The first several times “Pete” asked you for help, you gave it freely. He now expects you to take over his partially completed projects when he “runs out of time.” This wouldn’t be so bad if Pete didn’t waste so much time or your own workload wasn’t so heavy.
“Sharon” calls you at home two to three evenings a week, expecting you’ll listen to her vent. Some evenings you’re just too tired for her negativity, but when you try to change the subject, she talks over you.
Are you an agreeable, accommodating, kind person who lets others push you around and walk over you? If so, try these three action steps.
If you want to stop others from walking on you, stop them before they start. How? Gently but firmly call a halt when their toes first intrude on your feet.
What does this look like? Imagine you and one of your coworkers are eating lunch together. The coworker reaches his fork toward your plate, saying “don’t mind me,” clearly intending to claim a taste of the food on your plate. Instead of biting your tongue, raise your hand to catch his attention as you say, “I do mind.”
When you pick up the phone and realize Sharon is on the other end, greet her with “Hi Sharon, I’m too busy tonight for a conversation.” If she says, “Let me just tell you…,” answer, “Sorry, but I can’t listen tonight.” Soon, she’ll look for new ears.
Learn to say “no”
Do you remember what happened in high school when a guy called you and asked, “What are you doing tonight?” If you responded, “nothing much,” you eliminated your ability to say, “No” to his suggestion that you get together. If you’d instead asked, “What do you have in mind?” in response to his initial question, you’d have created the space to turn down his invitation.
If you say “sure” or “yes” when you’d rather say “no,” learn to ask a question before you’re talked into something you don’t want to do. When Pete next approaches your work station saying, “I need you to help me out here,” ask, “What do you hope I’ll take on for you?” If Pete’s a manipulator who sees you as a target, those words alone will signal you plan to change the pattern he’s grown accustomed to.
When he makes his request, you can then say, “I’m committed to other projects and can’t help you out this time.” If Pete pushes back saying, “But I’m in a jam,” you can say, “Pete, I don’t have time.”
Stand up for yourself
If others regularly walk on you or push you to bail them out of jams they create, they consider you their “tool.” Healthy work and personal relationships have balance much like playground teeter totters. You’re not another’s butler, you’re an equal.
If people always ask you for favors, don’t allow yourself to be pushed beyond reasonable limits. If a coworker or friend regularly talks over you, gently but firmly say, “please let me finish,” when they do it again. Decide today that you’ll create balance in your relationships, by standing up for yourself, your feelings, and your time. You don’t need to smile at jokes you find offensive. You don’t need to pretend to agree when you disagree. And you don’t need to pick up the pieces for those who walk on you.
© 2017, Lynne Curry, adapted from Lynne Curry’s Beating the Workplace Bully, 2015, AMACOM.