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We don’t speak up at work. We do what we are asked, even when it feels uncomfortable. Why? Because we need our jobs and we are afraid of losing them.

When a co-worker asks us to lie for them about where they were when the boss comes looking for them – we are compromising ourselves.

When we are asked to work late because of the backlog or work to be done and we miss our child’s baseball game – the one we promised we would be at – no matter what – we are compromising ourselves.

What about the time(s) your boss asked you out for lunch – at first you were thrilled that the boss asked you to lunch instead of your co-workers.  Then he asked you again and each time drank a little too much. It made you uncomfortable, you felt embarrassed because everyone knew about it and you felt like a puppet. You were compromising yourself.

You put up with the obnoxious co-worker who is abrasive and demeaning and at times a bit of a bully. You try to avoid him as much as possible. You are still compromising yourself.

Work dynamics are always fascinating to me.  People come from different backgrounds and different perspectives on what constitutes acceptable behaviour. I’ve seen people who are completely oblivious to how they impact others around them, or those who don’t know how to say no and they work incredibly long hours. They have no life because they are always working.

Instead of compromising yourself, why not stand up for yourself at work?

Here are some tips that actually work:

  1. Make a list of what you would like to change – what is happening that makes you feel bad?
  2. If things were better – what would they look like? What would be happening that is different?
  3. What boundaries do you need to put in place? (I am not available to work after 6pm – I will on special occasions but not on a regular basis, I will not go for lunch when someone drinks too much, I will not lie for anyone)
  4. What actions need to take place to correct the situation? What can you do differently? What can the other person or your boss do differently? What can the company put in place to deter or prevent this situation?
  5. Decide who you need to talk to and what your intention is for the conversation? What message do you want to convey? What type of response are you looking for?
  6. Figure out what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. Get support if this type of conversation is out of your comfort zone.

Here is an example:

Hi John, thank you for meeting with me.  I’d like to talk to you about how we work together and get your thoughts on it.

This is what I am experiencing. When we have meetings together, I find that you interrupt me, dismiss any ideas I raise and basically shut me down and go ahead with whatever you want to do. I think you have some really good ideas, and so do I. I would like to be able to contribute as well.

I’m curious, what are your thoughts on this?

What do you think would work for us to have more evenly balanced conversations and contributions? (Listen, acknowledge, then offer your own suggestions. Ask what will work from his perspective and come to an agreement)

If this situation comes up again, how do you want to handle it? (Listen, acknowledge, then offer your own suggestions. Ask what will work from his perspective and come to an agreement)

Can you please share with me your understanding of our conversation – just so I can make sure we have the same understanding? (Then share yours).

Thank you very much – I really appreciate this conversation and the plan we have created.

If this fails (which rarely happens – but can because the other person refuses to have any self-awareness), then communicate the issue and your solutions to your boss and/or your human resources department.  Most of these examples constitute a hostile work environment which is in violation of labour legislation and in most cases, not in alignment with company culture.

Speak up. Honour yourself. Stop compromising.

Only you can make your work place better by speaking up.