Unhappy At Work? Here’s What Labor Day Can Teach Us About Disgruntled Employees

Many people think of Labor Day weekend as the last weekend of summer and their last chance to squeeze in a final summer getaway.

Activities like camping, barbecues, and boats abound, but there’s more to this understated holiday than most know. Over the years, Labor Day went from being a day to celebrate workers and the terrible working conditions they overcame to being the unofficial end of the summer barbecue season.

Labor Day was first recognized as a federal holiday in the United States in 1894. It came about as a result of protesting terrible working conditions in the 1800s. Imagine working 12 hours a day, seven days a week for low wages for adults and children.

Nowadays, that’s unheard of.

While working conditions in the US have significantly improved, there is definitely still workplace discontent — just look at the recent Amazon debacle. You probably won’t have employees rioting in the streets if your conditions aren’t ideal, but you’ll have actively disengaged and disgruntled employees — which might actually be worse.

When employees are secretly unhappy, the damage to your company can be sinister — even if it isn’t easily visible. Their productivity suffers, they’ll spread negativity to coworkers, and you may have no idea it’s even going on. Here are some of the workplace conditions that could cause a dip in employee morale:

Long Hours:

Your employees probably aren’t working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, but there are still some companies that expect employees to put in long days if they want to move up. This isn’t just the standard for doctors or lawyers either. According to a Gallup study, American employees currently work an average of 47 hours a week—40 percent work at least 50 hours a week. At BambooHR, we feel like employees can get more done if their lives are balanced. That means that no one here is working 10 hour days. In fact, we try to keep it pretty close to 40 highly focused hours a week, and it works really well for us.

No Time Off (Or Unlimited Time Off):

Your employees need a break from time to time. But if vacation days are seen as unacceptable in company culture, workers could be less inclined to use them. About 41 percent of workers in the US aren’t using their paid vacation days. Give them adequate time off, encourage them to use it, and don’t require them to be constantly checking email while they’re away from the office. Don’t say you have unlimited time off just so you can deprive people of actually taking days off. It’s dishonest, sneaky, and just plain mean. Yes, unlimited time off works well for some companies. But if you’re going to implement it, make sure it doesn’t evolve into employees pressuring each other to take as little vacation as possible as a way to get ahead.

Lack of Growth:

The number one reason employees leave their jobs is because of a lack of advancement. People like to feel like they’re growing in their careers and moving up. Now, that doesn’t necessarily have to mean climbing up the ladder. You don’t need to promote each employee every year. You can help employees set and accomplish goals and help them gain new skills they desire. This is about more than just gaining a new job title, it’s about bettering your employees. You can help employees set and accomplish goals and help them gain new skills they desire. When workers are happy and satisfied, you will feel the benefits.

Toxic Leaders:

People often quit their bosses—not jobs; in fact, a Gallup study found that half of us have left because of bad bosses. Even if you haven’t had a boss experience bad enough to make you walk away from your job, you’ve probably had one bad enough to make you fantasize about rage quitting or gossiping about them around the water cooler. Make sure you carefully select the employees who get to be leaders and ensure they’re treating your people well. Promoting or hiring employees who have bad behavior will send a message that you value those types of behaviors.

Toxic Coworkers:

Leaders aren’t the only people who can damage a work experience. In fact, coworkers can be as damaging or more than toxic bosses, causing manager retention issues as well.. Your employees probably spend more time during the week with their coworkers than they do with their own families, which requires them to spend more time around that toxic person. You shouldn’t expect your employees to all be best friends. But it is important that your employees are respectful of one another and at least pleasant to be around. While likeability isn’t the only thing to watch for in an interview, it certainly can’t hurt. Keep that in mind when you’re interviewing people for new positions within the company. Just remember, good employees are 54 percent more likely to leave their jobs when they have a toxic coworker.

Bad Culture:

More than half of employees think their company culture is in need of a major overhaul. That culture can be the result of the aforementioned items as well as workplace stress, overstimulation, and lack of communication, to name a few. Make sure your workplace is a great place to be. When your workers are happy, they are more likely to go above and beyond. Make sure your company values guide your employees’ behaviors and encourage them to grow and improve. This will help cultivate a positive culture that makes your employees happier.

You probably don’t have to worry too much about your employees enjoying a three-day weekend. But what you do have to worry about is how they return to work. Most people don’t look forward to getting back to work after a long weekend, but if your company culture is positive, you know they will be there, ready to work.

On Labor Day, we shouldn’t just remember those who fought for better working conditions 200 years ago; we should also take a look at the current state of our working conditions and make sure they’re fair and sustainable.