In sales hiring, you’re not likely to find the term “disgruntled former employee” listed among an applicant’s attributes. If you did, your first reaction would probably be to throw the application away. I blame the media for this perception. They’re the ones who have created the negative bias regarding the term “disgruntled.”

The literal meaning of disgruntled is “dissatisfied and irritated.” Unfortunately, the media have adopted the term disgruntled employee in their portrayals of formerly upstanding citizens who suddenly snap and show up to their former job with an Uzi. Even in the best cases, the media represent disgruntled former employees as troublemakers or whistle-blowers.

It’s not a fair portrayal, and it can lead  employers to be reluctant to consider these workers when they hire salespeople. That can be a mistake because, in most cases, disgruntled workers are actually just ordinary people who, for whatever reason, were unhappy in their former jobs. There’s really no logical reason why many of these people wouldn’t turn out to be good salesmen.

Some professions are promoted as “the hardest job you’ll ever love,” but what if you don’t love it? Then all that’s left is the hard part, which isn’t very fulfilling.  Think of the teacher, for instance. Day after day, she looks at her students and is met with a variety of expressions: a few are respectfully attentive, most are glassy-eyed and detached, and some are downright hostile. After hours spent preparing lessons, grading papers, and calling unsupportive parents—with minimum ROI—why wouldn’t some teachers feel unfulfilled?  Instead of plugging away every day, trying to sell an education to students who just don’t want to buy, some  might be thinking to themselves, “Oh man, I’d so rather be selling widgets right about now.”

Similar scenarios can play out in just about any profession. Most of the time, disgruntled workers didn’t start out that way. Just like your good salesmen, they launched themselves into their new job filled with energy and enthusiasm. Then something happened; their motivation evaporated, and their productivity faded away. Sure, it could have been something within themselves that caused this breakdown, but quite often these are people who have justifiable grievances against circumstances connected to their employment or their employer.

One of the concerns, in fact the most common one according to a Gallup poll of over a million employees, is some kind of problem with managers. After all, many managers don’t have the right temperament for managing, yet they end up in a position where they may engage in tyrannical behavior, bullying employees and making their lives miserable.


Some managers also harass employees, either professionally or personally (isn’t there a law now?), or discriminate against them in favor of a favorite–or worse, a relative. Some make promises they don’t intend to keep, and others take advantage of workers who are willing to take up the slack of the less efficient. There are really all kinds of miserable managers out there, so is it any wonder an employee might get fed up with these less-than-desirable conditions?

Maybe you don’t usually consider unhappy former employees when you hire salespeople. You probably think of them as high risk, and some of them probably are. That’s why you employ all the safeguards of a proven-successful hiring process such as Advanced Hiring System. With the targeted recruiting method to assure attracting the right prospects; the DISC assessment, style matrix, and values matrix to identify the salesperson profile; and the series of scripted interviews to spot inconsistencies, you are alerted to any red flags that would indicate the person is not right for your sales team.

Should you hire a disgruntled worker? Not necessarily. But it could be worth your while to include her in your sales hiring process.