10 Ways To Identify A Frustrated Employee

Benefits Of The Sun
Are your employees frustrated?

Has an employee come up to you all worked up and frustrated?

If they have then you’re lucky.

Usually employees won’t always voice their frustrations. Instead, they keep things inside or act out in different ways. Or they just get fed up and leave.

I’m thinking back to my own actions when I was an employee. I wasn’t one to voice my concerns if the culture didn’t seem to foster it. I probably could have spoken up, but I didn’t at the time.

Now as a manager I try to look at the situation from both sides. I try to spot frustrations before they begin. I definitely don’t succeed all the time, but I’m working on it.

I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve come across that seem to help situations where employees are frustrated.

1. They Tell You Outright (Do You Hear Them?)

We’ll start with this one.

I said that employees won’t often voice their frustrations, but some definitely will. The thing with managers and bosses, though, is that they don’t always interpret this type of feedback the right way.

It’s difficult to respond to outbursts, but that’s how an employee might come to you. They might have something bugging them and it builds up until they explode all at once.

That’s not the best way to communicate, but it’s what happens and as a boss it’s hard to see past the outburst.

But that’s what you need to do. You have to see what the problem is and assess whether or not action needs to be taken. Usually some kind of action needs to be taken whether it’s fixing a process, fixing something physical like machinery, helping the employee or explaining something.

Sometimes communication is all that’s needed, but you have to understand the problem.

2. They Stop Reaching Out To You

If things start getting really quiet with employees then it could be a sign that they’re resigning to the fact that they will never be heard and that things will never change.

I definitely see this as part of my own personality. Some people are more outgoing and others keep things in. I tend to get quiet when things are bothering me. It’s not the best way to react, but I do it and I know that some others do as well.

As the boss, it’s important to keep tabs on the pulse of each individual that works for you. If there is a change in their behavior, like if they stop reaching out to you, then it’s a warning sign that something might be wrong.

If you haven’t had a conversation in awhile with someone then make the effort to reach out to see how things are going.

3. They Complain To Co-workers

If employees don’t feel like they can come to you then they might be going to their co-workers. There is a culture in some places of complaining and we often complain about our lives to our peers. We feel that they will understand us. It can be a healthy way to vent. Just a little steam blowing off, but sometimes it can become poison in the culture.

The best way to keep tabs on this pulse is to have good relationships with your employees. Make sure they feel that they can talk to you about anything including if other employees (doesn’t even have to be specific) are complaining.

4. They Complain To Clients & Partners

This is one that builds on the last one, but it might be worse. Your employees are complaining to clients and partners. This might occur if your employee feels like they can’t talk to anyone within the company.

It’s common for people to form good relationships with colleagues at other companies. They often share their feelings and sometimes if things are frustration they’ll express negative feelings and frustrations to others outside the company.

The best way to see if this is happening is to have good relationships with your clients and partners. If you’re not in direct contact with them yourself then ask your employee about the relationship and keep tabs on the pulse of things.

5. They Show Up Late

Sometimes when employees are frustrated it starts affecting how much they care about work. One way this can start to show is that they show up late. They might even leave early. Basically they’re frustrated and they figure if their boss doesn’t care about the state of the business then they don’t have to care either.

Be careful on this one. Don’t go in making accusations. Communicate with the employee and see what’s really going on and figure out the best solution. Listen instead of accusing.

6. They Do Only What You Ask

Sometimes you’ll hire a great employee. They do what you ask and take the initiative to do more. But this can be risky because if the culture is wrong this type of wonderful employee can feel unappreciated and after awhile they’ll begin to do only what’s asked.

For this type of employee you have to make sure that they are appreciated and have the freedom to do more. You can set certain guidelines and core values, but give this person their freedom and celebrate their achievements. Also keep lines of communication open to avoid frustration as much as possible.

7. They Do Less Than What You Ask

This one builds on the last one and is obviously a sign of frustration. It goes back to the employee thinking that others, especially those higher up, don’t care about the work so they in turn don’t care either. They start doing less than what is asked and things can really take a bad turn in this instance.

This is a warning sign that you’ll probably notice. Again, don’t go in assuming things. Just ask questions and figure out what’s really going on.

8. They Bring Others Down

Sometimes an employee gets frustrated and they’re not sure how to act. They don’t want to complain about the management or the business in general. Their outlet might become others in the company. They start making sharp comments about the performance of others. They start taking jabs that are personal and things like that.

It might start as no big deal, but this can be poisonous¬†over time. If you see that this culture is starting to build it’s something you want to nip in the bud and get to the bottom of. It might be the result of one or two employees that are frustrated with the way things are going with the company.

9. They Start Making Little Mistakes (They Forget About The Details)

When things are frustrating it wears on our mind. It consumes our brain power. That can lead to little mistakes and missing little details.

You might have a great employee that is frustrated. They’re still doing all their work. They’re treating people well including you, but their work starts slipping. They start making little errors that normally they would never make.

If that’s happening it could be a sign that they’re frustrated with something relating to the business. Talk to them and figure out what’s bothering them. Solving the frustration could lead to better work performance.

10. They Leave

There’s not much you can do when the frustrated employee walks in your office and lets you know that they’re leaving. It’s probably too late to fix things with that individual, but you can communicate and learn why they left. Then you can go to work on your culture and work to prevent it from happening in the future.


Communication is not easy. I know it’s not my best trait. But any relationship is defined by communication. That communication comes in many forms. Part of good relationships, including with your employees, is listening to what they’re saying and also listening to how they’re acting.

If something is indicating that they’re frustrated it’s something you want to jump on right away. Hopefully the tips above will help you notice issues before they become real problems.

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