Katy perry loves to Roar, Amy Schumer is unapologetically challenging the status quo, and Beyoncé is, well, Queen Bey forever. But the rest of us are more likely to apologise—even though we haven’t done anything wrong—than call out someone else’s mistake in the workplace. Sad, but true. In fact, a study in the American Political Science Review found that in group situations—read: most workplaces—women will speak less than 75 percent of the time men do. So not only do we not have our own hacks, we’re too dang afraid to open our mouths in the first place.
“We’re still the minority when it comes to leadership positions or having our voices heard as experts in business, leadership and political forums, and I strongly feel we have not had the opportunity to develop assertive communication skills or the support for us to gain confidence to speak up in the workplace,” explains corporate educator/consultant Marina Bakker. “We tend to bottle up our feelings and display passive communication behaviour that can affect our mental health.”
Truth: the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Stop thinking of that as a bad thing! If you don’t speak up, how can you expect to get what you want? Don’t let anybody treat you like a doormat come desk time. Here’s how to handle yourself.
1. Someone is Cutting Your Grass
There’s nothing worse than when a sparky upstart decides your to-do list is much more attractive than their own. And now you’re both butting heads on the same tasks. “Don’t be afraid to set clear boundaries,” says Julie Alexander, Founder of The Private Coach, in Australia. “Look at the big picture of what you’re all trying to achieve, then speak to the perspective and say, ‘We are not getting the best result by double-doing’. Work at it from the perspective that they are not doing it intentionally. They may be under pressure elsewhere and want to help, not realising the impact of cutting your grass.” But if they’re taking the glory and gold stars without so much as mentioning your name, go to your leader and highlight the hard work you’ve done—without pointing any fingers. By doing this, you’re putting doubt in their mind as to whether your colleague is doing the right thing.
2. You’re the Only One Staying Back Late
Some overtime is unavoidable in most jobs. But if you’re part of a team and consistently find yourself working solo once everyone’s gone home, it’s time to question why you’re the only one being asked to linger. Before chucking papers everywhere in a dramatic fashion, Alexander says it’s best to start off by asking your teammates if they’re willing to jump in. They’re not? Time to take it to the leader. “Say something along the lines of, ‘I understand the big picture is to achieve X, but I’m unable to give my best because I’m so tired and doing so much. I’d appreciate if we could share the workload’.”
3. You’re Underpaid
This one is black and white—we should be fighting the good fight, not just taking pay inequity lying down. The murky waters come into play when companies have a strict ‘no talk’ clause associated with any salary comparison
among colleagues. However, when you do your research with similar workplaces, or get a few hints from a close workmate or two over a drink, it’s easy to figure out if you’re playing lowball in the salary game. “Have a direct
conversation with your leader, saying you’re aware there is a difference in your pay and that you want to understand their perspective as to why that might be,” says Alexander. “If their reason isn’t good enough, question
it, or ask HR for a confidential conversation. They can approach your leader on behalf of the company, not you, to assess the pay inequity problem.”
4. It’s Performance Review Time
You’re sitting opposite your manager for your review. You feel confident. You’ve worked your socks off, and you hope that hasn’t gone unnoticed. That is until your manager glosses over said hard work to point out areas they believe you’ve been lagging behind; areas in which you don’t agree. See this less as a moment to whine and more as a moment to stand up for your work while gaining valuable feedback. “When someone gives you feedback, rather than hearing it from your perspective, be curious,” Alexander says. “Try approaching it with two mind-sets: 1) curiosity; and 2) this person cares enough about you to give you feedback; they could just get rid of you.” If your boss says they don’t think you are working hard enough, ask for examples and elaboration. If you don’t agree, say something along the lines of: ‘That’s interesting because from my perspective, this is how I’ve seen that situation. There’s a gap between us, so how do we close that gap?' By making it a ‘We’ conversation, rather than an ‘I versus you’ one, you’re likely to get further...
5. You Need a Break
Burning out isn’t going to do yourself, your boss and your colleagues any favours. But often we feel we’re slacking off by taking some R&R. Ditch that martyr mentality, stat. “Explain to your boss that you’re feeling like you
can best serve the team if you recharge your batteries,” says Alexander. “Point out all the targets you have hit up to this point and that you can come back on full steam and better than before.” Go to your leader with the
out-of-office dates mapped out, with previously negotiated cover for your workload. “It puts them on the front foot and prepared,” Alexander adds. “If you have a boss who says, ‘We are too busy’, ask yourself if that’s the
culture you want to work in. Your health affects everything else. You can love your job, but your job will never love you back.”
6. You’re Being Bullied
Ladies, this is a no brainer—if you’re facing any sort of harassment or bullying, for the love of Arianna Huffington, speak up! If seniors know that someone is being a bully and condoning it, that’s a situation in which to vote
with your feet and walk on out of there. But before making like Elvis and exiting the building, it’s wise to confront the bully. Most of the time they’re not maliciously targeting you—it could be a case of them not being aware that their method of communication is of a bullying nature and it’s merely how they think things get done. “It helps if you can identify toxic people and dirty tricks they may use to discredit your reputation or sabotage your work advancements, as this will help you to not play into their hands,” Alexander says. “At these times it is best to hold off and say little, in particular if you’re feeling emotionally charged about the situation.” If this is the case, paraphrase their sentences and repeat what they’re saying, asking more questions. “This is a good way of sticking up for yourself without being perceived as emotionally out of control,” she says. “There’ll always be people
who try to manipulate you, but understanding the fundamentals of assertive communication can greatly assist you in this area.”
By Mel Evans