Those long, arduous workdays when you just. can’t. with overly cutthroat colleagues or a boss who piles on the menial tasks? Unfortunately, they’re par for the course.
But that doesn’t mean you need to grin and bear it. Sure, an easy-going attitude and ready smile go a long way in the workplace, but being likeable isn’t—and shouldn’t be—your only key to success. You want to be respected, and one way to get that collective thumbs-up from your colleagues and managers is by decisively and diplomatically standing up for yourself.
Being assertive means you don’t accept being treated like a doormat (awesome!), but it doesn’t mean being aggressive or bitchy (*not* awesome). You want to make sure you speak up for yourself and your needs calmly, tactfully, when it’s appropriate. Here are four times you should stick up for yourself when your job lands you in fight-or-flight mode:
1. When you’re drowning in work.
The boss “voluntold” you to create a presentation for the company’s next board meeting while you’re juggling 85 other projects and filling in for your coworker on her honeymoon, and it’s 9 p.m. on the Sunday before a work trip to Singapore. So convenient! While replying with “You got it!” and pushing through seems like the right response, if you’re burning out, you need to let your boss know.
Shoot her a note saying, “Could you help me prioritize my current projects? I want to be sure I can execute all the tasks on my plate at the moment.” It’s a cool, calm and collected way to make her aware of an impossibly heavy workload while letting her weigh in on what’s most important, and it could prevent burnout from potentially wreaking havoc on the quality of your work—and your life.
2. When you’re not being given the assignments you want.