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Disgruntled Employees and How to Make Them Gruntled

5 easy ways to flip your employees back to gruntled

Yes, I did have to google if gruntled really was a word. It is and it’s a good thing. We want to work as hard as we can to have a gruntled staff. Disgruntled staffing is a real problem! Disgruntled employees are not happy, satisfied or very productive. Why would they be? They’re disgruntled!

How do you deal with an unhappy, disengaged, unproductive or combative employee? Truth be told, there is not one recipe to fix everyone’s problems, but as a restaurant leader, it is your job to figure out how to keep your staff happy and gainfully employed! Here are 5 easy ways to flip your employees back to gruntled.


People speak for a reason. Home life, social life, hobbies, sleep, diet and work are very difficult to keep balanced. When your employees have imbalances in any of those, it can affect their performance, and as a leader, it is your job to help them. And I know what you are thinking, and you are right, you aren’t their counselor or therapist but listening and trying to understand their perspective is imperative for a harmonious work environment.


It is okay to be a little short-handed for a shift for a short while. Obviously, this is not something that should be a normal occurrence, and if it is, you will need to address that with disciplinary action as necessary. However, if you have an employee that is a solid performer that is crushing it all of the time in their role but just seem super off, this may be a time to give a little slack. Some employees prefer to work through their stress, but others need some time to themselves and feel such a sense of duty that they won’t ask for the time off for themselves. This is a delicate balance but is easiest to do when you spend time with and around your employees. Constant turnover and lack of engagement are symptoms of not knowing your employees.


Go grab a coffee or a quick lunch once in a while with an employee. As a leader, ensure that you have proper boundaries — as a 2am cocktail in a hotel lobby is probably a poor decision.You could call it something like “coffee (or lunch) with Nate” (or insert your name if you would rather not have me meet your staff and treat us to coffee and/or lunch) and make sure all employees get to experience it. Spread word that you are available for comfortable chats to humanize your employees outside of their work setting. When people are at work, they are literally working to perform a role that they are paid for. When people are outside of work, they naturally feel more at ease because their presence isn’t tied to a dollar sign. Enrich your community by going to different local experiences and meeting more neighbors.


Talk is cheap. Action is expensive in comparison but the dollar price can be negligible. Invest in the conversations that you have with your employees and follow through. If an employee is complaining, figure out why and address it. There is nothing more frustrating that constantly requesting a change and only getting lip-service. One of many reasons that I left a job once was because of this frustration. I was working for a large company doing a customer service role and one of the websites we were listed on had an incorrect phone number. I spent a year-and-a-half trying to chase down who could help me fix it. I didn’t have the same of like Liam Neesan in Taken but every couple of weeks I would give it a go to always end up with similar roadblocks. I went up every channel possible through my work environment. I discussed it with coworkers who had spent years at the company. I brought it up several times to direct and indirect supervisors and even had several meetings with a few tech people in different countries. As this was just one website of many listing our phone number, no one seemed to have it as a priority except me. I needed more leaders involved to help me make that change! Be that leader to your employees.


I can’t stress this enough. You need to listen to your employees. Without great employees, you do not have a great business. You can’t have great employees if they are disgruntled. Conversations are how we communicate best and most employees (and humans) are very guarded with their words. It will take time to find how best to communicate with them. Practice, practice, practice.  Too many owners and restaurant leaders have lost their ability to listen to their employees because a 75% yearly turnover rate makes that a tiresome experience to repeat with new humans. The more you listen, the less time you will have to spend learning new names with different personalities because they will stay around. People don’t leave jobs; they leave poor leadership.


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