If you're dissatisfied with your job, it can easily come to impact your performance. But what happens when your boss is clearly unhappy at work? Suddenly, his or her attitude might come to overshadow or influence yours.

An unhappy boss can impact you in a number of ways. If your manager is miserable, they might take those negative feelings out on you in the form of being snappy, impatient, or downright mean. They also might cease to provide the guidance you need to excel at work, thereby hurting your performance.

So how do you deal with an unhappy boss? Your approach will naturally depend on the severity of the situation, but here's how to start.

Seated man in suit pointing while another man in suit looks at him.


1. Offer up your assistance

Maybe your boss is miserable because he or she is overworked. Or maybe they are deep in the throes of an internal power struggle and seem to be coming out the losing end. No matter the situation, offering up a listening ear can go a long way, so ask your boss if you can help make his or her life easier.

Maybe they'll take you up on it and unload one task of many, so that they can focus on bigger picture items, all the while giving you an opportunity to take on more responsibility. Or maybe your boss won't give you something specific to do, but rather, will use you as a sounding board when things get rough.

By offering your support, you're showing your boss that you value your relationship and are willing to go the extra mile to make things better for them. If your manager hasn't yet reached the point of no return, your help might allow them to power through the tough times, at which point they'll be more inclined to reward you once things improve.

2. Keep your distance

If offering help to your boss doesn't work and you're relatively content on the job, the last thing you want is for your manager's negativity to rub off on you. So don't let it. Other than mandatory interactions, aim to stay away from your boss until his or her attitude improves.

Seek help from seasoned colleagues when you find yourself struggling with assignments, and communicate with your boss by email rather than by phone or in person. Disassociating yourself with your boss could help your standing at work if your manager makes it clear that they hate the company and is on their way out. If that's where the situation is headed, be strategic about staying away.

3. Ask for a switch before your manager brings you down

It's one thing to have a manager who's notably grumpy or isn't afraid to hide their frustrations. But it's another thing to deal with a boss who's so utterly miserable, they turn into a horrible human being to work for. If you're looking at the latter scenario, you may have no choice but to request a transfer to another team within the company.

You can explain to your HR rep that while you understand that your boss may be going through a hard time, you've reached the point where they're bringing you down. With any luck, you'll be moved to another manager who's happy to be there, or at least content enough to be supportive and helpful.

Bosses are people, too, and yours doesn't need to be a perpetual ray of sunshine. But if your manager is notably unhappy and nothing you do seems to help, it may be time to sever ties and aim to get someone new to report to, or seek out a new role altogether. After all, unless your boss is a miserable person by nature, chances are it's the company that's contributing to their outlook, and that could be a red flag you don't want to ignore.