The definition of disgruntled

I am writing this post, at 21:22 in an airport. I am feeling disgruntled. According to the most legit dictionary ever, Urban Dictionary, that means I am a “person who is in a state of unhappiness; usually unhappy with their current lifestyle. Can also represent an individual who generally thinks everything sucks.” I would say that is a very adequate description of my current emotional state: Merriam-Webster Dictionary proposes that synonyms for my disgruntled state include “aggrieved, discontent, displeased, dissatisfied and malcontent“.

So, both Urban dictionary and Merriam-Webster agree: disgruntled = unhappy. Disgruntled is NOT vengeful, dangerous, vindictive, unhinged, unstable.

So, logically, the term “disgruntled employee” SHOULD mean “unhappy or displeased employee”. Yes? Yes.

Yesterday, according to news reports, a “disgruntled employee” set fire to the air control tower that controls the flights to and from the Chicago O’Hare International and Midway airports. He successfully brought all air traffic to a standstill, with over 2000 flight cancellations, and most of the electric systems damaged at the air control tower, such that now the tower has to operate using the manual old-school way; certain reports estimate that it can take up to a couple of weeks before significant delays are no more, and all flights are once again synchronized.

The adjective”disgruntled” suddenly seems to escalate in meaning, when applied to the noun “employee”. In fact, this is such a well-accepted escalation that Urban Dictionary has a separate definition for disgruntled employee:

Someone who is shit on and ultimately will go fucking insane. (…)  A disgruntled employee, usually steals stuff from his workplace according to his ” fuck or be fucked” motto or fuck the company before they fuck you. Disgruntled employees are highly dangerous no matter what they look like or how big or small they are. Leave them alone in the best interest of your safety.

Curious, I searched Urban Dictionary for other applications of the word disgruntled. And it turns out, the applications are many:

3 of those definitions refer to sexual activities – how typical, Urban Dictionary.

The point is, all of the other definitions use disgruntled appropriately – unhappy, or displeased. None of them involve trying to take down a multi-billion dollar industry single-handedly, like our friendly disgruntled employee did last night.

Reports state that he was disgruntled because he was facing a transfer to Hawaii. I’m having trouble sympathizing with him.

As I sit here, having had my initial flight home cancelled yesterday, and my rescheduled flight today delayed by a mere 3 hours, I can’t help but feel that the guy should probably work on his communication skills. I wonder if he regrets trading Hawaii for jail, probably for life, or close to it? What possible adjective can be appropriate for how he will feel while incarcerated? Disgruntled probably won’t quite be adequate.

Luckily for me, my coworkers are not disgruntled employees. When all of our flights got cancelled yesterday afternoon, and we had sorted through the saga of rebooking them, and changing our plans, the partner on our mandate booked us rooms in a centrally-located hotel in downtown Chicago (he proudly showed us his financially-savvy Hotwire skills). He suggested we stop working by 5pm, and join him in the fancy hotel lobby for a drink or 2, before heading out to a scrumptious dinner. And after supper? Why not have a night-cap; he brought us to an amazing champagne bar that he had discovered a few years ago.

Now THAT is how you handle an unexpected and unpleasant scenario, without being disgruntled.


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