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In the chat messages of my employees to each other, I found a lot of dissatisfaction by most of the employees.

There was also lots of #notmyjob and comments about just letting things slide.

What can I do to both address the issues being raised, and discourage this in chat in the future, as I fear is being bad for morale and loyalty to the team?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Jul 15 at 19:46
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    "What can I do to [...] discourage this in chat in the future" - This part needs a frame challenge; you don't actually want to to discourage the chat messages. The messages are how you know there's a problem. They're a symptom rather than the disease. Discouraging them doesn't solve anything, it just hides the actual problem and makes it more difficult to see and to address going forward. If anything you want to encourage employees to raise any employment issues they have, by making them feel that doing so is safe and that their concerns will be listened to and addressed if/when possible. – aroth Jul 16 at 23:15
  • Possibly Meta discussion, but it's worth noting that the question has been edited substantially since it was first asked and the content/tone of the answers may reflect the original question more than the current form. – David258 Jul 20 at 12:27
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Frustrated employees say "#notmyjob"

I spent some time in Innovation at a bank and learned to have a lot of sympathy for the "not my job" types. Part of my job was going around and figuring out areas of improvement.

Lazy employees don't care about work, so they tend not to deal with it beyond what is required. They are looking at cat videos on Reddit when not working, not complaining about their positions. They don't get involved in the complaining. Disengaged employees are on LinkedIn instead.

You have frustrated employees. You have employees who have found something stupid and can't be bothered to fix it for the umpteenth time. You have employees who are frustrated with a tool that won't work or doesn't do what the actual job is.

Employees who never cared don't bother to point out that a problem exists as they truly do not care. Speaking about it is wasted effort to them. Employees who repeatedly complain about a problem want to care, but are exhausted by doing so.

Go figure out what is wrong before condemning them. You have better employees than you think.

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    I'd also suggest that some complaining is a coping mechanism. When the job is stressful with competing demands (I.e. most jobs), party of handling that is being able to complain about your 'idiot boss' to your colleagues without it really meaning anything. A good manager has to accept that their staff complaining to reach other in private about him/her is part of the job . – PhillS Jul 15 at 18:12
  • @PhillS I think that is worth a separate answer actually. – Matthew Gaiser Jul 15 at 18:18
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    I think @PhillS's comment may relate to the popularity of Dilbert, with his pointy-haired boss. Reading, posting, and laughing at the cartoons is another stress outlet. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 15 at 18:35
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    Pointing out the employees are frustrated is important but not a full answer to the question What can I do to both address the issues being raised, and discourage this in chat in the future, as I fear is being bad for morale and loyalty to the team? could you edit your answer to provide more details? – Lio Elbammalf Jul 16 at 13:42
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    addition to the answer from the "been there, done that" department: The frustration of your employees may not be with something that is fixable (by you). They may see that the corporate culture doesn't match their own views, or that something they deeply care about on a personal level just isn't of high importance in the company values. – Tom Jul 16 at 15:05
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First of all, there is a reasonable expectation of privacy if the chats are not public to everyone in the company. In the office, people have these conversations face-to-face in private. You wouldn't put a hidden microphone in the break room to record them when they're not working from home. There's a difference between what is legal and what is right.

Second, people complaining is not a cause of low morale, it's a symptom. If you want it to stop, focus on addressing the problems they are complaining about.

Finally, complaining to each other in private is probably the healthiest outlet. It keeps people from blowing up in more important, public situations. It sometimes even spurs innovation that helps address the problem. Without an outlet, people will become disgruntled, then leave.

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    "It sometimes even spurs innovation that helps address the problem." Yes, I've seen some great automation projects get started and finished that started with 2-3 people complaining about how needlessly complicated certain repetitive actions were. Turns out where 1 doesn't find a solution, 2-3 united together do. – Mast Jul 16 at 13:17
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    "You wouldn't put a hidden microphone in the break room to record them" it sounds like OP actually might XD – CCJ Jul 16 at 13:55
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What a strange story, suddenly there was nothing useful for you to do and out of the blue you decided to kill a few hours by going through the chat logs of your employees? Are you even allowed to do that according to your company policies or even the law of your locale?

Surely there must be something that triggered this? However you don't give us any reason why you decided to do this. If there is a reason why you decided to go snooping I think you should include it in your question.

Based on the probably incomplete information in your question my advice is to try to forget everything you read in those chats and have a conversation with your employees based on their behavior that decided you to go snooping.

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    Clearly OP is the problem here, snooping on their employees... – user91988 Jul 16 at 13:51
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There is no generic answer to the the question "why are my employees demotivated?", to solve it you're going to have to listen to them, just instructing employees not to be demotivated isn't going to achieve the goal you are hoping for. You asked 'what can I do to ... address the issues being raised?', your first step is to find out what the issues are!

The good news is this can be achieved with relatively little effort, get to know them as humans, listen to their thoughts/ideas/concerns. You'll find out pretty quickly what motivates them and what they care about and you can act on that accordingly.

To comment on the subtext hinted at in your question, were these public or private chats? As someone in a position of responsibility you really shouldn't be going through private chat logs. If you have, that can't be undone now, but I would take no further specific action and try to keep these comments out of your mind. You absolutely should not make specific reference to them, nor should you single out people who have made comments you don't approve of as you risk destroying their trust.

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