How to

Unhappy at work? How to tell your boss – and not get fired

By Nahla Davies, Fast Company (TNS)

Even if you love what you do, there will always be times when you are unhappy with some aspect of your job. If you are unhappy at work, you are not alone. According to Gallup State of the Workplace 2022 report19% of employees report feeling uncomfortable at work and 60% say they feel disengaged from their roles and responsibilities.

Many workers never disclose their problems and leave or are fired when burnout affects their ability to do their jobs. But here’s the thing: Employers don’t want to lose engaged employees, so don’t keep quiet. If you have a problem at work, speak up.

Of course, speaking up is often easier said than done. Luckily, there are steps you can take to make this conversation seamless. How to tell your boss you’re unhappy in your current position without getting fired.

Why you should share with your boss

Many workers ask themselves, “Is it really okay to tell my boss that I feel burned out?” The answer: Yes! It’s perfectly okay to tell your boss that you’re burned out or that something isn’t working for you at work. If you are not satisfied in your position, it is best to talk to your manager.

After all, companies should want their employees to enjoy what they do. Not only does job satisfaction keep great employees on board, but companies with higher employee satisfaction tend to outperform other companies, according to the aforementioned Gallup survey. Talking to your boss about your job satisfaction — or lack thereof — is best for both you and your company.

When to talk to your boss

timing is everything. Telling your boss or manager that you’re unhappy isn’t an easy way to start a conversation, so it’s usually best to avoid busy or busy days. A productive discussion about a difficult topic becomes easier when your boss is less stressed.

Find a time to talk when your boss doesn’t have too much on his plate and make an appointment if possible. Giving your boss a heads-up can prepare you to process information that may not be easy to digest.

What can I say

Before you share your negative feelings with your boss, you need to make a plan. Planning what you’re going to say can help you focus on the most important issues and prevent you from possibly saying something out of emotion. You want to keep a clear head and keep a level head during this difficult conversation.

How to effectively communicate with your boss.

1. Write down your topics of conversation

Write down what you want to say and the possible answers you might get. That way, you’re prepared to respond no matter what your boss says. You don’t have to write an entire script, but a few bullet points can help you stay on track.

2. Keep calm

Keep calm so you can express your feelings towards your boss in a healthy way. Don’t let your nerves, frustration, or melancholy get the better of you. Feel free to verbalize your emotions, but try not to flaunt them. Keep an eye on your posture so you don’t come across as aggressive or upset. Stay positive and be open to what your boss has to say.

3. Explain why you are no longer happy in the position

Calmly explain to your boss why you are dissatisfied in your current position. State your most important topics of conversation clearly and respectfully without blaming anyone. However, you should be as specific as possible to describe exactly what is preventing you from doing your best.

For example, if you’re a contract worker whose bills are often paid late, you might say, “I don’t like the way I’m being paid.” That’s not very specific and puts a burden on your boss to read between the lines.

Instead, tell your boss that the current billing system causes you to be regularly paid late and that you want to use a new system so you get paid on time. Add examples to back up your claims and address your issues directly. For example, one report found that about 22% of all digital invoices were overdue.

4. Offer a solution

Focusing only on the negative is not very productive. Try to balance your frustrations by also voicing any solutions that you think are effective. This shows your boss that you don’t rely on them to solve your problems, but that you want to be part of the solution. Prioritize your problem-solving skills and think of some valuable solutions before you talk to your boss.

5. Listen

After telling your boss what you’re going through and why you’re no longer happy at work, it’s time to listen. Your manager will likely offer you questions, explanations, and maybe even some solutions of their own at the end of your conversation. If they don’t have much to say, encourage them by asking if they have any ideas to share. After the conversation is over, show them you were listening by implementing the fixes discussed.

What’s next?

If your job satisfaction doesn’t improve or your manager doesn’t offer solutions, it may be time to move on. Start looking for other positions or consider transitioning into self-employment or freelance work. Last year there were nearly 60 million Americans who were either full-time or part-time freelancers, and that number is still growing. The point is, you don’t have to be stuck in a position that doesn’t make you happy because there are plenty of options out there.

Be sure to thank your boss in the days following your meeting and let him know that you appreciate his willingness to listen. Even if you don’t stay, you’re likely to leave a positive impression with management, which they can pass on in the form of recommendations in the future.

Finally, if you’re not happy at work, it’s important that you let your boss know.


Nahla Davies is a software engineer and technical copywriter.


Fast Company © 2023 Mansueto Ventures LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency LLC.


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