Are you the boss that is to blame?
A recent report published by Expert Market has uncovered the unsavoury truth behind employee unhappiness caused by toxic workplaces.
The study asked more than 2,000 workers for their thoughts on workplace unhappiness and its causes, with some worrying findings.
According to the Expert Market study, 52% of respondents named their boss as the biggest cause of unhappiness at work.
In more astonishing (and frankly terrifying) news, one in ten employees are so disillusioned and unhappy with their bosses that they claim to have imagined killing them.
The news gets worse for certain industries. 22% of employees in construction, the worst-affected sector, had imagined killing their boss. The same is true of 15% of workers in media & communications roles, and 14% of science and tech roles.
Despite the bad rap that managers get, it’s not always management that’s behind employee unhappiness at work – there are other factors at play.
Unhappiness could also be a symptom of low employee engagement, as is low productivity. Low engagement can be caused by any number of things: unmanageable workload, unpleasant work environment, clashes with colleagues, or issues from outside the workplace that are hard to shake off.
Fortunately, there are ways for employers to improve engagement levels through different initiatives, ranging from the simple and easily-applicable through to revolutionary structural reform.
One simple way to improve engagement amongst employees is to demonstrate that you are willing to listen to them about important workplace issues. Developing an environment in which your employees feel that they can communicate and engage in dialogue about important issues helps to develop trust. Look to “Maslow’s Hierarchy of employee engagement” to make sure you’re getting it right from the ground up.
In worst-scenarios, however, toxicity can also be brought into the workplace through poor recruitment. Hiring the workers who aren’t a good fit for your role or working environment can cause unrest or unhappiness amongst your team members.
How to combat employee unhappiness
So how can you avoid the sort of atmosphere which leads to this degree of employee unhappiness?
The first step may be to assess your managerial style; if you’re guilty of over-working, under-recognising, ignoring or micro-managing your employees, it’s time to reconsider how you engage and interact with them.
Another theme that emerged as a contributor to a toxic workplace was workload, under various guises. 57% of workers felt under pressure to work outside of working hours (while 81% of respondents estimated they were working four-six unpaid hours per week on top of their contracted hours).
Excessive workload is also estimated to cause the loss of up to 12.5 million working days each year, according to the report.
As such, protecting employees from overwork and emphasising the importance of true work-life balance could help to reduce the pressures which may lead to burnout.
Ultimately, it’s important to note that the Expert Market survey doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Other studies have looked at causes of employee happiness or unhappiness at work, and bad management is often cited.
Adjusting managerial styles and making sure there is consistency across the board can help to improve employee relations. Knowing what you can do to reduce stress for your staff, and knowing when is the right time to do it, is useful, to build up your confidence and be a positive leadership force.