Infographics are a convenient way to express information. I recently was sent one about warning signs of unhappy employees. However, I think all ten sentiments are way off base.
There’s so much information available today thanks to modern media it can be hard for any one person to stay focused, much less figure out what is true and false. Here at AccelaWork, one of our areas of interest is employee happiness and satisfaction. That’s not just because we prefer being happy to the alternative. It’s also because there is good science to show that people who feel good about work get more done.
So when the Philippines-based training company Guthrie Jensen sent over an infographic on warning signs of unhappy employees, I was happy to take a look. I let them know I disagreed with much of what it had to say, but they wanted us to run it anyway. Take a peek for yourself, and keep scrolling for some commentary:
Now that you’ve had a chance to see the ten items in the image, let’s review them. Are any of these warning signs of unhappy employees?
If an employee is late to work, that means one thing above all else: you care about when they arrive at work. Arriving at meetings on time is of course a hallmark of good character. But being “tardy” means that a person has an arrival time. Once again, work is not about working hours, but about results produced. You can’t be “tardy” to work if no one is watching the clock. And a good owner doesn’t care about arrival and departure times: they care about what is being accomplished. Increased tardiness isn’t a sign of employee unhappiness. It’s a sign of management treating employees like children.
Frequently Calling in Sick / Tired and Fatigued
There’s an extremely old principle called Occam’s Razor, which states that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. If an employee is calling in sick more often, the most likely reason is that they are sick. Perhaps they are under stress from challenges in their personal life. Or maybe they have a chronic condition. Assuming they are calling in sick because they are unhappy means that you are assuming the employee is lying to you.
Plus, there’s something even worse than absenteeism. That’s presenteeism: when people come to work sick and tired. Yuck!
Clocking Out Right on the Dot
See “increased tardiness” above. If you care about when employees are working instead of what they get done, you don’t trust them. And employees who finish in work at a high quality in less time are efficient.
This one might actually be a sign of reduced happiness at work if it weren’t for the rest of the infographic. Yes, people who are producing less may well be unhappy. But if they work in an environment where supervisors watch their arrival and departure times closely and don’t trust the employee to tell the truth about their illnesses, declining productivity is the least of their worries.
Doesn’t Care About Others / Unsociable
I’m combining these two together because they illustrate a common fallacy about work. We sometimes believe that everyone who is an employee needs to be like us, and like each other. In reality, forced fun is a gimmick. You don’t have to like your colleagues. You have to respect them. And if you’re trying to force them to be social, you aren’t really showing them much respect.
To see why this is not a sign of declining happiness, take a look at the rest of the text on the image. It reads: “There’s a sudden change in their attitude, ethics, or compliance with company rules.” That doesn’t sound like someone who is unhappy, it sounds like someone who has recognized that they are being treated unfairly. Plus, that’s not the definition of a professional anyway. A professional does what is right for their profession, regardless of what their boss or their company says.
Refusal to Collaborate
Working with other people is wonderful, but only if people want to work together. Saying “that employee refuses to collaborate” is like saying “that person refuses to volunteer.” It’s not collaboration if you’re being required to do it.
Plus, there are lots of people and lots of kinds of work that are better suited to individual efforts. What matters is results. If you get more done working alone, why should you be forced to work with other people?
If an employee isn’t interested in promotions, it doesn’t mean they aren’t happy. What it probably means is that they are happy with where they are. Not everyone is looking for career opportunities and chances to move up. Some people like having a steady job and taking care of their families. Other people find meaning outside of work. And some people don’t want to be promoted because they will lose the relationships or the responsibilities they currently have.
Just Because It’s an Infographic…
…doesn’t mean it’s correct. If you think your employees might be unhappy, ask them about it. And if you see these things happening at your firm, look at yourself before you look to blame someone else!