What Is Job Dissatisfaction?

Job dissatisfaction is something every employer should consider when evaluating the experience of the employees. Job dissatisfaction includes feeling unsatisfied at work, feeling stale, stagnant and unhappy, experiencing a lack of purpose or progression and/or a desire to start looking for opportunities outside the company.

What Happens When Employees Are Dissatisfied With Their Job?

If an employer is invested in their employees, checks in often to see how they are doing and really knows and understands them, they will often be able to identify when an employee is dissatisfied with their job. Employers have the opportunity to resolve these problems before they become bigger issues that cause an employee to leave. Here is what happens when an employee is dissatisfied with their job:

  • Decreased productivity. Employees who are dissatisfied are not as productive. They may feel burnout and have a lack of motivation to perform well.
  • Increased mistakes. When employees are dissatisfied with their job, they stop putting forth quality work and aren’t as worried about the consequences. They are distracted and may have spiralling thoughts about the future.
  • Negative view of the company. Dissatisfied employees may try to talk to their friends at work about the feelings they are having. They want to feel validated that what they are experiencing, whatever it may be, is real. They wonder if other people are experiencing the same issues with their jobs at the company.

Causes of Job Dissatisfaction

The Human Resource Management Textbook says, “Managers often try to change their compensation packages to keep people from leaving, when compensation isn’t the reason they are leaving at all.” While pay may be a factor in your employee deciding to leave, don’t automatically assume this is the cause.

Lack of Growth

One major cause of job dissatisfaction is a lack of growth. If an employee feels that they are not learning anything, gaining new skills or being effectively utilized, they can begin to feel discouraged. Perhaps it has been a long time since they received a promotion or a well-deserved raise. Employees want a career path. People don’t like the unknown. They want to know where they are headed and if they have a reputable future with your company.


Leadership can be a huge influence in an employee’s decision to stay or leave a job. Controlling or unyielding managers can force undue pressure on an employee to meet unrealistic expectations. Employees in this situation may feel that they are required to put their personal life as second priority to their work life. A strict or forceful culture can leave employees feeling helpless and uncomfortable. They may question their job security after bringing up problems and not being met with understanding and empathy.


We all know what burnout feels like. We’ve all experienced it at one point or another. Burnout is normal and can sometimes lead to healthy change and growth. However, burnout is a problem when it affects the mental and physical health of the employee to the point of no resolution. Burnout may occur in jobs with long hours, emotionally taxing tasks and hard physical labor. When an employee has a difficult experience at work, it’s important for a manager to reach out to them. Find an opportunity to check in, see if they are alright and coach them. Give employees time off after an important deadline. Encourage them to practice necessary self care.


Right along with leadership, the culture of a company is critical in an employee’s job satisfaction. Companies that don’t prioritize compliance or  that tolerate harassment may make employees feel unsafe at work. Strict rules and expectations may make an employee feel suffocated. Changes in policies that are not fully explained can be discouraging to employees. Employees want to be in a job where they feel happy, productive, fulfilled and safe. They want to find joy out of contributing. They want to know that their employee values their lives and gives them opportunities for a healthy work-life balance.

Signs of Job Dissatisfaction

We talked about what happens when an employee is dissatisfied. Here are some additional signs to look out for.


An employee who is not satisfied at work will start slacking on their performance. They may show up to work late, miss deadlines, make simple errors and fail to communicate. They may break rules or spend little time actually working. This is the point when the employee does not care about the future of his or her job. Let’s take care of our employees before they get to that point!

Lack of Engagement

If an individual who is normally engaged and talkative in meetings is suddenly withdrawn and distracted, you could have a dissatisfied employee. Perhaps they stop attending company events and activities. They may stop speaking up about things that are important to them or volunteering for opportunities they would normally jump on. This is where it’s important to know your employees. Look out for changes in behavior and be empathetic to what an employee might have going on.

Job Searching

When an employee is dissatisfied, they will most likely not want to stay in their current work environment. They will begin to look for other employment. If an employee is suddenly missing work for many appointments, they could be interviewing for a new job. They may be curious about other companies and other opportunities. They may put some feelers out to see what their potential for growth is at your company.

How Do I Address Job Dissatisfaction in the Workplace?

Job dissatisfaction is a hard issue to navigate and one that requires patience, caution, humility and empathy. Remember that even though it may seem like just one disgruntled employee, that employee could be the future success of your company.


One characteristic of a great company culture is transparency. Companies that are open and honest about their decisions, policy changes, layoffs and metrics have employees who trust the company and trust their leaders. Employees won’t have to question their job security and will ask for clarification about policies they may not fully understand.

Open Door Policy

An open door policy is so important for a healthy company culture. Employees want to have a voice and they want to feel that their voice will be heard. Always be compassionate and empathetic when an employee explains a concern, even if it’s something you don’t agree with. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the individual. Although you may not be able to change the circumstances of a situation, you can help an employee feel that they are valued. Offer to help them in any way that you can. Try for compromises and solutions and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Third Party

When problems arise with an employee that you cannot solve, consider asking for the help of a third party. The HR department can often act as this third party. If necessary, companies can enlist the help of an arbitrator outside of the company to come in and help resolve an issue. Learn to identify when the situation needs another perspective.

Offer Opportunities for Growth

Give your employees answers to their many questions about their future. Discuss their personal goals with them and tell them about the opportunities you see for them in the future. Take chances to compliment them on their achievements and give feedback as often as you can. Allow them to learn from each other and work in other departments when possible. Provide learning initiatives to read books and take classes. Show your employees that you care about them even if they decide to leave the company.