Together, we’ll map out career-defining, life-changing pathways to achieve your career ambitions. Browse our range of services, advice, and resources.

Learn more

We understand that no two organisations are the same. Find out more about how we've customised our recruitment offerings to help clients across South East Asia meet their needs

Read more
About Robert Walters Singapore

Since our establishment in 1998, our belief remains the same: Building strong relationships with people is vital in a successful partnership.

Learn more

Work for us

Our people are the difference. Hear stories from our people to learn more about a career at Robert Walters Singapore.

Learn more

How to tell your boss you’re unhappy – without worrying about getting fired

Should you tell your boss that you’re not happy at work? Our exit process survey has revealed that although 94% of employers would prefer their staff to come to them before resigning, the reality is that very few employees do so.

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 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.

But how do you tell your boss you're unhappy in your work?

Be open and honest

Having a transparent conversation with your boss is the first step in getting an issue resolved. Among the top reasons are limited growth opportunities within the company and dissatisfaction with pay. Other reasons include feeling undervalued and under-challenged, or belonging to a corporate culture that no longer fits their aspirations or values.

Speaking to your boss about the lack of career progression opportunities might just be the trick. Setting fresh goals will give you a renewed sense of value and direction. A clear career progression plan and growth opportunities are also among the most important factors in staff retention.

Speak on issues and not personalities. It is very off-putting for a boss to hear an employee bring up a raft of new criticism, and it reflects poorly on the worker for not having the issues addressed earlier.

Discussions are often more difficult – and sensitive – when it comes to pay. This is simply because employees often link remuneration to their own value to the company. Many professionals gain industry-wide contacts and over time discover how their salary compares with their peers across the industry.

In addition, being mindful of a few key talking points can make a potentially bumpy conversation much smoother.

First, it is important to remain calm and professional. Speak on issues and not personalities. It is very off-putting for a boss to hear an employee bring up a raft of new criticism, and it reflects poorly on the worker for not having the issues addressed earlier. Discuss your unhappiness – don’t have a dump session.

Second, be clear. Understand what it is you need and want. If it is about job performance, be clear about reasonable and challenging targets, as well as work priorities. If your concerns are financial in nature, make your case for an increased rate of pay. If you are having difficulties with a line manager, state clearly how you would like it resolved.

Third, triangulate. If you find it difficult to see eye-to-eye with your boss, sit down together over a document that works through figures, proposals or solutions. Taking the focus off the personal aspect can be a great way of dialling down any worry or tension.

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.

For more in-depth career advice, click here or contact us for a confidential discussion.

Share this article

Useful links

Explore new opportunities
Salary Survey
Career Advice
Get in touch

Find out more by contacting one of our specialist recruitment consultants

Related content

View All

Embracing change in the workplace

Embracing change in the workplace has become a necessary skill for workers in 2022 and beyond. As the world acclimatises to a post-Covid-19 normal, companies and professionals have been, in one sense, forced into the future of work. It’s a future where work is often location agnostic, and where the

Read More

Working and job hunting in a new world of work

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has meant working professionals and jobseekers have had to adapt to new ways of working and job searching. While it's a new and challenging situation for us all, Robert Walters can support you through this time so your career, your job hunt or your work-life balance d

Read More

Upskilling? Here’s a list of resources to tap on

In recent years, a plethora of credible and useful online resources have mushroomed over the years for individuals to upskill themselves anytime and anywhere. As we maintain social distancing and work from home measures due to the COVID-19 situation, consider utilising some of these online resources

Read More

I'm Robert Walters Are you?

Come join our global team of creative thinkers, problem solvers and game changers. We offer accelerated career progression, a dynamic culture and expert training.