As an employer, avoiding unhappy staff and employee dissatisfaction should be one of your main goals. It is just as important as reaching growth or revenue targets. But do you really know the factors that can trigger unhappiness?

Causes of job dissatisfaction can often be attributed to a blend of issues surrounding career progression, daily tasks, company culture and leadership approaches. 

Here are some of the job dissatisfaction factors which may have an impact on how unhappy employees are at work, with helpful advice in the ways they can be remedied to increase retention and productivity.

Potential causes of job dissatisfaction and unhappy staff

1. Poor workplace relationships

On average, UK employees spend 34 hours at work each week, totalling 1,791 hours a year. When you consider this, it’s not surprising that job dissatisfaction might be caused by spending most of our time in an office environment, especially if that environment isn’t helping to fuel positivity.

The best way to counteract this particular cause of job dissatisfaction is to create opportunities within the office to make it a more enjoyable environment for unhappy employees — organise regular team lunches, work parties and team building activities to forge more positive relationships with one another, or perhaps introduce new office perks like a free fruit day or a casual wear day. By improving workplace positivity, it makes for a more likely environment that employees will look forward to and everyone should enjoy the place where they work and their colleagues!

2. Denial of empowerment or influence

Job satisfaction can often rest on how empowered an employee is made to feel within their role. They desire the opportunity to show their creativity or ingenuity and if they’re denied this by a superior, it can often lead to job dissatisfaction.

A happiness at work survey showed that only 35% of administrative workers and 34% of accounting professionals are given empowering opportunities at work. Only 40% of women feel they have influence and just 34% of workers aged 55 and up say they are empowered.

In an interview with, Rebecca Tully (executive sponsor for Human Capital and Diversity for Accenture) said: 

“…a workplace culture of equality is an overlooked driver of innovation within companies. By understanding what motivates their employees and fostering an environment where people feel empowered, business leaders have the opportunity to unleash the innovation required to compete effectively in an era of disruption.”

To prevent unhappy staff, turn attention back to your own leadership practices. Are you allowing your staff to take initiative or command influence within their role? Or are you maintaining full control at all times?

3. Lack of work-life balance

Burnout isn’t just a hindrance for project progression and productivity, it is also one of the major causes of employee dissatisfaction. In recent years, 595,000 workers admitted to suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, causing an estimated 5.4 million lost working days. Without a distinct line between work and home life, employees can quickly become overwhelmed and unable to switch off. 

To bring work-life balance back into a healthy equilibrium, employers have begun to offer flexible working as an employee benefit — our research has found it to be one of the most highly requested benefits by employees. You can also seek to avoid unhappy workers by encouraging them to take their full holiday allocation, to take lunch breaks, to finish work on time and no out of hours contact.

4. No growth prospects

When a planned career trajectory is derailed or delayed, employee dissatisfaction inevitably ensues. After all — no one wants to labour in a role only to remain stagnant within their career.

Robert Half has thousands of interactions with top talent each year, many of whom state they are most interested in working with an employer who wants to invest in their training and development. By taking the time to develop your team’s skills, you’re less likely to end up with unhappy staff.

Job satisfaction can also be increased within teams by regularly making time to meet with workers to discuss their career plan and to provide them with clear targets to work towards. This can be reinforced by endeavouring to promote existing staff for senior roles 

5. The work isn’t interesting or meaningful

When looking to identify the causes of job dissatisfaction, you may need to look to the tasks each employee is asked to perform. Employees who are engaged in work they consider ‘worthwhile’ are 3.2 times more likely to have job satisfaction. Employees should feel that they are contributing in a meaningful way but should also be interested in the tasks they’re asked to work on. 
Try aligning individual interests and career goals with the objectives of the company to avoid unhappy employees within your team. Sharing results can also contribute towards instilling pride and satisfaction in your workers, too — especially if they were personally responsible for achieving them. 

6. Feeling unappreciated

Job satisfaction factors also include the amount of recognition and praise an employee receives from management. A recent study by ADP showed that two thirds of UK workers don’t feel valued and many of them would consider leaving for a new opportunity because of this. 

Melanie Robinson, Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at ADP, told HRZone: “Ultimately it’s about investing in your people. With more years of service, employees will offer their companies more experience and skill and this should be recognised and valued, or employees can begin to lack purpose.”

In this instance, the remedy for unhappy workers can be something as simple as verbal praise, and even go as far as promotions, awards and salary increases.

Avoid job dissatisfaction and work happy

To find out more about the causes of job dissatisfaction and how to avoid unhappy workers, you can read the latest Salary Guide to find out which benefits and salary benchmarks are the most attractive.

Robert Half is one of the leading executive recruitment agencies. Send your CV to a specialist executive consultant or if you are looking to hire senior leadership then tell us your hiring needs.