Insights and Opinions

Managing Disgruntled Employees

Disgruntled employees are something that us entrepreneurs have to deal with, more than we like. While we know every entrepreneur has to deal with it, the only time they make the headlines is the extreme situations. You know.guns, rampage, cars crashing through walls, that type of insanity. Thankfully, that is the vast minority of disgruntled-employee situations. And there is good news: you can tackle theses situation even before it escalates to even a minor situation-think public outburst or similar.

The problem with disgruntled employees is that they can pose a risk to your company. In addition to providing poor service, thus turning customers off, they may also create a negative working environment, creating stress within the company. Some disgruntled employees may purposely set out to cause whatever harm they can to the company, from spreading rumors to stealing money and equipment.

The sooner such a disgruntled-employee situation is addressed, the better. Here are five steps for accomplishing that.

1. Remain professional

Regardless of how the disgruntled employee behaves, it is important for you to always remain professional when handling the situation. Avoid yelling, swearing and stooping to their level. Remember that this is not usually personal, and that it needs to be handled in a professional manner, on behalf of the company.

2. Don't let it fester

When you first see that there is a problem, that is the time to address it. Noticing it and avoiding addressing it just gives the employee time for their attitude to fester. Nip it in the bud right away, before it can grow into a bigger problem. Also, after dealing with the disgruntled employee, don't let rumors build within the company. Take a moment to address that it has been taken care of and that it is time for everyone to refocus and get back to work.

3. Keep it private

Rather than confront a disgruntled employee in front of others, always take it to a more private setting, such as meeting in a conference room or private office. Addressing the situation in view of others will just cause the employee to become embarrassed, thus fueling their disgruntled fire. Part of being professional is handling the situation as a matter that needs to be addressed privately with that employee.

4. Document everything

Today, lawsuits sometimes happen for the most trivial of reasons. The best policy is to document everything that is taking place. Whatever the disgruntled employee has done that needed to be corrected should be documented, as should how you addressed it. Documenting everything, from warnings and discussions to termination of employment, if you have to go that far, will help to protect you and your company.

5. Don't empower them

If your disgruntled employee has the company stalled while everyone tries to deal with their drama, then they are being empowered. Do not give them that kind of power within your company. If there is a problem, have the most appropriate person address it, and keep everyone else on task. This way, the problematic individual also sees that the company is carrying on, independent of their disgruntled attitude.

If you feel that you may have an employee who could escalate the situation into a potentially dangerous one, don't hesitate to get assistance. While such situations are not all that common, it can happen, and your local authorities can help you to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Nobody wants to have to deal with disgruntled employees, but the sooner you do it, the better off your company will be. It is a situation that can create a lot of damage-from the inside out-if it isn't addressed in a timely and professional manner. Just keep these tips in mind, and you should have no problem addressing such situations in your business!

Jack K.N. Tsai is a member of the Tech Coast Angels, TiE Angel Silicon Valley + So Cal, and is also a guest lecturer at California State University Fullerton Mihaylo School of Business, where he teaches business finance as well as strategies for launching a business. As a serial entrepreneur, investor and advisor Tsai has shared his startup expertise with entrepreneurs around the globe. He blogs at