You spend a lot of time at work or, at least, communicating with your coworkers. And whether you're friends with any of them or not, you've probably gotten to know them a bit over the course of the time you've spent working together. You know who answers emails in the middle of the night, who you can count on to snag you a snack on someone's birthday, and who tends to sneak out early when the boss is gone. They know you too. But if you do these things, you're enabling your coworkers to take advantage of you, which isn't OK and likely isn't so great for your stress levels, mental health, or relationships with them.
When you know you're being taken advantage of and feel like there's nothing you can do to stop it, you can feel really powerless. But there are some things that you can do to put an end to it. In fact, you might even be doing things that are actually allowing it to continue, perhaps without even realizing you're doing so, which is why it's important to know what those kinds of things might be. Just because you might be doing things that are making it possible for them to take advantage doesn't let your coworkers off the hook for how they're treating you, but recognizing the role that you may be playing in the situation might also help you put a stop to it.
1You Can't Say No
"First and foremost, they need to learn to say no," Dr. AJ Marsden, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of human services and psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, tells Romper by email. "Often people allow their coworkers to take advantage of them because they feel too guilty to turn down a request from them or they want to make sure the work gets done (or gets done right)."
Always saying yes because you want people to like you or because you want to have control over the work that gets done might not actually be doing yourself or your team much good. Be realistic with yourself about if it's really a good idea for you to take on the extra work required — that's what other people would likely do as well if it was you asking them to help get your work done.
2You Don't Establish Boundaries
Sometimes you might be more likely to agree to take on more work or do something that might not be in your best interest because the coworker who is asking is a friend of yours. But recognizing your abilities and determining what's part of your job and what isn't is important in establishing (and enforcing) boundaries with your coworkers, as The Muse noted. They may have asked you specifically because you're friends, but you're still allowed to turn them down.
3You're Scared To Be Assertive
Being assertive and speaking out can be difficult, particularly if doing so will make things tense or result in conflict or confrontation. But keeping quiet can make it easy for coworkers to take advantage of your fear or hesitation.
"Learning to be assertive about your own needs, and confident that you deserve to say no sometimes, can be tough if that’s not the way you normally interact with the world," Amy McManus, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper via email. "It takes practice to learn to take into account your own needs and be able to say 'no' if you don’t have the time or resources to help someone out. Practice with small requests. Keep it simple and just say something like, 'I’d love to help you out, but I’m just not able to right now.' Don’t make excuses; you’re allowed to say 'no!'"
4You Take It Upon Yourself To Pick Up The Slack Around The Office
If you're the one who plans office celebrations, pitches in to set up for an event, or tries to help out with any tasks that no one else is doing, your coworkers may expect that you'll pick up any necessary slack regardless of what it is. That's not to say that you shouldn't help out or shouldn't do extra things like this, but, as Fast Company noted, doing these things because you're trying to please everyone can take a toll on you, and that's not fair.
5You're Putting Your Coworker's Goals Ahead Of Your Own
It's great that you're supportive of, or at least on the same page with, your coworker's goals, intentions, and project objectives, but you shouldn't feel the need to take on extra work just to help them meet those if it involves you putting your own goals second. In an interview with Business Insider, Juliet Hailstone, the marketing director at Mitrefinch Ltd, said that thinking about a coworker's request in terms of your own goals can help alleviate some of the guilt that can come with turning down a request.
6You Don't Stick Up For Yourself
In a post on its website, Monster noted that if a boss or coworker steals credit for your work, you need to stick up for yourself. Just because they took credit doesn't mean that they were intentionally acting maliciously (they may have forgotten that that idea was yours or may have misunderstood how much work you did on the project), but if you never speak up when it happens, they might take advantage of your silence.
7You Say Yes When You Mean No
Sometimes you're asked to do things that you'd rather not and it's not always possible to say that you won't do them, but when it is, you're certainly allowed to do so. And when you say that you'll do something when you really should have said that you wouldn't, you might find yourself feeling resentful. "Constantly saying yes has the effect of creating a habit: co-worker asks you for help, you say yes, even though you don't have time, you're resentful, co-worker knows you're trustworthy and put up good work, you strain to get the work done, you vow to not do this again, cycle starts all over again," Nina Rubin, a life coach, tells Romper by email. "Saying no creates a sense of empowerment for you and for them: they remember they can do the work and you're not on the hook for their work."
Regardless of why you allow your coworkers to pile on the work or take credit for things that you did, recognizing that it doesn't have to continue to be this way is the first step in changing things for the better — for your sake and for the sake of any relationship you may have with those with whom you work.