10 Signs you’re not standing up for yourself at work

How many times have you got cranky with yourself for not speaking up? Or perhaps, you chose not to say something in an effort to avoid a difficult conversation. In my experience working with smart, well-mannered people, this is a common problem. 


Jenny loved her job. She thought her manager was a wonderful person and she’d learnt so much working with her over the years. Her ability to know exactly what the clients wanted and how to provide it to them with it was real art in action. She made it look so easy. She always knew the latest trends and how to squeeze an extra dollar from assignments, even though clients initially said they had limited budget.


There was just one problem with her manager. She was opinionated about everything and she always told Jenny exactly what she should do in each situation, even when she hadn’t sought advice.


Jenny thought part of being a good employee meant putting up with her manager’s constant and unsolicited instructions. But after taking a self-empowerment class over the weekend, Jenny realized she needed to start standing up for herself.


Like Jenny, you may struggle with asserting yourself at work. You might not even be sure if you need to stand up for yourself. Here are 10 signs that it’s time to find your voice…


10 Signs it's time to find your voice

Sign #1: You feel resentful toward others

This might come out as passive aggressive remarks that you make to your boss about their inability to let you reflect and make suggestions before they give instructions or as disparaging comments that you make to colleagues about your boss.


Resentment is anger that stems from feeling as if you’ve been treated unfairly. Left unchecked, resentment can turn into bitterness and physically harm you, causing health problems. It can also damage or even destroy your work relationships.


Sign #2: You always compromise

Yes, it’s good to have the ability to compromise. It can make being at work easier to manage. But if you feel as if you’re always the one doing the other’s bidding and making compromises, stop and ask yourself why.


What is it that you’re afraid will happen if you don’t back down? Are you afraid of hurting your boss’s feelings? Are you afraid of being embarrassed by a colleague?


Sign #3: You feel like everyone else’s feelings are more important

It’s natural to want those around you to enjoy working with you. It means that you care about your colleagues and having a positive work environment. But if you value everyone else’s feelings more than your own, chances are that you’re letting others trample your boundaries.


For example, Chris preferred to have his first hour at work to himself, so that he could prioritize and organize his day. He treasured the quiet time and found it helped set his day up for success. But after Chris’s new manager joined the firm, who also liked early starts, Chris found his quiet time disappear. His new manager liked to stop by his desk when she arrived in the morning, and they would talk about the projects they had on and their progress.


At first, Chris told himself it wasn’t a big deal. But as the days stretched into weeks, Chris found himself feeling resentful toward his new manager. He wanted nothing more than to go back to his quiet prioritizing and organizing routine but didn’t want to make his manager feel unwelcome.


Sign #4: You worry about what others think

You want to take that new job you’ve always dreamed of or write that fun adventure novel on the side. But the moment that you think about doing these things, you freeze up. Suddenly, you’re worried about how your work colleagues will interpret your goals.


The surest way to live a life that makes you unhappy is to spend it making decisions for other people. You deserve more than hiding your goals and skills around others and trying not to rock the proverbial boat.


Sign #5: Your work relationships feel unfulfilling

If you struggle with standing up for yourself, then you may have difficulty verbalizing what you need at work. As a result, your work relationships can feel highly transactional and leave you feeling misunderstood or invisible.


Sometimes, this only affects some of your work relationships. Donna was very outspoken about what she needed with her friends. But when it came to her boss of four years, she was hesitant to discuss her career aspirations with him.


After a manager ridiculed her career aspirations at a previous company, she worried her current manager would think her foolish if she shared her career goals, and potentially stop investing in her, which would have meant leaving the team. Unfortunately, this left her trapped in a job where she was experiencing a declining interest in it and her manager had no idea she was becoming disengaged.


Sign #6: Your colleagues are progressing their careers and getting promoted

Another colleague got the promotion you wanted. You know objectively that she isn’t necessarily better suited for the position. In fact, you have a lot of qualities that would make you perfect for the role. But time and again, you get passed over.


A very real possibility is that you’re not standing up for yourself enough. Maybe you let everyone else lead and think this makes you a good team player. Perhaps you defer the credit to others when the job was well-done. But these mistakes are sabotaging your career and keeping you from the success you crave.


Sign #7: You apologize all the time

Many people struggle with apologizing too frequently. For some, this stems not from the belief that they were wrong but a sincere desire to maintain harmony in the relationship.


While there’s certainly something to be said for being strong enough to apologize, it’s a mistake to always be the one apologizing. It makes you look weak in front of others and gives people the idea that you’re a pushover.


Sign #8: You feel like you don’t have a choice

A common sign that you struggle to stand up for yourself is that you often feel as if you don’t have a choice in what happens to you. You have to work late, and you feel like you don’t get a say in it. You feel as if you have to complete your work the way your manager would do it, and you can’t argue.


But are these thoughts really true? What will be the worst that happens if you tell your boss that you need to leave work on time, every now and again? What will your colleagues say if you stand up for yourself and confidently share how you want to project manage an engagement?


Chances are, if you’re respectful of one another at work, the other person might be surprised by your sudden vocalization, but they’d be supportive. After all, those who truly want the best for you believe that you should forge your own path.


Sign #9: You get taken advantage of frequently

Everyone has the wool pulled over their eyes and is misled on occasion. But if you’re always being taken advantage of, there’s a probably a reason.


Something about your posture, your speech, or your body language is communicating to others that you are an easy target. This could be as simple as using submissive language when you talk or holding your body in a way that communicates subservience.


Sign #10: You don’t know what you’re feeling

During a disagreement or heated conversation, you have trouble verbalizing your feelings. You struggle to tell others what you’re experiencing. This could be due to the fact that you fear rejection, or it may mean that you lack the emotional tools you need to recognize and define your feelings.


Signs you're not standing up for yourself [recap]

  1. You feel resentful toward others

  2. You always compromise

  3. You feel like everyone else’s feelings are more important

  4. You worry about what others think

  5. Your work relationships feel unfulfilling

  6. Your colleagues are progressing their careers and getting promoted

  7. You apologize all the time

  8. You feel like you don’t have a choice

  9. You get taken advantage of frequently

  10. You don’t know what you’re feeling


The good news is that you can learn to define and communicate your emotions, even in the middle of conflict. But it does take time and you need practice to learn these skills.


You Can Stand Up for Yourself

If you recognize some of your own feelings or behaviors in the list above, don’t despair. While it might seem overwhelming now, the truth is that you can become an empowered person who asserts themselves at work, maintain relationships, and gets their career needs met. If you would like to find out more about how you can have a confident conversation at work click here.

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