Solving Employee Problems
by Dera DeRoche-Jolet

Before you sit down with your employees for their annual review, talk with them periodically and informally during the year. By keeping the lines of communication open, there will be no surprises.

In fact, you’ll solve some problems and actually nip them in the bud before they get out of hand. You’ll wind up with happier employees who will work that much harder and be that much more productive through the rest of the year.

One major problem that often arises is an employee with poor morale. That employee is usually unhappy and dissatisfied. If not stopped, those feelings and that negative attitude will seep in among your other employees. The problem deserves your immediate attention.

Don’t worry about knowing about poor morale among your people. Employees are hard pressed to hide their feelings. You’ll become aware of it by observing and listening to them on the job. Typically, employees with poor morale do their work reluctantly, are overly critical of supervisors and management and complain that they are underpaid. A person who sees no future with the company also suffers from poor morale.

Regardless of how you handle a specific problem, it’s a win-win situation for everyone if you improve someone’s job morale. You have every reason as a supervisor, manager or boss, to deal with your employee and try to help them rather than simply firing them. Your time and money is invested already in this person. Getting rid of the person may not get rid of the problem. There just might be a problem within the company. In any case, if you are going to help employees with these problems, you must be genuinely interested in their welfare and be motivated yourself in helping them.

Let’s look at some specific problems and solutions.

An employee whose morale is low because of low wages. Your competition has increased, especially among the mass marketers and in order to hold down expenses, you’ve kept a tight control of salaries and benefits. Several of the other people working for you also feel that they should be paid more for what they do. One employee, an installer is particularly insistent about the money problem. Today, he told you that he was going to look into getting a job with another company if he didn’t get a substantial raise. You can’t afford giving him a raise but you hate to lose him.

What would you say to him? What should you do about the low morale in the office concerning salaries?

First, find out whether his salary is really below average for the work he does. Call your local association and compare his salary with what installers are making in other offices. If his pay is about the same or higher, point this out to him. If his salary is lower, look at other options.

Special treatment can often replace lower salaries. Why not give awards such as tickets to the theater or ballgames, meals at fine restaurants, or even a day off without pay for an employee who increases productivity or contributes a good idea? Comparatively, the cost of those types of rewards for the year is much less than if you gave everybody a raise.

Sometimes nothing except a raise will work. Employees will leave. In that case, wish them the best. You might have done the same thing if you were in their place.

An employee whose morale is low because of the poor chance of advancement.
First, find out what kind of work and position that person would like to do. Then, determine what obstacles, if any are in the way. Agree on a plan of action and set some goals.

In the meantime, reward him for good performance. Maybe you can give him a small promotion him with a raise in pay. A simple raise could make him feel that his present job has more status than he thought. You can justify a salary increase by giving him additional responsibilities and changing his job title.

Maybe he is discouraged because he is bored with the job or feels he has been left out of the company’s decision making. Challenge him to come up with solutions to problems you face. If you include him in company meetings he’ll also feel more committed to the job.

By taking the time to learn how your employees really feel about their work you can help them improve themselves. When you’re ready for the yearly employee evaluation, both the company and its employees will have benefited.