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How to tell your boss you’re unhappy

Should you tell your boss that you’re not happy at work? According to a survey conducted by Robert Walters, 94% of employers would like employees to report it themselves when they are dissatisfied with their job. But in practice, this happens much less often.

Even though a professional might be looking for a new position, many will not disclose it to their bosses until after they find a new job. For some, having that conversation is too difficult and even intimidating.

The survey found that only 42% of employers will speak to their bosses if they are thinking of quitting. Some respondents cited loyalty to the company as the reason, while others did not want to burn bridges. Another group of respondents believed that if they were open with their bosses, they might stand a reasonable chance of promotion and not have to go through the hassle of finding another job.

Why is talking so hard to do?

While some won't do their employers the courtesy of sharing their unhappiness and dissatisfaction prior to looking for another job, others are simply worried about the negative consequences of speaking up. In addition, some professionals are not comfortable sharing feedback and constructive criticism with their managers.

But it’s not just employees who find it hard to start the conversation. Many employers fear a backlash if they are forced into a difficult conversation with an unhappy employee. This is especially true if past conflicts or poor communication between the two parties has played a part in contributing to the unhappiness of the employee.

However, it still pays to try. The cost of recruiting, hiring and retraining staff – especially talented ones – can add up quickly. After all, 85% of employers said they could spot the tell-tale signs that an employee is unhappy and planning to leave anyway.

Unhappy team members, bosses say, become distracted and disengaged, and their productivity quickly falls away. To make things worse, absenteeism leads to even greater costs to the business.

Here's how to tell your boss you're not happy in your job

For starters, be open and honest about why you are not happy in your job. Two of the most common reasons are a lack of advancement opportunities and too low a salary. A feeling of being undervalued, lack of challenge or a mismatch with the company culture are also often mentioned.

Never play on the man, but come up with rational arguments why things should be different in your eyes. If a higher salary suits your position, you can use Robert Walters' Salary Survey to find out what other professionals in your position earn on average. Does the lack of career development opportunities bother you? Then you can work with your manager to come up with new goals and create a step-by-step career plan.

Always remain professional and calm. Above all, be clear. Before you start the interview, find out exactly what you want to change and how you think it should be changed.

Take the offer of an exit interview

At the end of the day, even if the working relationship can’t be salvaged, both parties should welcome an exit interview – a strategy that can give all parties a more truthful picture of the company. An exit process is important because former employees are likely to be more reflective about the organisation's culture, systems and processes. Having difficult conversations can stand you in good stead when you build skillsets in your career.

The process of looking for another opportunity can also help towards understanding the reasons behind your unhappiness and help you refocus on the important aspects of your career development.

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Ready for a new challenge? Check out our most recent job postings or read our tips and advice for advancing your career.

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