Having to deal with frustrated team members is an unfortunate part of leadership. Generally, frustrated people are unhappy people.
Frustration in the workplace doesn’t go away by itself, and can get worse. Unhappy team members rarely do their best work and frustration may be a sign that your team has a problem. Read on to learn how to deal with frustration in the workplace and in your team.
What Frustration in the Workplace Looks Like
To understand how to deal with frustration in the workplace, you need to find it. It’s not hard to see signs of frustration when you know what to look for.
1. Frustrated team members have emotional outbursts
Most people try to remain calm for long periods before they become frustrated enough to let it show. The emotions build gradually, with every frustrating event increasing the chance of a blow up.
Eventually, it erupts in often explosive emotion.
2. Frustrated people stop trying
Amy used to try to improve things in your team. She used to come up with great ideas and was extremely proactive. That all stopped and you didn’t notice it at the time. Now she simply gets on with her work and goes home.
Sometimes you can tell she doesn’t agree with you, but she doesn’t bother speaking up any more.
3. Frustrated team members become less productive
Frustrated team members spend more time in damage control mode than happy employees. Damage control is about making themselves feel better, and one way that this takes places is by venting with other team members.
If you notice your team members having more private closed-door conversations, it could be a sign that you have some frustrated people on your hands.
When your team is spending time venting, remember…they aren’t working.
4. Frustrated people become cynical
“We’ve tried this before and it didn’t work.”
“These meetings are so pointless.”
“That’s just the way things are around here.”
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, cynical team members are common in the workplace, but it’s best to try not to have them in your team!
Now that we know the problems, the next step in how to deal with frustration in the workplace is to find the source.
Common Sources of Frustration in the Workplace
It’s far better to have a frank discussion with a team member than to guess at the source of frustration. However, here are some common sources I’ve noticed in others and experienced personally myself throughout my career.
- Communication problems. People aren’t communicating effectively in your team, resulting in misunderstandings and wasted effort.
- Lack of rewards and recognition. Team members that feel as if they aren’t being rewarded or acknowledged for good work begin to think that it’s a waste of time.
- Limited career progression. Sometimes people are frustrated by the limited opportunity for promotions in their team. Look for ways to give them opportunities to develop, even if they can’t get a promotion right now.
- Process problems. Inefficient, slow processes can be a cause of frustration. “This is a waste of my time, there is an easier way!”
- Not being heard. When a team member makes the effort to speak up with improvement ideas without any of them being accepted, frustration is sure to follow. “Why bother?”
How to Fix Your Team Frustration Problems
Now you’re aware of the source of frustration in your team. What can you do about it? Unfortunately, you won’t be able to resolve every instance of frustration in your team.
1. Address the Frustration Directly
When you notice someone frustrated in your team, don’t play a guessing game. Have a direct discussion about what you’re noticing in their behaviour.
Ask them lots of questions to understand the true source of frustration and let them vent with your for a little while. Empathise with their situation.
You may hear some uncomfortable truths, but this will be helpful in the long run.
2. Understand the Frustration Quickly
When you notice frustration in your team, don’t wait until it goes away by itself. It might not. Even worse, it may have your team member running for the door and you’ll never even get a chance to fix it!
Meet with your frustrated team member quickly. You don’t need to fix the source of frustration immediately, but you do need to show your team that you are aware of the issue and you want to start doing something about it.
3. Be Honest With Your Team
The worst thing you can do to a team member is to give them a false promise of change, especially if the source of frustration is out of your direct control to solve. This may keep people in your team for longer, but may result in frustration levels rising further.
Eventually, you will lose credibility as they realise you don’t mean what you say.
4. Find the Root Cause and Generate Solutions
Work with your team member (and perhaps your whole team) to move towards a solution to the frustration problem.
Use a simple tool like the “5 Whys” to work out the root cause of your frustration issue. Then generate solutions to fix the root cause, not just the symptoms.
5. Take Swift Action
Once you understand the root causes and have a way forward to fix it, act fast.
Remember that for you, it might not be a big problem, but for your frustrated team member it will be at the front of their mind.
The most important thing is to show that you are moving towards a solution that will improve the situation in your team. Otherwise, you’ll just lose credibility and respect.
How have you dealt with frustration in your team, or personally? Leave a comment below!
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