Careers & Education

Standing up for yourself at work

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Standing up for yourself at work is an essential skill

Work is the last place where you should feel taken advantage of, and yet it happens all the time. When weíre getting paid, it can be difficult to know where to set boundaries, particularly when senior-level bullies hold far more power than you. Standing up for yourself at work isnít easy, but it must be done and youíre the one to do it.

The reasons why people hesitate to draw the line is often because they fear for their job, or that it will make their employer think twice about promoting them. In a professional setting, itís essential to step back and not react emotionally. Practice yoga the night before, soak in the tub or do something else that completely relaxes you. Take a deep breath and prepare to confront the problem, not escalate it.

Itís natural to feel nervous, but think about what will happen if you donít say anything at all - youíll continue to be expected to do work thatís not your responsibility, put in excessive overtime hours and feel miserable at the end of the day. Once you start expressing your opinion and pushing back when others take credit for your work, you'll gain a powerful new confidence.

Sharing your thoughts, even when it involves pointing out inconsistencies or flaws, will help you become a valued member of the team. Stop worrying about how you'll come across; being assertive is a good thing.

Tips on standing up for yourself at work

The important thing is to keep a level head and prepare what you have to say before you say it. Write it down or think through the points you want to make. Donít script exactly what you want to say, just jot down a few notes so you effectively communicate what you need to.

Expect the other person to rationalize why theyíre not taking advantage of you. Listen, but stand by your points. They donít have to agree with you, but when you say ďNoĒ they have to understand that you mean it.

Be nice. The old adage that you can catch more flies with honey is true. You may feel annoyed or treated unfairly, but sticking up for yourself doesnít work if it comes across as an attack. They're more likely to give you the respect you deserve if you treat them respectfully.

Stay focused on what you want. The best way to resolve the situation so everyone is happy is to be crystal clear on what it is youíre asking for. If itís more money, time off or a promotion equal to the work you do, be ready to back it up with why you deserve it. 

One common issue at smaller offices is that roles are less clearly defined and people are hired with the understanding that their role may shift or expand in proportion with work cycles and company growth. Before you say ďThis isnít my jobĒ, explain that your plate is already full and try to help find someone else for the project. Coming to people with solutions, instead of just problems, makes the situation less confrontational and more collaborative. 

Before you turn down new responsibilities, consider whether they could lead to a promotion. Perhaps a better solution is to work with your boss to find someone else to handle your busy-work so you can free up your schedule to take on to more interesting, higher-paying opportunities. 

Asking questions can turn a confrontation into a discussion. If you're stating a case for a raise and they say no, ask them why. This way your imagination wonít fill in the blanks. If you disagree with their reasoning, it may be time for you to promote yourself by finding a better job.

Trust you gut. Standing up for yourself at work isnít taboo. Itís about self-respect and your quality of life. 

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