘burnout’ is frequently an issue that is known to breed discontent. While it’s important to keep your team motivated, busy and challenged, pushing them relentlessly and unfairly will drive away valuable, capable workers. It is reported that happy employees are likely to be 65% more productive compared to disgruntled ones.

Managers can motivate staff by complying with company rules and following the same procedures as employees. This helps set a good precedent. Poor managers who flout rules that they expect others to follow are inevitably resented by their team. It is wise to consider that, employees can sense fake empathy and will not be fooled by superficial concern when there is no evidence of any real acknowledgment of the problem or effort to address it.

While respect and communication are crucial key steps to establishing a good rapport with your employees, it’s not advisable to be a pushover. If you are too nice, you will find yourself unable to address performance issues. Speaking informally to employees, building respectful relationships and resolving issues is key to diffusing any festering bitterness. The challenge often lies in identifying the source of dissatisfaction. Overall, a poor work culture stoked with resentful feelings about management can adversely impact morale, loyalty and productivity.

At ESN, we strive to satisfy our clients by leveraging our people risk management expertise. Our consultants will listen, seek to understand and provide practical solutions to enhance a positive workplace culture. You can be confident of getting the best practice solution for your problem. Please feel free to contact us with your questions and queries.