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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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Why Female Presidential Candidates Are Still Told to Be Chill, Not Shrill

The Dated, Everyday Tech Stifling Women's Voices Shows the Importance of Diversity in Tech

"You're not like other girls. You're so...chill."

I've gotten that "compliment" from multiple guys in multiple contexts — and I'm ashamed to admit that until a few years ago, I took it as one.

Occasionally I'd wonder why. After all, anyone who knows me well knows I am the Anti-Chill: a tightly wound stress ball, ready to explode into tears at any given moment.

So what was giving these guys the wrong impression? As it turns out, it was my voice. My cool, unnaturally-deep-for-a-woman, never-shrill voice.

And if I'm honest, I always prided myself on not sounding 'like other girls.' No uptalk or high-pitched squeals of glee from me. I thought I sounded smarter and more serious. Talk about internalized misogyny.

This isn't just me though. There is a societal double bind that forces women to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the right pitch and tone for each situation.

Just consider the advice that Democratic-debate coach Christine Jahnke gave female candidates to avoid being labeled as shrill: "… go slow and low. Very purposefully slow your pace and lower the tone a bit, because that will add meaning or gravitas to whatever it is you're talking about."

In a nutshell: try and sound chill, not shrill.

What I didn't know, until recently, is how this bias against women's natural voices is being reinforced and amplified by century-old technology. (Just one of many examples of how technology designed by and for men ends up hurting women in the long-run.)

Author Tina Tallon explains this little-known fact in her recent New Yorker article, summarized below:

How 20th Century Tech Is Holding 21st Century Women Back

With the rise of commercial broadcast radio in the 1920s, women's voices began getting critiqued. As Tallon explains, station directors asserted that "women sounded 'shrill,' 'nasal,' and 'distorted.'" So when industry standards were set, directors didn't take women's voices into account.

When Congress limited the bandwidth available to each radio station in 1927, station directors set a bandwidth that would provide the minimum amount of information necessary to understand "human" speech.

They used lower voices as their benchmark, so the higher frequency components of women's speech necessary to understand certain consonants were cut, making women's voices less intelligible.

  • Researcher J.C. Steinberg asserted that, "nature has so designed woman's speech that it is always most effective when it is of soft and well-modulated tone." He explained that if a woman raised her voice on air, it would exceed the limitations of the equipment. As Tallon says, "He viewed this as a personal and biological failing on women's part, not a technical one on his."

Why You Should Care

Women have always been told to lower their voices, but this 20th century approach to sound frequencies is still accepted as the standard, literally forcing women to lower their voices if they want to be heard.

  • To this day, many algorithms and speakers distort women's speech by limiting higher frequencies, causing women's voices to lose definition and clarity.

Tallon sums it up well:

"Consequently, women are still receiving the same advice that they were given in the nineteen-twenties: lower the pitch of your voice, and don't show too much emotion. By following that advice, women expose themselves to another set of criticisms, which also have a long history: they lack personality, or they sound 'forced' and 'unnatural.'"


----

So as we continue to grapple with implicit biases against women, from what it means to be "presidential" to who's considered an "innovative leader," let's remember the importance of diversity in tech.

Had a woman been involved in researching/setting the standards for radio frequencies, she might've been able to steer the industry towards a voiceband that would allow men and women to be heard equally well. And perhaps had a more impartial voiceband been established, I'd have heard a more diverse range of female speakers growing up, and internalized fewer biases myself.

That's why we care so much at PowerToFly about making sure cutting-edge companies have diverse teams.

Times were different then, sure, but the fact that Depression Era standards are still impacting how we hear (or don't hear) women's voices is a vital reminder that what we do today impacts our world for centuries to come.

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