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22 Customer Service & Customer Experience Managers Share the Best Ways to Handle a Disgruntled Employee


The Team at CallMiner

May 11, 2020

Two men meeting
Two men meeting

When employees exhibit disgruntled behavior, it’s concerning for managers. Not only are managers concerned for their employee’s well-being and happiness, but disgruntled employees can contribute to a stressful working environment for the whole team. Ultimately, disgruntled employees can even have a negative impact on the customer experience, as unhappy employees are less likely to go the extra mile to ensure that your customers are satisfied.

While following best practices for hiring and training employees who are the right fit for your company is crucial, that doesn’t always mean that problems will never arise. Ongoing training and coaching are equally important to ensure that your employees are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to do their jobs effectively. And, coaching sessions provide an ideal opportunity for managers to check in with their agents or employees to get their feedback on how things are going from their perspective.

Companies should also consider employee satisfaction surveys to get a feel for the company culture from your front-line workers’ point of view. Leveraging interaction analytics software not only provides insights into your employees’ performance, but it also offers insight into employee experience, enabling managers to take proactive action before a dissatisfied or disgruntled employee becomes a more serious concern.

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To learn more about how customer service and customer experience managers can best handle disgruntled employees, we reached out to a panel of management professionals and asked them to answer this question:

“What’s the best way for customer service / experience managers to handle a disgruntled employee?”

Meet Our Panel of Customer Service & Customer Experience Managers:

Anh Trinh


Anh Trinh is the Managing Editor of GeekWithLaptop.

“Customer service is a tough job, and there are times when employees will lose it and fight with the customer…”

As a manager, it’s important to remain calm and listen to disgruntled employees. It’s important that you sympathize with them and let them vent their frustrations.

Never, ever challenge them or antagonize them when they are in full rage mode. Let the fires die out before you make your move. When they’ve calmed down, agree with them but give constructive criticism. Remind them that it is their job to stay calm, answer, and even take the verbal abuse of angry customers. Tell them that it is their job and remind them that they’re not the only ones stressed in this job. Their fellow workers also get stressed and their anger is not helping the case.

Becky Beach


Becky Beach is a UX Manager and Business Blogger at

“I have handled several disgruntled employees in my career as a user experience manager…”

What I tell them is that I would feel the same way if I were in their shoes. I treat them with empathy and have compassion for their situation.

When I connect to them on their level, then I can begin to understand exactly what their problem is. If the employee is upset at having been fired, then I will make sure their compensation package is easy to navigate. My company also provides job assistance to employees who have been terminated, as well.

Jovan Milenkovic

A veteran of the great console wars of the ’90s, Jovan honed his tech skills dissecting his father’s tools and gadgets. When he’s not busy imposing order and discipline on the KommandoTech cohort, he enjoys making music in his shed, playing JRPGs, and writing hard sci-fi.

“The first thing you must do is find out what is causing the employee to be disgruntled…”

It might sound simple, but you will really need to sit down, empathize with them, and hear all their concerns. Once you’ve established what the issue is, then you can formulate a plan to help motivate your disgruntled employee.

In some cases, it might require additional perks, a raise, a different role in the company, or flexible scheduling, as there are infinite scenarios that can cause an employee to be unhappy. Always try and find a middle ground where they can continue to work at the company, and eventually snap out of their disgruntled state. I always try to remedy the issue since I have faith in our employees, and I save firing as the last possible resort. So far, I’ve been able to keep my staff since the day I started the company, and there have been no firings, thankfully.

Paige Arnof-Fenn

Paige Arnof-Fenn is the founder & CEO of global marketing and branding firm, Mavens & Moguls, based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, The New York Times Company, Colgate, and venture-backed startups, as well as non-profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. Paige is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.

“Whether you are B2B or B2C, every business is P2P, and connecting on a personal level is what matters most…”

Successful businesses understand their product or service is about more than the transaction; they are in the relationship business. People connect with brands they know, like, and trust, and employees may switch jobs, but if they have a great experience and relationship with your brand, you can keep them by staying in communication. Show them they are respected, loved, and needed. It is a smart investment to get this right.

My favorite definition of great customer experience is related to the quote, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It has been attributed to many people, including Teddy Roosevelt. I like it and find it helpful because it is a simple reminder even (maybe especially) online to listen more than talk, show empathy, and try to look at the situation from another perspective. The goal is not to wear them down or impress them with your smarts. The goal is to connect, communicate clearly, solve the problem, and move on.

For me, the brands that offer the best customer experience share a few qualities:

  • Timely response. They act quickly to address the issue in a genuine way not with a script but with sincerity.
  • Take responsibility. They do not make excuses or place blame; they take ownership of the issue and do not pass you around or use threats and jargon. The employee feels heard and respected.
  • Professional and honest. They are polite to deal with.

In my experience, even if they cannot solve the problem, if you feel respected and heard, then at least you can say they tried. Some problems cannot be fixed, but everyone can be treated fairly and with dignity. Exceptional service means you leave with a good taste and feeling better than when you arrived. It is a lot harder and more expensive to find new employees than to keep the ones you have happy and loyal, so it is an important part of your strategy to get customer (and employee) experience right.

Chane Steiner


Chane Steiner is the CEO of Crediful.

“There are many different ways to handle a disgruntled employee, but…”

The key issue, one that’s really important in such cases, is determining what the underlying problems are.

If they just don’t fit with your brand, then it saves everyone a lot of time to discover that early on. However, sometimes, it’s something that’s trivial but could spiral all the way to a resignation or termination.

That is why it is vital to have clear lines of communication, as losing your best employees over trivialities is a huge inconvenience for everyone involved. You lose a great employee, they lose their position with you, and all for something that could easily be averted if you just had someone checking in with them.

Sometimes the problem is larger, but usually it is just a triviality that grew out of proportion because it wasn’t addressed.

Stefan Chekanov


Stefan Chekanov is the co-founder and CEO of Brosix Instant Messenger, an IM service focused on providing businesses with secure private IM networks.

“Disgruntled employees can easily begin feeling like victims, especially if…”

They are approached for a conversation related to their behavior. So, it is advisable to be very thoughtful about how you are going to approach such situations. It is important to find the main reason behind their dissatisfaction or anger and aim to communicate it. It might appear to be something that is easily resolvable through some assistance and understanding on the management side.

However, if discussions and showing some understanding for a time, as everyone goes through hard times in their life, do not lead to any improvement, this employee is most likely not suitable for their role within the company.

Jeremy Harrison

Jeremy Harrison is the Founder of Hustle Life.

“Just like everything else, you always need to be professional when you’re in the office…”

Handling disgruntled employees is the same. You should treat them with care and dignity. At the first instance of an issue, respond to it immediately. Don’t let it escalate. Just assign the perfect person to address the problem and let others work. Be aware that one objective of a disgruntled employee is to wreak havoc. Don’t give them that power; take charge of the situation right away.

Talk in private; sometimes communication is all that’s necessary. A leader always leads by example. Show everyone that you’re doing your best to understand the situation and work on an amicable resolution. Find out what’s happening and do your best to resolve it. Document everything, and address your entire staff once everything has been settled.

Disgruntled employees are just people that are misguided or lost. Bring them back to the fold by working out a solution that benefits both. And should there be a need, you must be prepared to cut ties with them in extreme circumstances.

Siawash Popal


Siawash Popal went to the University of Washington, where he studied computer science and History. He formerly worked as a manager at Gold Rush LLC and ran his own small business repairing tech before working at Jet City Device Repair. He’s been at Jet City for nearly 7 years now with the current title of Regional Manager.

“The best way to handle a disgruntled employee is to prevent it in the first place…”

I try to develop a strong relationship with each employee and have regular talks with them – hearing their concerns and asking how I can make their lives better. If it can’t be avoided and comes to the point of disgruntlement, I make an effort to be around them more and give them more of my attention.

I’ve found that going for a walk outside the office can usually get to the root of most problems. In my opinion, one of the biggest causes of distress for employees is a lack of face time with their superiors. Finally, if I must have serious conversations about a need for improvement in employee performance, I counterbalance it with an emphasis on areas they are exceling in. In general, show an appreciation for each employee as a teammate and friend.

William Taylor


William Taylor is the Career Development Manager at VelvetJobs with over 12 years’ experience in career advising, coaching, and recruitment.

“The best strategy is to listen empathetically instead of trying to talk over the employee or argue with them…”

Let them have their say, even if you know what they are going to say next, and even if they may not have all the information or may be mistaken. As you listen, take the opportunity to clarify the matter with the employee and to find out their problems/issues. The goal should be to solve the issue that’s bothering them without belittling or mocking them.

Bottom line: Listen empathetically instead of trying to talk over them.

Nancy Baker

Nancy is the Managing Editor of Childmode, which gets 10,000+ visitors per month.

“Here are some of the best ways to handle a disgruntled employee in the Workplace…”

Provide counseling – If the dissatisfaction is due to emotional distress, inability to cope with the responsibilities at work, harassment, or an unfriendly work culture, a good counseling session by either a senior or professional counselor could make a huge difference towards improving the employee’s attitude at work.

Give options for specific skill training – If the disgruntlement is the cause of an inability to perform the assigned tasks or due to poor performance, discuss with management about training options that could be provided for the poor-performing employee.

Follow up on the development – To ensure that the employee feels valued, continue to follow up with the employee even after the training is over. Check with them to find out if they need any further guidance or support. Guide as if you expect the best, not the worst, from the employee.

Provide an opportunity for career progression – In top-performing employees, lack of opportunity of a better role/position or pay can cause disgruntlement. Although it is not possible to promote or offer lucrative assignments to all the top-performing employees at the same time, line managers can ensure that these high performing employees are kept engaged in challenging assignments or are given cross-functional exposure.

Keep the atmosphere positive – Show that you are proud of the team and workplace. Engage in motivational talks and in building team spirit. Create a positive work culture in the organization. Serious actions must be taken to negate any incidences of office bullying and making it a ‘safe’ place to work. Maybe keeping an anonymous feedback box in the office will help in detecting bullies.

Trust and communicate – No relationship can thrive in a distrustful environment. Management must focus on being fair and take efforts to dispel any misconception about favoritism at the workplace. A culture of open communication and ideation must be encouraged.

In sum, if we dive deep, all these issues stem from stress arising out of dissatisfaction. The feeling of being unappreciated and undervalued is a common reason for leaving a company. That is why exit interviews play an important role, by providing valuable insights into the organization’s operational structure.

When companies focus on building brands, they must also focus on building employee relationships. A happy workforce is necessary for creating inspiring leaders and for achieving stellar results.

Bridgette Norris

Bridgette was born and raised in Chicago and is a graduate of Northwestern University. She’s passionate about all things related to marketing and sales, especially when it comes to online media. When she’s not creating new business relationships or meeting with existing ones for The Economic Secretariat, Bridgette is also a die-hard Cubs fan.

“Most disgruntled employees are not bad apples, it is usually…”

Something going on in their personal or professional life that they have kept to themselves but is obviously affecting their work.

Put yourself in their shoes. Finding out the root of the problem in an approachable rather than antagonistic way will allow you to get the most complete information from them. Helping to solve those issues and showing empathy will translate to your employee that they are more than just an expense to you.

Usually, but not always, this is repaid in faith, hard work, and an improved attribute. If you remove the roadblocks, they can continue full steam ahead.

David Law

David is a Customer Service Manager with 8 years’ experience in managing a team of 10+ in the SaaS industry. He also runs a blog on customer service called Focus On The Customer.

“The best way to handle a disgruntled employee is to have a 1 to 1 meeting with them as soon as you realize they are disgruntled…”

It is far too easy to avoid a disgruntled employee, but by meeting with them, understanding their issues, and trying to resolve their concerns, you can turn this around. Make sure that you document all your meetings and provide a structure so they know what you are going to discuss. The worst thing you can do is spring a meeting on them with no preparation time or agenda. Some managers think that things will get better without intervention, but in my experience, this never happens. Just ignoring a disgruntled employee is poor employee experience management and can drag your whole team down.

Marc Prosser


Marc Prosser is a senior executive with experience growing a company from a startup to a category leader. After joining a small financial technology startup as the firm’s Chief Marketing Officer, the company became the number one retail Forex broker (FDM) in the United States. Marc is particularly proud of his efforts as a pioneer in the field of

content marketing. He launched and oversaw a website that provided real-time market commentary to Forex traders and was spun off and sold for $40 million. Marc Prosser’s latest venture is Choosing Therapy, a startup in the mental & behavioral health space, where he serves as CEO.

“I would first identify the behaviors (complaining, lack of effort, poor performance) that need to be addressed and talk to the employee about their behaviors…”

Are they aware they are exhibiting this behavior? If so, do they know why they are behaving this way? Unfortunately, you may not be able to change the underlying reasons causing their behavior (poor pay, difficult work, bad hours). However, you can be sympathetic and let the employee know what is in your power to do. However, you then must clearly communicate that these behaviors are not acceptable and ask the employee if they are willing to change them. If the employee starts to change, you need to give positive feedback. While not all employees agree with my assessments of their behavior, they generally react well to having a conversation as it shows professionalism and respect towards them. Those that cannot own up to their disgruntled behaviors during the conversation tend not to work out.

Morgan Taylor


Morgan Taylor is the CMO for LetMeBank.

“The first thing to do is take them off of the front line…”

Then, it’s time for a heart to heart. Is the employee burnt out because of a particularly insulting caller? Or, is the call volume too high? Is there a coworker who is harassing them? Is their workstation falling apart? Is there something in their personal life causing distraction or worse?

It is the manager’s job to find out what an employee needs to thrive and do everything in their power to make that happen. If you absolutely cannot fix the situation, then – and only then – is it appropriate to consider disciplinary action.

Positive reinforcement will always generate better, more sustained results than negative reinforcement.

Reuben Yonatan


Reuben Yonatan is the Founder and CEO of GetVoIP.

“The best way to handle disgruntled employees is to have an open and honest conversation with them about what is happening…”

This can be a little awkward at first. But once you push through that, it’s often very helpful. It’s amazing how many times it’s boiled down to someone simply not liking a small part of their job, or they have something going on at home that is spilling out into the rest of their lives.

By having a conversation, you open the door to solving the problem and getting the employee back on track. What’s more important is that if you don’t talk to them, things fester. The situation goes from bad to worse and, if you’re not careful, it can end up costing you business.

Leonard Ang


Leonard Ang is a writer for enKo Products, a B2B Ecommerce company that sells labels to warehouses, schools, universities, and organizations in the public sector.

“Having to manage a number of personnel may be a hard task, especially if you have that one disgruntled employee…”

They are the ones who are unmotivated to work, don’t care much about their jobs or the company, and those who are always late and taking long breaks.

So, what is the best way for managers to handle this type of employee? It all boils down to proper communication between you and that employee. You have to sit down and talk with that person. You must be able to listen to their answers regarding their problems and determine solutions to be able to fix the issues. You must be able to show empathy to that person for them to feel like you’re reaching out to them instead of cornering them. When the issue has been pinpointed, then you can determine what measures you can employ so that there will be improvements in the performance of your employee. Determine whether the issue is the employee or your managing skills. Maybe you’re not promoting a positive work environment, which you could definitely work on. As they say, communication is the key, so try and work on it.

John Moss


John Moss is the CEO of English Blinds.

“First of all, if this is not already the case, you need to remove the employee from the floor…”

Where the interaction might be witnessed by other staff and worse, customers. This also helps to calm things down as people naturally behave differently in front of an audience, and the employee won’t have their full attention on you.

How you then handle things depends on the tone and demeanor of the employee at the time. If they are aggressive or intimidating, the best approach is likely to be to ask them to leave, refuse to engage with them, and if needed, call security.

If they’re not posing a threat or behaving in a manner that might escalate, the first thing you need to do is to calm them to the point that they can speak to you reasonably and discuss the issue without being snappy, sarcastic, or failing to make proper sense.

This means that you yourself have to remain calm and consistent in your responses, body language, tone, and manner and so on, and not let yourself get drawn into escalating things by competing with them to talk, speaking more loudly, and getting wound up. If this cannot be achieved, once more it might be best to ask the employee to take a time out or go home and return to address the matter later.

However, if you can get to the point of a dialogue, ensure that the employee feels listened to, respected, and that you are working to understand what is going on, even if you’re finding it hard or confusing.

Don’t rush to make a statement or promise about what will happen next; tell the employee you will need some time to investigate/think on things and agree on a time when you will come back to them.

Frank Spear


Frank Spear is the Content Marketer at RafflePress.

“The key is understanding why they are disgruntled…”

Sometimes, all you have to do is ask to get an answer. Once you know why they are having issues, you can decide what to do next. For instance, if the problem is within your control, you can work on a compromise that will, hopefully, resolve these negative feelings.

Ahmed Ali


Ahmed Ali is an Outreach Consultant at Centriq.

“A disgruntled employee is someone who is unhappy with their job and is prone to ‘grumbling’ about it…”

The term ‘disgruntled’ actually comes from an old word ‘gruntled,’ which means ‘to grunt.’

The problem with disgruntled employees is that they can pose a risk to your company. In addition to providing poor service, thus turning customers off, they may also create a negative working environment, creating stress within the company.

It’s vital that you work with disgruntled employees before they spread their dissatisfaction throughout the ranks.

Assess the situation. Find out why they’re upset. If the issue stems from something within your company, gather as much information as you can.

If it’s a lifestyle factor influencing your employee’s behavior, don’t ignore it. Use it as an opportunity to show your support. Offer assistance. Whether through a formal employee assistance program or other means, this will build their loyalty to your company.

Privacy is key. It’s best to meet with the unhappy staff member one on one. They may be willing to disclose the real reason behind their unhappiness in private. Privacy will protect both you and the employee legally.

Thoroughly document the conversations and have the employee sign them to prevent confusion from affecting your working environment in the future.

Be ready to let go. If an employee is constantly causing you grief, you might have to make the difficult decision to let them go. At some point, the disadvantages will begin to outweigh the benefits, and it may be time to say goodbye.

Jeff McLean

Jeff is the Co-Owner of McLean Company. They provide industrial/commercial flooring and painting services for clients in Danvers, MA and the surrounding areas. Their services include concrete sealing, dustproofing, line striping, and other forms of industrial maintenance.

“Handling a disgruntled employee can be a delicate situation, but…”

Talking out the issue and understanding their problem can help. When you talk through an issue and try to solve it together, the conversation is no longer the employee vs. you; it becomes the both of you vs. the issue.

Ian Kelly


Ian Kelly is the VP of Operations for NuLeaf Naturals.

“The first thing to think about is diffusing the situation, as it…”

Poses a risk not just for customers but for overall employee morale as well. To do this, take the disgruntled employee aside and have a meaningful one-on-one meeting to get to the bottom of the issues at hand.

Keep in mind, disgruntled behaviors and attitudes can come from hard feelings about decisions being made, or too many or too few responsibilities, as well as interpersonal issues with other team members. It can also be a side effect of personal issues that are showing up at work.

By taking time to figure out what is happening, you’ll be able to hear the employee out and give them a chance to feel cared about as a person. You can’t always make an employee happy, but you can at least help them to feel heard, which helps to ease disgruntled feelings.

Still, as a manager you have to determine whether the employee will get back to work with customers and other team members. Make sure the employee knows this and knows how you’re making the decision. And don’t risk your customers or the rest of the team by letting resentment linger for too long.

Elmer Taboada


Elmer Taboada is the Marketing Manager at DaVinci Tech, home of DaVinci Vaporizers — the most advanced, premium vaporizers in the market today.

“Don’t react negatively…”

The worst thing you can do is add fuel to the fire, which potentially leads to an argument. Your employee feels that way because something upset their feelings. When you don’t consider the concerns of your employee, it’s similar to dismissing a plea for help. Your employee needs support at this crucial time, and you could gain a dedicated and loyal team member when you effectively handle the situation.

Find out what irks them. When you know the root cause of the problem, it is easier to pluck it from the source. However, it would be best if you kept an open mind during this conversation as your employee might have problems with the way you handle things. Remember that you need to cater to the emotional needs of your employees. In doing so, work progress can go smoothly with happy employees.

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