The Toxic Trio Of Employee Unhappiness: Low Pay, Micromanagement And Lack Of Recognition

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Latest stats from the 2024 Drewberry™ Employee Benefits And Workplace Satisfaction Survey have revealed the top three reasons for employee unhappiness in the UK: low salary, being micromanaged, and a lack of recognition.

With 67% of employees ready to move jobs within the year, and a third having a negative outlook for their company, how can you tackle this toxic trio of unhappiness and stop your staff jumping ship? Let’s find out.

Does Employee Happiness Really Matter?

Before we get into it, employee unhappiness isn’t just a few bad moods – it can have a significant impact on your business operations. Unhappy employees tend to be less motivated and engaged in their tasks, putting in minimal effort (see the Quiet Quitting phenomenon).

And don’t think that a toxic atmosphere just stays in the workplace… Negative reviews on platforms like Glassdoor, Google, or word-of-mouth can deter potential employees and customers alike.

Low Pay, Micromanagement, And Lack Of Recognition To Blame For Unhappiness

We asked 989 UK employees if they were happy in their current job. While the majority reported that they were, 33% said they were neutral or unhappy. This highlights that there is still room for improvement.

Top Reasons Causing Employee Unhappiness

We then wanted to find out what the main causes of unhappiness were. Unsurprisingly, low salary topped the list (49%). However this was closely followed by:

  • Micromanagement (48%)
  • Lack of recognition (47%)
  • Unsupportive management (46%).

Lack of faith in senior management (46%), bad internal communication (45%), and uneven work-life balance (45%) were also mentioned.

So, while less money in their pocket is the leading cause of dissatisfaction, employees are also being dragged down by cultural issues.

It’s positive to see that the majority of staff are happy in their jobs. But what is the driving force behind their happiness?

Discover the real drivers in our latest research: What really drives workplace happiness? New research shows it’s not just pay.

Nick Nelms
Senior Consultant, Employee Benefits

Employee Unhappiness: What To Do About It

You can’t tackle a problem without first acknowledging it exists. According to our survey, over a third of respondents aren’t happy in their current job – could your team be among them?

Here’s how you can make your people happier:

Address Salary Head-On 💸

49% of employees said low salary was the main reason for unhappiness. So when they feel they’re being compensated fairly, their morale improves, reducing the likelihood that they’ll leave for better-paid jobs.

We know budgets are tight at the moment, especially for SMEs, but it could be a good idea to review salaries using the following steps:

  • Conduct market research: Regularly review and benchmark industry standards to ensure your salaries are competitive
  • Be transparent: Clearly communicate how salaries are determined, when pay reviews will be undertaken, and clarity around raises or bonuses
  • Provide valuable benefits: Consider the total compensation package, including benefits and perks, to enhance overall employee satisfaction. (Psst… we found out their benefits wishlist in this report)
  • Listen to feedback: If an employee leaves your company, it costs the equivalent of six months’ salary to replace them. Regularly gather and act on employee feedback regarding compensation and other workplace concerns to avoid being saddled with big recruitment costs.

Check Your Management Style ✍️

48% of employees said being micromanaged made them unhappiest, and it’s not hard to see why. Instead of letting their team work independently and make their own decisions, micromanagers constantly watch, check, and correct everything, making employees feel frustrated rather than trusted.

By implementing certain strategies, you can help your managers transition from micromanaging to empowering their teams, leading to a more productive and positive work environment:

  • Provide leadership training: Not every manager is going to be a natural leader, so it’s a good idea to offer training to build leadership skills, delegation, and trust-building exercises. This can help your managers understand the negative impacts of micromanagement and learn more effective ways to lead their teams
  • Encourage open communication: Foster an environment where managers and employees can openly discuss concerns. Encourage managers to seek feedback from their team on their management style and to be receptive to constructive criticism
  • Focus on results, not processes: Shift the focus from how work is done to the outcomes achieved. Encourage managers to set clear goals and objectives, then allow their team members the freedom to decide the best way to achieve those goals
  • Provide support and resources: Ensure managers have the tools and resources they need to feel confident in delegating tasks. This might include project management software, time management training, or access to mentorship programs
  • Lead by example: Be the change you want to see. If top executives demonstrate trust and give autonomy to their managers, it sets a precedent for how managers should treat their teams.

Recognise The Need For Recognition 🏆

49% of employees said that being recognised for their efforts is a top source of happiness in the workplace – it’s a small gesture that makes a big difference in motivating your teams. Recognition strategies can create a positive and motivating work environment, showing employees that their hard work is noticed and valued.

Here’s how to acknowledge and celebrate your employees’ hard work:

  • Public acknowledgement: Recognise employees during team meetings, company-wide emails, or on internal communication platforms (like My.Drewberry’s Praise 🙌). Publicly celebrating their achievements shows appreciation and boosts morale
  • Spot bonuses or gifts: Offer spot bonuses, gift cards, or small tokens of appreciation for exceptional work. This immediate recognition can be a powerful incentive
  • Professional development opportunities: Reward employees with opportunities for growth, such as funding for courses, conferences, or certifications. This not only recognises their efforts but also invests in their future with the organisation,

Don’t Let Your Benefits Be A Reason For Unhappiness

A solid benefits package is a fantastic way to keep employees engaged and motivated. It shows appreciation for their hard work by offering them something meaningful – beyond their payslip.

But setting up and maintaining a competitive employee benefits package requires a decent bit of admin, which quickly becomes time consuming. We do the heavy lifting for you, giving you more time to focus on what matters.

We live and breathe employee benefits, doing this day in-day out for businesses just like yours. Looking at the big picture, we get to know your unique workforce and benchmark your offering against competitors.

Best of all? We have access to the most competitive rates on the market for core benefits, such as Death In Service, Group Health Insurance, and Group Critical Illness Cover. Give us a call on 02074425880 or email

Why Speak to Us?

We started Drewberry™ because we were tired of being treated like a number.

We all deserve a first class service when it comes to things as important as protecting our health and our finances. Below are just a few reasons why it makes sense to talk to us.

Contact Us

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Senator House
85 Queen Victoria Street
Personal Insurance & Accounts Payable
Telecom House
125-135 Preston Road
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Drewberry Ltd registered office: Telecom House, Preston Road, Brighton, England, BN1 6AF. Telephone 0208 432 7333

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Limited, which are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.


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