Life is full of tough conversations. Telling your boss that you are not happy with your job is definitely one of them – but it doesn’t have to be! You deserve career fulfillment, and the power is in your hands to get it. So don’t think of this conversation as difficult, think of it as a necessary tool for getting more from your job.
1. A matter of semantics
As you probably already know, sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. So let’s start with the title of this article. It may have caught your eye because you are indeed not happy with your job, and you feel like you need to tell your boss. Our first piece of advice? Choose your words carefully. Avoid negative constructions like “I am not happy,” and turn them into positive ones, e.g., “I would like to do more of X,” or “I have some ideas for changing the way I do X,” or “I would like to discuss some changes that I think will bring us both more satisfaction from my job.” Frame the discussion in a positive light so that your boss wants to hear what you have to say.
2. Be proactive - plan a meeting and prepare well
Be sure it is you who initiates any conversation about your happiness with your job. If your boss beats you to it and asks to discuss why you seem unhappy at work, you may have already missed your chance to turn things around.
To prepare for the meeting, make a list for yourself of the reasons why you feel you are not happy. Let the list sit overnight. Reexamine it with fresh eyes the next day – are you being completely fair? Keep only the items on the list for which you can suggest a viable solution. For example, if you are a Guest Relations Manager and listening to guest complaints is making you unhappy at work, there is not much that you or your boss can do to turn things around. However, if you feel that you are not getting enough support in responding to guest complaints, this is an issue that can be addressed easily with your boss.
3. Don’t ask for a change – suggest one
For every issue you bring to your boss, propose a solution. No boss likes to be read a list of grievances from an unhappy employee. If you complain without suggesting a fix, you risk being seen as bitter and difficult. By proposing realistic changes, you are not only making his or her job easier, you are showing initiative and displaying optimism.
4. Be positive, but stay on point
As we suggested above, keep things positive when discussing your job with your boss. Fight the urge to let the conversation devolve into a “bitch session.” But remember why you called the meeting, and stay firm in your resolve to communicate clearly what is not going well. You need to be able to look your boss in the eyes and be honest about why something is not working for you.
As Guest Relations Manager, if you feel that excess paperwork is prohibiting you from interacting sufficiently in person with guests, you need to say it plainly. Try pointing out what you like before mentioning the challenge: “I love maintaining a relationship with our guests, and lately I do not have enough time to do this well. I would like to discuss delegating some tasks to the receptionists in order to give me more time on the floor with guests.”
5. Be humble and seek advice
Once you’ve taken the above steps to fixing issues at work, it’s OK to ask for help. Sometimes you need your boss’s advice on tackling tough issues or overcoming serious challenges – it’s part of their job to help you succeed in yours. But instead of throwing your hands up and crying, “Help me!” try using more constructive language. “I could really use your input on a challenge I’m facing with X employee,” or “What is your advice on handling X in my job, I am having some difficulty finding a solution. Here is what I have tried already…” are two positive ways to ask for help.
Having an open, solutions-oriented discussion with your boss from time to time can make a huge difference in how you feel about your job. Let’s face it – we all have issues at work and hashing them out with a superior can help us turn them around. Even better, the satisfaction you’ll derive from having a successful brainstorming session with your boss might just give you a boost of confidence and a fresh outlook on your job.