8 Causes of Job Dissatisfaction & How to Combat It

Written by Andrea Boatman
9 minutes read

Job dissatisfaction has a negative impact on your organization’s performance. So how do you spot the signs, and how do you overcome the causes of job dissatisfaction at your workplace? This article walks you through it.

What is job dissatisfaction?
Signs of job dissatisfaction in the workplace
How job dissatisfaction affects your organization
8 common causes of job dissatisfaction and ways to address them

What is job dissatisfaction?

Job dissatisfaction is when employees’ expectations for their job are not met. This leaves them with negative perception and lack of motivation and commitment to their work and the organization. This, in turn, affects the performance of the organization and ultimately, its bottom line. Discontent can arise from many factors, including a negative work environment, poor management, lack of recognition, and low wages.

Signs of job dissatisfaction in the workplace

There are many behaviors that employees can display when they are dissatisfied with their jobs. Here are some of the typical indicators:

Lack of interest and enthusiasm – People will seem disinterested in their jobs and not put much energy into completing their tasks. You may notice that they are easily distracted by their phones, chatting with coworkers, wandering from their workspace, or even daydreaming. They may also spend extra time attending to personal business while at work or express a sense of boredom with their duties.

Procrastination – Employees who avoid their work may be silently wishing it would just go away. Someone who is dissatisfied with their job may wait until the last minute to complete tasks and then make excuses for why they didn’t do it earlier. When someone invests minimal time into preparing for and carrying out their work, the results will likely be mediocre.

Tardiness and absenteeism – People who aren’t satisfied with their jobs aren’t motivated to carry out their responsibilities. You might notice that an employee has irregular arrivals and departures from work or often calls in sick. Instead of being at work and on time, a dissatisfied employee may wish to stay home and escape what they don’t enjoy. All of this translates into increased absenteeism rates.

Declining performance – When employees aren’t devoted to their jobs, they are bound to put in less effort, resulting in less output. Without investing their full knowledge and abilities into their work, it can take them an hour to do what they used to do in 30 minutes. Instead of putting their best foot forward, they may take on a nonchalant attitude and do only the bare minimum.

Stress and negativity – Every job will have tense moments, but dissatisfied employees are likely to be stressed out on a regular basis. Those with low contentment will feel negative about their jobs and the workplace and become irritable. They may complain more often about projects, managers, clients, or coworkers.

How job dissatisfaction affects your organization

When workers are unsatisfied with their jobs, it impacts your organization. The more widespread employee job dissatisfaction is, the more it will hit your bottom line. Some discontented employees will resign, but others will stay and just be unhappy.

Here’s a look at the consequences you may experience from job dissatisfaction in your workplace:

Disengagement – Employees who are not satisfied in their jobs are not emotionally connected or dedicated to their employer, so they become disengaged. Decreased employee engagement means an employee won’t go the extra mile or think outside the box to best support the organization.

Decreased productivity – Low output of individual employees harms the productivity of your organization. Dissatisfied employees are more apt to discuss their unhappiness than focus on their duties. This can distract their coworkers and spread a negative attitude. They may also fail to pay attention to details and produce substandard work.

Increased turnover – Although it may seem like the best solution for dissatisfied, unproductive employees is to have them leave, you risk losing high performers. Turnover is also costly. If your turnover rates start to increase, more dissatisfaction can spread and affect employee retention.

Unfavorable impact on business reputation – Your employees’ performance, actions, and behaviors are a reflection of your organization. Unhappy employees may not make an effort to be cordial. They may even speak or act in ways that give customers, competitors, and job applicants a negative perception of the company.

8 common causes of job dissatisfaction and ways to address them

The reasons for job dissatisfaction are numerous. Nonetheless, if you confront potential sources with corrective action, you can work toward preventing the problem altogether. Being alert to and seeking remedies for the following job dissatisfaction factors will help your organization build a satisfying work environment:

1. Lack of appreciation

All human beings have an inherent longing to feel appreciated in both our personal and professional lives. Feeling valued at work goes beyond just recognition for performance. People want to believe they have worth as employees and colleagues because they are esteemed for who they are as a person.

Without knowing their presence matters, they can lose their sense of purpose within the organization and become dissatisfied with their job. A Glassdoor survey showed that 53% of employees believe that receiving more appreciation from their boss would make them stay longer with their employer.

Here are some ideas for creating a culture of appreciation in your workplace:

  • Encourage managers to express a friendly and attentive interest toward their staff and be willing to genuinely listen. Routinely checking in with them lets them know they are noticed.
  • Managers should show appreciation for employees with in-the-moment verbal praise to honor each person’s skills, ideas, and opinions.
  • Root out favoritism.
  • Implement an employee appreciation program or re-evaluate your existing one. Include methods for peers to nominate and highlight each other. Periodic rewards, such as free lunches, workplace events, or group outings, will acknowledge employees and promote camaraderie.

Causes of Job Dissatisfaction

2. Being or feeling underpaid

While pay rate alone doesn’t guarantee contentment, believing you are underpaid can contribute to job dissatisfaction. If an employee thinks their compensation doesn’t match their work performance, they will feel undervalued. They may also blame their job for any financial difficulties they’re facing. A new opportunity with higher pay can easily entice someone to leave their current job.

Does your organization offer competitive salaries that are at least at the market rate? If not, it’s time to propose a new pay structure and consider salary increases. Devise a payroll and compensation strategy that offers performance bonuses and promotions to support employees’ career trajectories.

If your organization is not in a position to raise wages, you could look for creative ways to reward employees, such as:

  • Bonuses tied to targets and profitability
  • Employee discounts for your product or service
  • Flexible work days/hours
  • Longer lunch breaks
  • Extra vacation day

3. Inadequate management

The relationship employees have with management is a significant contributor to how they feel about their jobs. When employees don’t like how they’re being supervised or don’t trust their managers, their loyalty starts to unravel. Then they are less likely to be satisfied in their roles and can even become dissident.

Managers who have poor leadership skills can harm the success of your business. People want to be led with straightforward instructions. Uncertainty and lack of direction are often sources of frustration in the workplace. Conversely, employees who are inspired by their leaders will be more invested in their work.

Supporting managers’ development should be a high priority for every organization. Be sure to have policies in place and training for your managers that include an emphasis on these areas:

  • Setting clear short and long-term goals with instructions for meeting expectations
  • Practicing and promoting open, inclusive communication and being transparent with information
  • Championing professional growth of employees
  • Providing consistent, individual feedback that emphasizes positive attributes and coaches problem areas
  • Offering autonomy and trusting employees while refraining from micromanagement

4. Limited career growth prospects

The hope of career advancement lies within most people’s work aspirations. Interest in a current job will increase when it offers some potential to look forward to. On the other hand, when employees see their growth opportunities stall or vanish, it can foster job dissatisfaction. Feeling stagnant can send workers right out the door to better prospects.

Employees feel empowered when their employer demonstrates a nurturing environment for career growth and success. Managers should set aside time with their staff specifically for getting to know what each person envisions for their career. They should also help map out a plan for attaining their goals.

Within your organization, you can reinforce career development by providing the following types of opportunities:

  • Internal mobility
  • Training and development offerings
  • Supporting side projects
  • Promoting from within
  • Mentoring programs

5. Lack of training and development options

Many people purposely seek employment with a company that is willing to invest in the learning and development of its employees. Helping staff grow can motivate them to do better in their jobs and be more devoted to the organization. In addition, feeling encouraged and set up for career advancement can help employees feel more satisfied with their current role.

Successful companies understand the value of a training and development plan, so they allocate the required resources. For example, you may see the need for more training at your organization, but a generous budget isn’t feasible. In that case, there are methods for developing employees that don’t require substantial funds, such as:

Online learning: Training sessions and webinars are available for a vast number of topics and allow people the flexibility of working at their own pace during the most suitable time for them.

Peer-to-peer learning: This option allows employees to learn skills from their peers with direct and personal support during in-person, phone, or online sessions.

Cross-training: Employees can be exposed to different roles and learn new techniques as they learn how to perform their colleagues’ tasks.

Job shadowing: This opportunity allows people to explore a particular job that they are interested in by following and observing someone already in the role as they go about their duties.

Performance coaching: This on-the-job collaboration between employees and their managers or among employees promotes learning and improving skills while discussing the interactions that occur within the scope of their job.

6. Workplace relationships

The correlation between work relationships and employee satisfaction cannot be overstated. Even if the job itself isn’t ideal, a tight-knit team can make people happy to come to work. On the other hand, a toxic workplace can ruin an otherwise fulfilling job. Coworkers don’t have to be best friends, but they should at least be relaxed and comfortable with each other.

Take a close look at your workplace culture to identify potential improvements, especially if employees are making complaints. For example, do managers address tensions between staff members? Does an employee’s rude or bullying behavior toward others need to be confronted?

Teambuilding activities or scheduling time to play games and just hang out can encourage employees to bond, find commonalities, and form trustworthy, positive relationships. Finding ways for employees to connect as people will liven up the environment, promote teamwork, and contribute to your employees’ overall job satisfaction.

7. Work-life balance

Full-time workers spend most of their day at work, but everyone needs time to focus on their family, friends, hobbies, and other responsibilities. Employees can feel overwhelmed if there isn’t a clear-cut distinction between their work and personal lives. If your organization doesn’t recognize how important it is for employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance, you’ll be dealing with burnout and low job dissatisfaction.

Showing people that the business cares enough to prioritize their well-being goes a long way in preventing employee job dissatisfaction. Try these ideas that can better accommodate your staff’s lives outside of work:

  • Limit overtime expectations
  • Ask for volunteers before allocating travel, holiday work, and special assignments
  • Provide consistency with fixed scheduling for hourly workers
  • Offer people choices with flexible hours and remote work options
  • Encourage everyone to take advantage of their paid time off benefits

8. Job isn’t interesting or meaningful

People seek employment that is inspiring and fulfilling. They can easily lose interest in a job they believe isn’t challenging enough or doesn’t make a significant contribution.

Tedious tasks are often job dissatisfaction factors. When technology can help streamline or modernize record-keeping and other processes, it reduces the time employees must devote to dull job duties. This leaves more room for the work employees find worthwhile.

Revamping certain positions is another remedy. When you employ job design strategies like job enrichment and job rotation and utilize the job characteristics model, it is possible to create innovative roles that both support business goals and satisfy employees.

A sense of pride is instilled when employees believe they are personally responsible for contributing to the organization in a meaningful way.

Concluding thoughts

Employers don’t always get it right, and job dissatisfaction is a common workplace problem. However, once you take the initiative to determine what causes job dissatisfaction at your organization, you can prepare and implement strategies to overcome it. Don’t forget to always gather your employees’ feedback to make sure you’re using the right methods to combat job dissatisfaction.

Striving for a fully engaged and satisfied workforce is the best way HR leaders can support business success.

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Andrea Boatman

Andrea Boatman is a former SHRM certified HR manager with a degree in English who now enjoys combining the two as an HR writer. Her previous positions were held with employers in the education, healthcare, and pension consulting industries.

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