Cranky Staff: How to Minimize a Team’s Frustration

Your team is frustrated!

One of many things that I think about most often as a leader is team morale. Part of the reason is my people pleasing nature, but I do believe that if the morale is high on the team then the team will be operating well.

There will come a time where a leader will experience a staff member who is not happy. Or, to put it differently, frustrated with their surroundings and is unable to move past the negatives they are experiencing.

Where a lot of material out there states for a leader to remove this person immediately from the team to avoid corruption, I would want to take an alternative approach and see what I can do to avoid having this happen in the first place.

How to minimize a team’s frustration

You as a leader are the catalyst to the culture you are creating for your team. Yes, the team members contribute to the sustaining of the environment, but you are responsible for the cultivation of the culture.

How are you shaping that? How does your team respond to your presence in that space? Is it hostile or inviting? Is your vibe intense or passive?

Having the awareness of your leadership presence can give insight to the culture your teams are operating in.

1:1’s with staff are prime meetings for engagement. In those spaces you have the capabilities to truly see how things are going from a personal, team, and leadership perspective. However, it is here that you can hear key grievances that are below the surface if you’ve established a culture of trust. That’s where you will need to listen closely and intently for their concerns about the culture.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not asking that everything should be solved by you, and solved in that one meeting. What I am saying is that staff want to be heard. And as you are reflecting on your presence, you can engage their thoughts on any matter in a space that is inviting.

In my experience, frustration occurs when unsaid expectations are not met. What I mean by that is when the un-shared assumption of what we want to see happen doesn’t happen, we begin to get heated by those who are violating our perception of reality. But if we didn’t share them in the first place, how can we expect others to meet them or see if they were reasonable?

Leaders need to work on clarifying expectations upfront with their teams so they know what lanes to operate in. It also provides a constructive place to start if misalignment occurs.

How many times have we changed something without knowing the context and backstory of its effects? I have done it multiple times! There are processes, tasks, and objectives that I want to implement yet I haven’t sat down to see if something similar has occurred in the past.

Now if you were in the shoes of your staff while this was happening, wouldn’t you want to have your perspective included to avoid pitfalls?

Understanding the history from our staff would give a chance for their voices to be heard and show respect to the experts.

The unfortunately reality is this: not all personalities mesh well. Sometimes people don’t fit in or want to fit in. Sometimes we try all that we could, and nothing is good enough. That’s when the conversation turns from “how can we improve?” to “where would you like to go?”

If the roads lead to this option, that doesn’t give us the right to cut loose with a cold shoulder. Leaders need to engage in a direct way that the relationship it is not working out, and work to set them up to find something that will. It could mean having a series of conversations about their passions and interests, or getting them connected with other parts of the organization.

When you do so, keep in mind that it is about being the right fit, not that they are a bad person. There is a major difference.

Take the initiative!

Both the leader and staff members have responsibility in shaping the team culture, yet it is up to the leader to take the initiative. Take the first step in engaging your staff by conducting “Stay-Interviews” to gauge their thoughts on the team culture.

Above all, don’t neglect the actions you can take in how you are shaping the environment for your team to thrive!

Reflective Question:

What are some strategies you use to avoid frustrated employees?

Share your response in the comments!

Raymond White loves to engage, equip, and encourage emerging leaders and their efforts to develop thriving teams. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter!



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Raymond D. White

Raymond D. White


Regularly reflecting. Love learning. Cultivating Community. Husband and Father | Proverbs 3:5-6