How to encourage engagement & boost staff morale

Posted on Sep 11th, 2015 | Productivity

Clock watching, doing as little as possible, taking elongated breaks, pushing boundaries, backchatting, feeling unenthused, demotivated and miserable, not to mention the overwhelming sense of dread when the Monday morning alarm sounds… we’ve all worked in jobs we’ve hated at one time or another.

Whether it’s a temp job, career ladder position or long-term employment, being unhappy in the workplace is a very sad, lonely and isolating experience.

And yet we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t enjoy a good moan every now and then. Venting, whining and getting things off our chest is a method of connecting with people – rightly or wrongly, we want them to feel our pain.

A study in 2013 by Gallup found that 83% of employees were either not engaged or actively disengaged whilst at work – a concerning and unhealthy figure.

Further to this a 2010 study by Gallup found that disengaged employees cost the country between £52 billion and £70 billion per year. What can be done to reduce this deficit and install some cheerfulness?

Whether you employee one or one hundred employees, disgruntledness in the workplace can spread like rot on wood and, once it starts it can be hard to stop. This doesn’t mean to say you can’t take measures to relieve an infestation of miserable employees.

Refocus their energy

It may seem odd but if an employee is moaning, it shows they are still actively engaged with their job role and position within in the business. Sure, they might be sharing feelings of negativity – but would you rather they turned up for work every day without any opinions and simply went through the motions?

A technique to refocus energy would be to try and direct their feelings elsewhere – preferably into a positive force – by listening and mentoring. For example, lending an attuned ear or coaching an employee in an area they feel needs improvement.

Look for a solution

Solutions to problems are never easy to come by, especially when acting alone. Work together with the moaning employee to find a solution to their gripe. For example, can you develop a plan to support the employee? Is their issue or situation easily solvable? Do they need extra support or training on a specific area that will help alleviate their concerns?

Are you able to empower the employee? Giving an employee autonomy will allow them to feel like a valued team member and have a sense of pride in their work. Also explaining the ‘why’ behind projects or tasks can give the employee clarity and insight into the reasons behind what direction the business is heading.


It may sound like the obvious thing to do but, has anyone sat the employee down and intently listed to their thoughts? Or have people been brushing them aside? A study by Harvard Business Review found that one thing employees yearn for is a better connection with their manager – are you able to start to fulfil this by listening?

You may find that the disgruntled employee has some valid points and they have thoughts worth hearing on how the workplace could be improved. Some careful and considered one-on-one attention can go a long way. Avoid public confrontation and choose the moment for a private conversation wisely.

Ask questions

Listening is a fantastic tool, and asking questions is even better. Find out more about the employee. Are there other factors as to why the employee is unhappy in the workplace? Broach with caution, read the situation and ask appropriately – stay within company guidelines.


As a leader or manager, patience should already be one of the strongest weapons in your armoury. To turn the moaning employee into a model employee will take time. Patience will be your biggest virtue. For example, practicing empathy and seeing situations through the eyes of the employee will allow for an open conversation.

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Written by Claire Beveridge

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