How Leaders Transform Discontentment into An Asset



Never assume that all employees share the same drive for constant improvement. Some employees work because they love the jobs, while a lot others are only in it for the money. It is great if the organization is filled only with the former, but more often than not you simply cannot avoid having the latter as well. For the latter, it is a daily job for which they get paid, and harder work does not always mean getting a raise. On leader’s part, asking everyone to improve performance is routine, but it can be detrimental to the mind and feeling. When discontent becomes normal, you have to find ways to take advantage of it for the benefit of the organization. Here are some things you can do to help.

 ·         Expression of dissatisfaction must come with guidance to improvement: it is only natural that employees want to please their leader. However, there will be times when employees fail to deliver or perform as effectively as leader expects; just like the previous statement, it is also natural. After all, employees are human who sometimes have to learn from failures. Leader is human too who has the capacity to feel discontent about something unpleasant or when targets are not met. But leader has authority over others, so the discontent has more weights and stronger influence in organizational environment. Discontent can be a motivational asset, as long as you are willing to express it carefully. Pushing the employees to reach higher standards is only a good thing if those employees actually believe that you yourself can live up the expectation. Remember that an expression of dissatisfaction can turn into a demoralizing criticism if you fail to give them direction on how to achieve improvement.

 ·         Make employees know that you believe in their abilities and value their contributions: another way to express discontent is to wrap it with an appreciation and gratitude. It is just wrong to give harsh criticism for one thing that employees do wrong, when in reality they have done a lot of great things prior to the mistake. If you want others to take the critique seriously (and positively too), you have to show appreciation for their roles in the organization and make sure they know it. They need to understand that what they do here is important. Not only the job or position is important, but also the people occupying it.

 ·         Take a look back at the expectations you set and refine them: as soon as you get a gap between what you expect and what the employees deliver, remember that you are not the only person who has been in the same situation. Before you express an immediate reaction to show discontent, take a short pause to examine the expectation once again too. Instead of channeling the dissatisfaction to the employees, use some of the energy to reassess the overall situation. It is time to check if the team indeed has the capacity to reach the target, whether your expectation is realistic given the circumstances, or if you have communicated properly about it. The key is to show objectivity; if the mistake lies solely on the employees based on objective review, then you have every right to motivate the hard way. Otherwise, your discontent must be addressed to the real culprit.

 As a leader, you have the power to set high standards, demand better performance, and perhaps perfection in some cases. Raising the bar is a great form of motivation to keep the organization moving in the right direction to reach betterment and encourage the employees to achieve their full potential. Inappropriately setting high and even unrealistic expectations, however, can introduce a lot of negative effects to the organization, employees, and yourself. If employees’ performance often falls short of expectations, figure out why and learn to use and express the discontent in effective way.

 Sometimes, changing the way we do things just a little bit, can make such a significant difference. Every challenge is an opportunity to build trusting relationships that leads to greater efficiency and job satisfaction. Ultimately, leaders have the biggest influence on employee job satisfaction, which is directly related to lower employee turnover and operations costs. People are not machines and need to be treated as valued and respected members of a team.

Leaders often forget that just because they lead like leaders of their past, it makes them a good leader. Leading is an active and personal process that must be customized for each diverse member of a team. Most people need to be understood. So, leaders must make the investment of time to understand how to keep people motivated before it is too late. Relationships are fragile.

Make good choices and have a great day! Only you get to choose how you feel about it!

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Dr. Paul Gerhardt is a skilled leadership and diversity trainer who builds customized workshops online or at your workplace. He is a tenured professor of management and a diversity and leadership well-respected and trusted trainer who helps organizations get amazing returns on their training investment. Visit for more great free articles and to learn more about leadership effectiveness. Dr. Gerhardt is the author of several publications available on, including Diversity at Work, The Diversity King; Leadership Lucy and the Leadership Handbook. Consider inviting Dr. Paul Gerhardt to do customized leadership or diversity training at your organization. Most organizations find that diversity and leadership training by the right trainer yields a significant instant return on investment.

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Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.