How to Tell Your Boss You’re Unhappy (Dos and Don’ts)

How to Tell Your Boss You're Unhappy

If you’re unhappy at work, it’s important for your mental health, wellbeing, and work performance that you raise this with your boss.

But, the difficulty is; how to tell your boss you’re unhappy?

A lot of people find it difficult – even impossible – to bring this up with their boss.

I don’t want you to struggle a day longer or have worsening anxiety.

Here are some steps to follow to tell your boss you’re unhappy and have them do something about it:

How to Tell Your Boss You’re Unhappy

Prepare What You’re Going to Say

The first step and this is an important part, is to prepare what you’re going to say to your boss.

It helps to write things down, and also run through some scenarios of what they might say and have some answers prepared.

Some key points you might want to raise are:

  • What specifically is making you unhappy?
  • How long have you been feeling this way?
  • What changes would you like to see?
  • What can they do to help you feel better?

Having what you’ll say prepared will help you talk smoothly and not be put on the backfoot by anything your boss says.

Related Here’s how to tell your boss you’re happy at work!

Choose the Right Time and Place

The next step is to choose the right time and place to have this conversation.

You want to make sure you won’t be interrupted and you have their full attention – you also don’t want your boss to feel blindsided or cornered.

A good time to raise it might be in a scheduled one-on-one meeting, or if you have an end-of-day catch-up.

When you bring it up, start by saying something like:

“I wanted to talk to you about how I’ve been feeling at work lately.”

Or

“I know we’re scheduled to talk about my progress on the project, but before we do that, can I speak to you about how I’m feeling?”

You don’t need to make it clear it’s serious at this point, but you do need to be clear that you want to talk to them 1-on-1 without being interrupted.

Explain Why You’re Unhappy in A Composed Manner

How you talk to your boss and deliver your message is just as important as what you actually say.

You want to come across as assertive, not aggressive – and also be clear, concise, and direct with your words.

Some dos and don’ts:

Do: 

  • Use “I” statements (e.g. “I feel like my workload is excessive”)
  • Be clear about what the problem is
  • Talk about how it’s impacting your work
  • Be specific about what you’d like to see change

Don’t: 

  • Use “you” statements (e.g. “You’re giving me too much work”)
  • Be vague or make generalizations (e.g. “I’m just not happy”)
  • Talk about how it’s impacting your wellbeing outside of work
  • Make demands (e.g. “I need a raise”)

At the end of the day, you know your boss better than anyone. You need to tailor what you’re going to say to their personality a little to make the maximum impact.

Listen to Your Boss and Explain What You Want to Happen

With a lot of things to get off your chest, it’s easy to get carried away talking and not listen to what your boss is saying.

Make sure you’re taking in everything they say, and if you need to, ask for clarification.

You should also be clear about what kind of changes or solutions you want to see from this conversation.

Some bosses might try to placate you with false promises or vague plans – make sure you get something concrete that you’re both happy with.

If they can’t give you what you want, be open to compromise.

It’s also important you don’t make any decisions at the moment that will affect your future, give yourself some time to digest what your boss has said to you in the coming days.

Don’t Accept Being Fobbed Off in Any Way

I’m not suggesting it would be a deliberate ploy to fob you off. It may be, but it also might just be that your boss doesn’t fully understand how you’re feeling.

If you don’t feel like your concerns have been taken on board, or if you’re not happy with the proposed solutions, don’t be afraid to say so.

You might need to have this conversation a few times until you both come to an agreement that works for both of you – but ultimately, it’ll be worth it for your happiness.

Your boss has an obligation, to a certain extent, to listen to your grievances and do something about it.

If they’re not and you feel like you’ve made it clear and tried everything, then unfortunately it might be time to start looking for a new job for the sake of your wellbeing.

Hold Your Boss Accountable for The Changes

This isn’t about getting on your boss’ case. I’m sure any boss who truly wants the best for you would be happy with you holding them accountable.

I’m sure they have a lot on their minds, so you may have to do your part in making sure that everything they promised or said in your meeting is coming into place.

The important thing is that you’re both working together on a shared goal to see the changes happen that will make you happier at work.

Work on Yourself

Although not directly related to the conversation with your boss, I think it’s important to mention that if you don’t have a self-care routine, now is the time to start one.

I’m not suggesting that you can resolve word-related issues by meditating, practicing breathing exercises, or taking walks in nature – but it’s going to help your overall wellbeing.

When you’re taking care of yourself, you’re in a better headspace to deal with work-related problems.

You’re also setting the foundation to have a more positive outlook on work in general, handle coworker relationships, and more.

Related What to do if your boss is not happy with your performance!

Why It’s Important to Be Happy at Work

Some people might say that it’s not worth getting upset over something like work or you shouldn’t take it so seriously, but that’s easier said than done.

I believe that it’s important to be happy at work because it’s a big part of our lives, and it’s core to what motivates most of us.

You spend a large chunk of your week at work, and if you’re not happy it’s going to affect you in all areas of your life.

It’ll easily spill over into making you anxious and irritable at home, and it’s common for people who are unhappy at work to develop health problems.

Not to mention that when you’re happy at work you’re able to perform better, form stronger working relationships, and progress your career.

So, if you’re not happy at work, it’s essential that you do something about it.

Have that conversation with your boss, and make sure you’re both on the same page about what needs to change.

Always keep in mind that no matter how bad things are or feel like right now, there is always a way to improve your situation.

The worst-case scenario is that you have to leave your job to break away from what’s making you unhappy, and even that’s not really that bad.

I’m sure you’d find a new job with new challenges, experiences, and most importantly – a happier future!


Image credits – Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

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