Standing up for yourself at work can be difficult, especially if you are the new person. Since getting along with colleagues and managers makes work-life more enjoyable, we sometimes turn a blind eye in situations that should be dealt with head on.
Margie Warrell, contributor at Forbes.com, said to remember that you show people how to treat you. “Whatever the current state of your personal or professional relationships, take a moment to consider where you sometimes stay silent rather than speaking up to make a stand for yourself,” said Warrell. “It may not seem like a big deal, but over time, we teach people how to treat us. It’s why bullies prey on those they can get away with bullying. In the end, we get what we tolerate.”
According to Jo Miller, founding editor of Be Leaderly and CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc., in these three instances you need to stand up for yourself, because no one else will.
The Credit-Stealing Colleague
When a colleague takes credit for your work, it is important to resolve it as soon as possible. If not the first time, then admonish it the second time. Miller said if the colleague takes credit publicly, respond in a way that does not throw him or her under the bus in front of your co-workers; for example: “Thank you for explaining how you initially gathered that data. I’d be happy to speak on how I devised the methodology and performed subsequent analysis.”
Next, speak with him or her in private about the incident, using similar language to this example Miller gave: “Tell your co-worker that you look forward to future collaboration and won’t ever hesitate to praise her publicly for her contributions. And with a tone that says you mean business, say: ‘But it’s unacceptable to claim credit for another person’s work. If it happens again, I’m going to have to loop our manager into the conversation.’”
The Autocrat Manager
If your boss gives you an assignment that you have zero desire to complete, Miller said the next step should be to arrange a meeting with him or her. Say something like, “I understand this project is important to you. I’ll be honest, it’s not my ideal assignment, but I’ll give it my best. What I want to do next is [name your dream assignment].” Then, ask to set up a follow-up meeting for when you have completed the current project to the best of your ability. Once it’s finished, gently remind your boss of the project you would rather be working on and why you’re best suited for it.
The Team-Blaming Leader
Let’s say a senior project manager came into the engineering department and blamed you and your team for a missed deadline. Miller advised, “Start by acknowledging the missed deadline and the sticky situation that both teams are in. Let the senior project manager know you’re all in this together, that you take personal accountability, and that you’ll work with him to get the project back on track. Conclude with a firm but fair message, “‘I know your team is working hard. Mine is too, and this situation has hurt their confidence and motivation. If there’s a future issue with their performance, please address it directly with me before getting them involved.’” As a team leader, it is important to stand up for the others and let them know you will have their back in the future. Conclude by sending a follow-up email to the senior project manager, reiterating that you are all in this together, and that if he or she has a concern in the future, to address you individually and then you will discuss it with the rest of the group.
Lei Han, contributor at bemycareercoach.com, also shared these four tips on how to stand up for yourself without sounding defensive:
- Stay calm and use a calm tone.
- Communicate your perspective without saying they are wrong.
- Give an olive branch.
- Support your perspective with facts.
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