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Career Advice

How to Tell Your Boss You're Unhappy

According to a recent survey of 17,000 workers, 71 percent are either thinking about or actively looking for a new job. What's more, 63 percent say that the stress from their job causes them to engage in unhealthy behaviors like drinking. Beyond that, 71 percent also speak poorly about their company to their friends and family.


Does this sound familiar to you?

If you're dissatisfied with your career, it's up to you to fix it. If you want to stay with your current company but improve the situation, the first step is reaching out to your boss. Talking to your manager can be nerve wracking, so use the following steps to prepare and walk in feeling confident.

Identify the Reasons Why You're Unhappy

Before you talk to your boss, figure out why you aren't satisfied with your job. This shows that you can articulate what you want and don't want, which will be important for coming to a solution that makes everyone happier. If you're not sure why, consider a few common reasons people are unhappy and the underlying factors at play:

  • You're bored, which can mean you feel unmotivated or not challenged. This could potentially come from doing the same task for too long.
  • You feel like your heart isn't in it. According to a recent Gallup report, 53 percent of workers are not engaged at work, while 13 percent are "actively disengaged." This signals that you aren't in the right position or are doing unfulfilling work.
  • You're stressed out or the hours are too long. This could be because you're overloaded with responsibilities and projects.
  • You dislike your boss or team leads, often a result of feeling unrecognized or unappreciated, and then resentful. The same survey found that 35 percent listed their boss as the biggest source of stress.
  • You don't get along with your co-workers, which can be a result of workplace culture more so than a personality clash.

Believe it or not, it's your manager's job to help fix any issue that makes you unhappy in your position—assuming there's something she or he can do about it. Don't feel guilty about approaching them and sharing your feelings, as long as you've clearly identified why you're unhappy and any potential workplace factors that cause it.

Brainstorm Solutions

Before reaching out to your manager, find solutions for your problems. While this might not be applicable for all scenarios, you will come from a place of power if you explain why you're unhappy and what you think will fix it.

Using the example of experiencing extreme stressed, a proposed solution could be to delegate smaller projects to others. Alternatively, you explain that you'd like to focus on just your current projects before taking anything else on.

This is also a valuable exercise to gauge your next step. If you can't think of a feasible solution, it may be time to move on, as opposed to talking with your manager.

Try a Formal Approach to Your Communication

While it's generally said that you should have serious conversations in-person. In the right circumstances, formal communication via email, letter, or digital forms can be an appropriate approach, like if you're a remote employee or your boss is hard to connect with.

The experts at Hubgets explain the main advantages of formal communication:

  • It's clear and reliable, with little room for misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
  • It's available for future reference because it's documented (unlike a conversation).
  • It saves time and can be done at your own pace in your schedule.
  • It can be done en-masse if you have to notify multiple stakeholders.
  • It feels less personal than in-person interactions, which can lead to awkward or embarrassing situations.

What's more, you might consider starting your conversation with a formal request to meet and brief explanation of your challenges and solutions, followed by requesting a meeting to discuss in-person or via phone call. This ensures that you clearly communicate why you're unhappy, while also giving management time to consider how they'd like to respond. Then when you do meet, it's with cool heads and everyone is already briefed and ready.

Prepare to Meet in Person

When the time comes to have an in-person meeting, combat nerves by coming prepared. Here are a few items to gather ahead of time:

  • Bring notes so you have something to refer back to.
    Include the reasons you identified that you're unhappy and your proposed solutions.
  • Print out your formal communication is applicable, like a letter of resignation.

Once you explain your case, listen to the input and feedback your boss offers. It's as important that they listen to you as it is that you listen to them. With open communication, you can work together or amicably part ways.

Take Steps to Be Happy at Your Job

Life is short. Don't spend 40+ hours of your week at a job that makes you miserable. For many workplace issues, there are easy fixes, but you'll never know if you don't ask. Remember that your boss might have no idea that you feel the way you do. Instead of getting mad and resentful, follow these steps so you can be confident and figure out which next step is best for both of you.

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