How Can Employees Express Unhappiness in a Job?

Sometimes, being honest about your unhappiness makes a difference at work.
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Mentally, you might find yourself expressing a whole lot of unhappiness with your job, and you're not alone -- in 2011, about 12.5 percent of American workers told the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that they were dissatisfied with their job. The thing is, your thoughts only echo as far as the inside of your skull. To get it out of your system, you have to express your unhappiness at work, but doing so takes a delicate combination of honesty and tact.

Potential Paths

    Before you can effectively express your unhappiness on the job, you need to know whom to talk to. First things first -- respect the chain of communication. No matter how upset you are, don't go right to the top from the get-go. Confide in a trusted colleague first to get a feel for the situation. More often than not, your work friends can give you perspective on whether your complaint is legitimate. From there, go to the human resources department -- this sort of thing is their job. Whether your issue is boredom, anxiety, frustration or sheer anger, HR is usually prepared to take on the case. Before you go to your boss, run the issue by a manager or department manager, if one is available.

Effective Communication

    Writing for the Philadelphia Business Journal, communication coach Karen Friedman notes the vital difference between speaking up and speaking out; speaking up is what you do when you rattle off the first thought that comes to mind while speaking out is planned, and often leads to positive change. To really make an impact, write down a few key points about why you're unhappy and focus on those key points rather than going on a tangent. Use strong, definitive words instead of phrases like “I guess” or “it seems.” To make change happen, get right to your point and be prepared to list specific reasons for your unhappiness. Appeal to business sense by noting how your unhappiness affects your work performance and the workplace at large. Don't focus on personal issues -- instead, focus on workplace issues and solutions. If you have a complaint, offer positive ideas for how to remedy the situation.

Before You Quit ...

    Of course, throwing in the towel serves as the ultimate expression of unhappiness at work. You don't have to go out in a blaze of glory just to get your dissatisfaction across, though. If you're looking at quitting, try a little last-ditch honesty first -- you never know what might change. Before you bail, let your boss know up-front exactly what it is you need to help make the job better for you. Oftentimes, asking is the only way to get something.

Spotting Unhappiness

    As someone in a management position, you may find yourself on the flip side of employee unhappiness; if you're wondering how employees express discontent, a few tell-tale signs can help you spot it. Low productivity, including constant excuses and a spike in sick days, is major red flag. If your employees have suddenly become more critical of others or a bit more persnickety and impatient than usual, this may also be an expression of unhappiness. Sometimes, it takes another employee to clue you in; if you find that a certain worker's colleagues suddenly start to complain about her, the worker in question may be unhappy, and is likely expressing her unhappiness through complaining or poor work performance.

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