How do you identify when your boss is taking advantage of you? How do you handle the situations and put an end to the toxic environment? And how do you know if this is the circumstance that surrounds you?
Often in your workplace, your boss doesn’t always realize they are taking advantage of you.Maybe you are a top performer, or they know you do well when you’re busy. Perhaps they have worked with you for a long time and have become accustomed to you saying yes to every project.
Although you may be okay with helping your boss occasionally, it may become a regular occurrence over time. This may lead to feelings of resentment, and turn your work environment – and your job – toxic.
To avoid this outcome, it’s vital that you can spot the signs and find solutions to overcome them.
(For the purpose of this list, we will assume the boss in this situation is male.)
They ask you to do one thing. Halfway through finishing the task, they ask you to do something immediately and to drop what you’re doing. Later your superior will discuss with you why you didn’t complete your first task.
You walk into the office, change your shoes, and look at your tasks for the day. Your boss offers to get you a coffee while you check your emails. Later, he returns and asks you to do a favor for him as a project is overdue. You agree and start the task.
As you’re reading the assignment, you realize there is a lot of work to be done. The project might take until lunch, but you are up to the challenge.
25 minutes pass.
Your boss returns to your desk, and he is panicked. He knows you are the only one in the office who can show him how to fix his emails and help with a conference call. He asks if you can come now as it’s urgent.
After 2 hours of helping him, you stumble back to your desk. You look at the time. It’s nearly lunch. You think about the project your boss had said was urgent in the morning, and realize it is going to take till after lunch.
You look at your schedule and see you don’t have enough time to finish the first task assigned to you. And then you realize you are in a meeting with clients all afternoon.
The next day you arrive at work early. Your boss calls you into the office and demands an explanation as to why the project he put you on in the morning wasn’t complete.
When your boss had interrupted you, you must indicate the expectations. Being a yes man will only cause you grief later. Let your boss know that if you help him, you’re not sure if you will be able to finish the first project he assigned before the end of the day.
If he is okay with that, then you don’t need to worry about the first task reaching a deadline.
If he’s not okay with that, then let him know that you will not be able to finish both. Then refer him to someone else that could help him.
Sometimes becoming a yes man will only cause grief later. If you always say yes, your boss will lean on you to do a lot of his job. You are indicating that you’re okay with being overwhelmed even if your boss doesn’t realize they’re taking advantage of you.
They use your success as indications of how successful they are.
Recently your senior manager has called a meeting for you, your direct superior, as well as a few other staff members.
When you walk into the conference room, your senior manager congratulates you on a successful quarter. They mention that this project wouldn’t have been able to get off the ground without you.
A sense of pride falls over your face, and you thank everyone who helped you. Your direct superior says. “Had I not been there for you throughout the project, you surely wouldn’t have been able to get it done.”
Later in the week, you notice your manager discussing with other superiors that he got the project off the ground and said it was a team effort. Your boss continues by telling the other managers in the office that he had done such an excellent job training you. He states that because of him, the whole project was a success.
When your boss is speaking with others regarding your success, allow this to roll off your shoulder. Your boss’s superiors know that you are the one that did this job.
You can open the conversation with your boss. Ask to have a private meeting and try to relay the way you felt when you overheard him taking the credit for work you had done independently. Your boss must see that this wasn’t a team effort and that this was a project you tackled on your own.
In the meeting, don’t get defensive, speak openly about your concerns, and explain your feelings. Likely, your boss hadn’t seen the situation from your perspective.
A worst-case scenario is that your boss doesn’t understand and becomes defensive. In that case, understand that you have the recognition from upper management. The ideologies of your boss should not have an impact on your abilities or self-acknowledgment. This also lets your boss know that you won’t let them keep taking advantage of you.
They approve everyone’s vacation, but yours, and always have excuses for why they can’t give you your holidays.
You arrive at your boss’s office in early February and ask for a specific week in July as a holiday. You mention your spouse had booked a camping trip and that you would like to take this week as one of your allotted paid vacations. Then you indicate that you are giving over four months’ notice, and it would mean a lot to you.
Your boss tells you that they have to verify when others are taking their vacation to make sure it doesn’t overlap. Not to mention that he also wanted to take a vacation in July and cannot have you gone at the same time as him leaving the office understaffed without you.
Later in March, you overhear a co-worker talking about taking their paid holidays in July as the weather is always best then. You join the conversation and mention that you put in an inquiry that was not approved yet. Your co-workers look at you, puzzled, and say, mine was accepted right away.
You double-check the holiday schedule and see that your week was booked by an employee that often shows up late or misses work and only puts in half the effort you display.
Call a meeting with your boss. Ask why your holidays are not approved yet other employees within the calendar have been.
Your boss tells you that you are the most reliable person on the team, and they will need you here fulltime in the summer months. At this point, make sure you address the injustice as your holidays had been in request since early February.
If you cannot come up with a solution with your boss, this is the time to contact HR. Let them know that you have had your vacation booked since February, and you would like an evaluation of your holiday booking.
Although this may seem as though your boss is playing favorites, a lot of the time, it is much easier for your boss to give others holidays that don’t work as hard as you or are not as reliable.
It can be difficult for your boss to see you leave for a week, especially if your boss leans on you for a lot of the day-to-day tasks within the office. Don’t take it too personally.
You are the first person they call when someone abandons a project.
It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon; you’re sitting at home catching up on your favorite reality tv show or sports you missed during the week.
Your phone begins to ring, and your boss calls. They plead with you to take on an extra project that one of your co-workers had abandoned. He mentions that the person that initially had this project submitted it and won’t make any revisions.
Your boss asks if you can come in early Monday to go over the details and that he would be forever grateful. You turn to your spouse and mention you’ll have to go to the office early on Monday.
Your spouse looks puzzled and mentions to you that this is the 4th time this year that someone has abandoned a project and that you have to take over.
Let your boss know that you cannot take over another abandoned project, or if someone calls in sick, cover for them. It is not your job to pick up the slack, and that sometimes other people will need to lend a hand.
Although at first, it can be daunting to set your foot down with your boss, they mustn’t always lean on you for support whenever something doesn’t go the way they expected.
Setting boundaries within your workplace is vital to your mental health and can create a less hostile work environment. Your boss shouldn’t always ask you to pick up the slack of others. Having a boundary will eliminate the feelings of guilt or resentment that you may have towards your boss.
Creating this boundary can help facilitate a better relationship with you and your boss. and stop them taking advantage of you.
You have been waiting for a promised promotion for months.
A company email has been circling, offering a position that your superior told you is already yours. Your boss and upper management agreed you would be great for the role and that you should apply when the time comes.
Upper management had said that they want you for that position and need you to apply as it’s an issue of formality. When you see the company email come across, you decide to apply. No one had mentioned anything about the position coming up.
You approach your boss and ask if this is the correct position and if someone had forgotten to mention to you to apply. Your boss lets you know that you should send your resume but not to get your hopes up as he still feels you aren’t ready for the position.
When you apply, upper management did not choose you for an interview. Your co-worker in the office next to you gets the job despite only being with the company for six months.
There are a few reasons why this is happening. One of the reasons is that you are immensely valuable in your current position. They recognize it would cost the company more money to have to replace you. It can be challenging for a company to lose someone in your role, although long term, you would be helping the business through the promotion.
Call for a meeting with your boss and upper management. Ask what exactly you need to do to increase your chances of receiving an interview. Ask why the application process was just a formality (as indicated by upper management). And ask for the underlying conditions for not getting an interview.
Openly ask questions that are on your mind. Don’t let this get to you longterm without the issues having a clear answer. You can make an informed decision on staying with the company should there be a feeling of being “stuck” in the position.
If your boss is taking advantage of you, it can be blinding. Sometimes it can go unseen for years before a realization comes to light that you have been a scapegoat in the workplace.
Every situation you have read are ones I have personally gone through in one workplace or another. I spent the last few months analyzing the importance of understanding each position and what I could have done differently.
Being mindful of each situation within your workplace can help you to view from a different perspective. Keep in mind to always think of “What would I tell a friend or family member that is in a similar situation.”
Set boundaries and stick to them. You are the captain of your ship.
Standing up for yourself is the most important thing you can do. It’s also the most effective way to stop your boss taking advantage of you.