collaborative post | Sometimes, it can feel like, as an employee, you have a fairly rough deal in the workplace. Your employer, and often your manager, holds the reins to your continued employment, and it can seem that they, as well as those they favour, have a lot of power to make you miserable if you wish.
However, while the situation can at times be tricky, knowing your rights as well as how to stand up for yourself can help make things a little easier. Here, we’re going to look at a few tips to help you do just that.
Don’t blame yourself for trouble standing up for yourself in the past
If you have been mistreated at work, or have simply been put in situations that cost you your time, well-being, and self-esteem, it’s easy for this to weigh on you for a long time.
It can feel like your voice has been taken away and that you have been made a lot smaller. What’s more, a lot of people believe in “going along to get along,” and that to offer pushback can be a little too assertive.
However, this is how we’re conditioned to think by the setup of the modern workplace. Learning to be okay with friction can help you become a lot more confident in how you advocate for your well-being and your rights. If you feel like you’re getting into assertive territory, then that’s a sign you’re on the trite track.
Say “no” more often
If you’re the kind of person who is willing to take on that extra work or to come in for some overtime when you’re asked, then your bosses are going to learn to lean on you, even if they know it’s not strictly within your best interest.
Saying ‘no’ is a crucial skill for the workplace, whether it’s for a task that makes you feel uncomfortable, or if a coworker is asking you to take on extra work.
‘No’ is a full answer, but it can help if you’re able to explain that you currently have a full schedule and can’t take on anything else. If you’re keeping up with your own job’s duties, saying ‘no’ shouldn’t get you in trouble.
Be clear and direct in your communication
Whether you’re saying ‘no’ to additional work, or letting your boss know about needs that aren’t currently being met, you should try to communicate directly and with clarity.
Many workers have found that using weak or unsure language can make it seem like there is more room to negotiate and compromise than there should be. While there’s always room to stay polite, you might want to avoid using terms like “I feel,” “I just,” and “I was wondering.”
Be clear, be direct, and make your requests without any kind of terms designed to soften the message. You’re more likely to be taken seriously and respected if you act like you should be.
Anticipate conflict and manage your reactions
We can all get angry, frustrated, and otherwise express our dissatisfaction in ways that aren’t always appropriate for the workplace. One of the reasons that we can react so strongly, especially in times of conflict, is that we don’t expect it, so the sudden difficulty in communication can get us on the offensive.
When you’re standing up for your rights or advocating for yourself, anticipate that you might face some pushback on the way. If you start to feel an emotional reaction bubbling up, delay responding until you’re able to maintain a calm demeanour.
Otherwise, conversations can end up going nowhere, and things can escalate to the point of unprofessional conduct.
Stay out of office politics
Simply put, there is almost always no benefit to getting involved in office politics, whether it’s gossiping, taking sides, or even trying to offer an impartial view as an outsider.
They are not only highly distracting, but they can be harmful, putting you in difficult positions where you can be blamed for issues in the workplace even if you were not the instigator.
Most people are going to take the hint that you’re not interested in squabbles, excluding people, or generally unproductive behaviour if you don’t engage with them whenever they bring it up. Otherwise, getting involved can put you on the wrong side of bullying even if you don’t mean to be.
Address office bullies right
Bullying is one of the most pervasive and harmful ways that a workplace can be disrupted. It can also sometimes be hard to address, because not everyone is going to notice a bully, immediately.
If you’re dealing with bullying at work, first of all, you should understand that you’re not to take anything they say to heart, and to know that you’re being victimized. Stand your ground and make it clear what treatment you won’t tolerate.
If they don’t relent, then uniting with your other coworkers who you have suspected face the same treatment can help you identify patterns and support each other. If you get to the point that you have to make a report, having some backup can be a big help.
Know your rights
There are a lot of rights to protect employees at work and getting to know them can help you get a better idea of what hard boundaries you should set up, as well as how you should handle it when those boundaries are being broken.
Some examples of your employee rights include your right to receive a payslip, your right to be free from discrimination, your right to health and safety in the workplace, statutory sick pay, maternity and paternity rights (including leave and pay), and protection against unfair dismissal.
These are not the only rights worth knowing, by any means, and you should do your research to know which apply to you. Be aware that contractors, even those who have been working with the same contractee for years, have different rights worth knowing.
Make grievances the right way
Whenever you make grievances, whether it’s due to workplace bullying, your rights being infringed, or even being pushed too hard by a manager, then you may want to start informally.
Have a private conversation with the involved parties, rather than bringing it up when you’re in company, as they are less likely to get defensive if they don’t have an audience judging them.
Bring issues to the supervisor next, informing them of the situation and taking formal steps towards a resolution if necessary. If your supervisor is the one involved in the problem, then bringing your complaint to HR might be the next step.
Make sure that some action is being taken, regardless, don’t let yourself be diminished to save face for the team.
Know when you need help
If the company is not offering the help that you need to resolve your issue, or if they are even threatening your job or treating you badly at the workplace, then it may be time to bring in outside help.
An attorney who practices employment law may be your next best bet. You can get help from them in accelerating grievances that the workplace fails to handle, as well as formally pursuing charges of discrimination, as well as things like unfair dismissal or reprisals if your attempts to solve issues at work have led to you being targeted in return.
If you know your rights, and you’re able to show the evidence that you handled things as you were supposed to, then the law is likely to be on your side.
Always keep records
One of the most important aspects of handling any work grievance, especially the more serious ones, is that you do, indeed, have the evidence to back yourself up.
Saving any emails, text, or phone records can be a big help, but it’s a good idea to keep a log of any instances of bullying, harassment, or other behaviour in the workplace that are less easy to record within the bounds of the law.
What’s more, any time you go to a superior or to HR, try to do it with an email, first and foremost, so that you also have evidence that you tried to address grievances within the company, first.
It is always worth standing up for your rights
The benefits of standing up for yourself almost always outweigh the risks of being a more active self-advocate, even if you have the justifiable concern that you might be pushed out of the workplace.
Your self-esteem will thank you in the long term. But it’s also increasingly one of the only ways to make sure that you have a healthy work-life balance, and can help you foster an environment of accountability wherever you work.
What’s more, assert yourself and know your worth and you’re a lot more likely to get the kind of compensation and treatment you deserve.
Knowing your rights, knowing how to professionally advocate for yourself, and knowing how to get help when those rights are being infringed on can help you a lot as an employee.