Talk to your manager about being unhappy in your job

Being in a role that doesn’t bring satisfaction, fulfilment and happiness can take its toll. The average person spends over 100,000 hours at work during their lifetime, and that is a significant amount of time to not enjoy what you are doing.

There was an interesting trend during and after Covid-19 lockdowns when most workers were suddenly required to work from home. Although this took a massive adjustment in the way many people worked, some found that it also gave them the time to reflect on what their current life looked like. Many realised that they weren’t necessarily happy, and they began to change their current situation in order to create the life they wanted.

The pandemic has been an extraordinary event, but changing things that are not working shouldn’t only be in times of crisis. When you say yes to something that is not working, you are saying no to your own needs which can impact on your mental, emotional and physical well-being. Investing time in yourself to figure out what you want to allow you to create something that brings you happiness, satisfaction and fulfilment is important. Further help can be found in my book Love Your Career Forever.

But before you chuck in your job, it could be prudent to have an in-depth look at where you currently work, and what might be possible to meet more of what you are wanting.

It is very natural to be fearful of talking to your manager and telling them that you are unhappy. What if that made your situation worse? What if you don’t find another role, but couldn’t access professional development or opportunities, because you are seen to be leaving?

It is wise to ensure that you protect your current situation, however, it is important to consider what you might gain if you were to communicate your concerns with your manager and discuss what the cause of your unhappiness is, and what changes could be possible to make it better. When someone leaves an organisation, the feedback from managers is often that they wish they had known their staff member was unhappy, or looking for something else, so that they had the opportunity to do something about it.

When an employee leaves, it can cost the organisation approximately 150% of the employee’s salary to replace them (recruitment, training and getting new staff up to speed). Where possible, a good manager supports staff and finds solutions rather than risk losing them. This can be a hard conversation to initiate with your employer, but in my experience clients have been pleasantly surprised by how open their employer has been to a different model of work or provide support to make things better. It may also be possible that there are other options in the organisation that you are unaware of, or your manager might be willing to negotiate how the role is currently structured, rather than lose you.

If there are no solutions or options internally, having an honest conversation with your employer about your intentions of departing could result in support to transition from your current role in a way that works for both parties. This could include:

  • Negotiating to reduce your hours to enable you to work towards your next move. Examples of this might include requesting one day or half a day off a week or working a nine-day fortnight.
  • Taking leave or requesting leave without pay to begin working towards your future.
  • Discussing with your employer how you could retain regular work for a few days a week, while setting up your future on the other days.

The possibilities are endless. If you are looking for change, consider the value of having a conversation with your employer first – there may be a simple fix that will meet both your needs, and those of your employer.