6 Ways To Grow Unhappy, Resentful Employees


Once you hire smart local talent it becomes your job to train that local talent and give them the tools they’ll need to succeed on your team. That is your job as their new employer – to increase their skill-level and make them more well-rounded in their field. If you can’t do this, you will not only grow unhappy and frustrated employees, but you’ll lose money when you send them away and then need to replace them.

You do not want to do this. You do not want to fail at training.

As I’ve been on both sides of this situation, I thought I’d share some ways employers relatively fail at training and how you can suck less to grow happier, better-functioning employees. Because most times, when an employee doesn’t work, it’s because of something YOU did. Not them.

Got a pen?

1. The Company Never Defines Business Goals

During the interview process you gave the candidate the quick rundown of who you are, what you’re doing and what you plan to accomplish over the next 10 years. If the candidate is smart, they probably even did some Google-stalking to get to know your business a little better. But now they are part of your business. It’s time for another sit down to explain your business goals, the purpose behind your methodology, and what the company’s main objective is. I’m not saying they need to be present for a 3-day retreat while you outline your business strategy, but at least give them the bullet points. Give them the information they need to understand how their time is best spent, what areas they should focus to help the company grow, and what truly matters. It’s a lot easier to steer a ship when you don’t have people plotting in different directions.

New hires should also understand the above about their clients, as well. It’s one thing to tell a new employee that it’s their job to build links for Client X, but taking the time to explain the client’s needs, wants and objectives will help them understand what types of links to go after and what kind of exposure the client is really looking for. By giving context to the work at hand, you help employees knock it out of the park because they know what truly matters and aren’t just focused on random data points.

2. The Focus Is On Task-Specific Knowledge, Not Industry Knowledge

If you’re a motivated and curious employee, there’s nothing more frustrating than a boss who wants to shove you in a box and only let you learn about your specific job function. I know that when I worked for others, this is something that made me incredibly resentful. I understand I was hired to perform a certain task, but I also wanted to learn about the company and become more well-rounded. I wanted to sit in on the other departments and learn what everyone else in the company was doing to bring context to my own work and help out when I could. I didn’t want to be one thing, I wanted to be awesome. When I wasn’t allowed to do that, I left.

When you DON’T let your employees come out of their cave and see the whole experience, you limit them. You intentionally stunt their knowledge, their growth and their ability to truly excel at what they’re doing. And that sucks. By encouraging employees to learn about the industry they’re part of you help them perform their job better, stay motivated, feel fulfilled and give them context to what they’re doing.

3. Employee’s Specific Skills Are Ignored

Every employee you hire is going to come to your business with unique skills. Skills that they picked up from other jobs or through different experiences. Instead of ignoring that, look for ways to integrate their unique skills into what you’re doing. Just because you run an Internet marketing company, doesn’t mean your company can’t benefit from someone with years of traditional marketing experience. Just because you’re selling handbags today, doesn’t an employee with a background in video production can’t bring something awesome to the table. Hiring people with different skillsets is a great way to expand your business into new areas and experiment with different things.

Instead of sucking the life out of people by forcing them to relinquish their old skills and identity, encourage them to get a little messy.

4. You Offer Horribly Awful Training Exercises

A new person starts fully energized and ready to light the world on fire. So what do you do?

  • You hand him a 30lb 3-ring binder and tell him to read it before he touches anything.
  • Or, you lock her in a conference room for two days while you show the World’s Longest PowerPoint Presentation.

Neither learn anything because they’re too busy drooling on your newly refinished conference table.

You have to train people, but no one said that training had to be mind-numbingly boring. Create a training program that engages people by giving them an active role and where they’re asked to do/em> stuff, demonstrate knowledge, and put things back together after you’ve broken them. That’s how people learn. Not by sitting through two days of slides and bad jokes.

5. There’s No Opportunity For New Thinking

Allow employees to be an active part of the training process. Just because they’re new to your company doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer to your existing staff. When they’re done going through your required training materials, go back to looking at the skills they came in with and see if there’s not something they could help the rest of the team do better or learn about. I bet you there is. And what a great way to make the new guy feel valued and part of the company’s success.

6. Training Is Never Revisited

Training is not a one-time thing. It is something that is on-going and that must be revisited throughout the course of someone’s employment. I don’t care what industry you’re part of – whether it’s the SEO world, real estate or cupcake decorating – unless you’re constantly training and educating your staff, you’re going to lose its effectiveness and grow frustrated employees.

Those are six ways I’ve seen employers grow unhappy employees by either refusing to train them or doing a pretty crappy job. What has sent you running from a job? Or, on a more positive note, what makes you love your current gig (c’mon, you know your boss is watching)? ;)

Your Comments

  • Fran Irwin

    Great article Lisa. Without the chance to spread one’s wings professionally all the money, benefits and company parties in the world don’t matter. Gotta nourish those brains! An employee that’s happy doing only what they’re doing is a stagnant employee.

    • Lisa Barone

      Couldn’t agree more. And a company too afraid to nourish that and grow employees competent in all areas are scared ones that I wouldn’t want to work for anyway. Get out of the way and encourage people to learn and grow! :)

  • netmeg

    The last gig I had where I actually worked for someone else, as soon as I made manager, I convinced the owner to have monthly half hour “state of the company” meetings. Everyone grumbled at first, but it really helped bridge some gaps between departments – the techs understood why the salespeople were doing what they were doing, and the salespeople found out why some of their practices made it difficult on the techs. And everyone got a ten minute rundown of how the company was doing as a whole – where we were meeting our goals, or falling short; general plans for the future, etc. Occasionally we’d have a really nice letter from a happy client to share, or we could brainstorm how to deal with the difficult ones. After a while, most everyone started looking forward to them.

    (This is not specific to new employees, but I found it helpful in getting them up to speed and working cooperatively with the existing ones)

    • Lisa Barone

      We have similar meetings here where we talk about what’s happening with certain clients, any issues, any triumphs, etc. It really helps people see what the company is doing, get on the same page, and work around any issues that may exist. I’ve never understood employers who wanted to stuff me into one closet and leave me there. Seems so counterproductive.

  • Peter Westlund

    Hi Lisa, I’ve once had a job where the boss had great visions. After a while we discovered that visions was all there was, and no goals were ever set. That left us pretty confused at times, but gave us great and inspiring discussions.


  • Andy Beal

    Great tips Lisa. I’d add that it’s also important to solicit input from your employees. It helps to have them “buy in” to the vision and tasks ahead of them. :-)

    • Lisa Barone

      Definitely. If they haven’t bought into the company vision, you’re going to be in for quite a battle. Our employees are always full of ideas, which we really love. Even if we can’t implement them right away, we make sure they’re noted, written down, and put in the pipeline for when we can make it happen.

  • Michelle Robbins

    Related to what Meg and Andy said, there’s a lot of good tips in this post related to having regular meeting with employees, keeping them engaged, soliciting feedback on your own performance as a manager, etc.

    I think it all comes down to communication throughout departments and within teams. I think the seeds of discontent are sown where there’s isolation – people that feel “out of the loop” in the broader sense. Like your post mentions – keep people in the loop on the larger goals and vision, and keep them involved. If employees don’t feel like you are invested in them, they will not be (or stay) invested in the company’s success.

    • Lisa Barone

      Definitely. That was one of my biggest gripes at old jobs, feeling like I was stuck on my little island with no idea what was happening around me. It’s very isolating, as you mention and isn’t great for morale.

      Thanks for sharing that link!

  • Lily @Merchant Cash Advance

    Hey, this is a great, thorough post. Definitely true about employers not recognizing their employees’ skills; I’ve been through this problem and there’s really no better way of making your employees feel inadequate when they aren’t at all!

  • Chase Sherman


    Seeing that you’re a social media user, what’s your take on
    “2. The Focus Is On Task-Specific Knowledge, Not Industry Knowledge” …With the respect to employees using social media at work (if they’re a part of the social media space).

    Do you look to limit or monitor their activity? Like you mention, isn’t it a risk to ‘box’ people into their ‘jobs’?

    Look forward to your thoughts.


    • Lisa Barone

      Hey Chase,

      That’s a really great question and it’s funny you bring it up. We actually had a team meeting two weeks ago where I specifically asked our employees to be MORE active on social media because I think it’s beneficial to both us and them that they dedicated time to building up their own brands and establishing themselves as part of this company. Obviously, if it got out of hand and they weren’t completing work in favor to tweet, that would be a problem. But there’s no reason they can’t do both and we’d like them to be more active. It’s also why you’ll see them blogging more here. :)

      • Chase Sherman


        I also think it’s a good idea, but with suggested caution to employees.

        Now, we all have to look at our behavior as if we were a politician… I think the social media revolution has forced us to become more conscious.

  • Roshan

    great article. other ways to build unhappy employees would be to make them unheard and not implementing their ideas.

  • janwong

    You know, these 6 steps are crucial especially when dealing with Gen Y employees today as today’s generation are naturally more inquisitive and adventurous. Clipping their wings will eventually cripple your business. Scary but true. A great reminder to all employers out there! :)