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How to Manage a Disgruntled Employee

Part of your job as a leader is to manage disgruntled employees.

You cannot ignore a person’s issues or concerns…or this individual might create negative energy on your team or may even leave your company for a new job.

So, what can you do?

How can you get this person to move on from being upset to being motivated once again?

Just last week, I had a chat with my client Leanne about this exact issue.

Her team member Peter has been with their organization for five years and believes that he is due for a promotion. He was extremely upset when one of his peers, who started a year after him, got promoted in January.

Here are the facts about Peter:

  • He has an excellent work ethic
  • He is very good at his job
  • He is highly trust-worthy
  • He is well liked

Yes, Peter is a star performer. Yet, at this time, Peter is also very disgruntled. He would like to be promoted but it just isn’t happening fast enough for him.

Here is the issue.

Leanne and Peter work for a small organization. She can’t give him a promotion because the opportunity just doesn’t exist at this time. Leanne wants Peter to stay on her team. She wants more than anything else to promote him, but the decision is out of her hands. It is not hers to make.

So, I’ll share with you the two tools that Leanne implemented to have a very productive conversation with Peter so as to minimize his disappointment.

TOOL 1:  Feelings and Facts

How to implement this tool:

  • Divide a page in half – a shared white board on ZOOM works extremely well for remote conversations
  • On the left side of the page write the word FACTS and on the right side of the page write the word FEELINGS
  • Together, you and your disgruntled employee then write a list of all the “facts” associated with their issue. You then type a list of their feelings associated with the issue.

TOOL 2: The Sphere of Influence

How to implement this tool:

  • Draw two circles on a page
  • In circle one, write the words “In my sphere of influence”
  • In circle two, write the words, “Out of my sphere of influence”
  • Discuss what is “In” and “Out” of the disgruntled person’s sphere of influence


This activity moves people from worry, fear and anger to a place of positive action. It provides clarity on where the disgruntled person can and should be focusing their time and energy.

Do you have someone on your team who is disgruntled or upset about something right now?

If so, be sure to manage the issue right away.

Feel free to try one of the above tools so as to have a balanced and productive conversation.

Vanessa Judelman

Vanessa Judelman is an author, coach, and sought-after leadership expert. Over the past 20 years, she has created a proven formula to develop results-oriented leaders who feel empowered and confident in their job. Vanessa is the author of Mastering Leadership: What It Takes to Lead in Today’s Fast-Paced World. Order your copy here.

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