Have you ever felt like you were being taken advantage of at work?
Well, welcome to corporate America.
Unless you work at a notoriously employee-friendly company such as Google or Zappos, you need to accept that the company you work for may be more interested in the bottom line than your happiness.
In an ideal world, you’d be recognized for all your awesomeness. They’d erect monuments in your honor for getting that report turned around on such a tight deadline. Do they know how hard you worked on that stinking report?
But this is the real world, and you’re going to have to fight off demanding bosses, difficult coworkers and your own bad habits. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Here’s how you can survive in a company that’s looking out for number one — and how to know when it’s time to call it quits.
1. Stop looking for recognition
This is a tough but vital strategy for surviving a thankless job. There will be times when your job requires you to work early and stay late, come in on weekends and perform duties beyond what your job description covers. Just do it.
If you need to complete a big project or prepare for a major event or presentation, it’s in your best interest to suck it up and get it done. Sometimes being extraordinary is considered a requirement, and you’ve got to accept that you shouldn’t expect a round of applause for every extra task you complete.
2. Don’t be a pushover
When you’re passionate about what you do and you do it with friendly people in a happy environment, you tend to be more committed without expecting anything in return.
Excitement and engagement are good for your career and your health, but make sure you draw a line between the habit and the exception. If you’re routinely being asked to commit more time than is fair to ask, you have every right to communicate your feelings and negotiate something in return (like a raise or a promotion).
Remember, it’s up to you to communicate your needs and expectations.
When to call it quits: There’s a difference between being overworked and being exploited. Calling you in repeatedly on your day off without notice and/or asking you to perform tasks that make you uncomfortable are good reasons to look for opportunities elsewhere.
3. Watch for workplace hazards
If you’re unlucky, you might work with someone who’s actively trying to set you up for failure. This person might take credit for hard work that you did or throw you under the bus when you least expect it.
First, err on the side of generosity. It’s possible that this person is overwhelmed with personal or professional issues and being inconsiderate without realizing it.
But if your coworker’s behavior is clearly antagonistic, put this person on your radar as a workplace hazard. Do your best to minimize your interactions with him or her.
4. Honestly evaluate your behavior
If you find that the relationship between you and your coworker or boss is deteriorating despite your best efforts, you need to act. But before you do, take an honest look at your workplace behavior to see if there’s any chance that you could be the problem.
Do you show up late? Do you gossip and cause drama in the office? Do you bring smelly tuna sandwiches for lunch or steal your coworkers’ snacks? Evaluate your behavior from an outsider’s perspective to see if there’s anything lacking.
When to call it quits: Unprovoked, mean-spirited behavior is a red flag that a coworker is out to get you. This is a relationship that might not be worth attempting to salvage. And, of course, verbal abuse or sexual harassment in the workplace is absolutely inexcusable.
5. Be willing to walk away
If you’ve exhausted all of your options, you need to play your final card: Look for another job.
Life is too short to work for jerks, and your career is too important to waste your time trying to please a team that isn’t a good fit. Think about what you’ve learned from this position, and let it inform your next strategic career move.
It can be hard to give your best to your job and come away feeling unappreciated — especially when a warm smile or a simple thank-you was all you were after.
Fortunately, your fate is in your hands. Stand up for yourself, ask for what you need when you know you deserve it and be prepared to move on if you can’t get it.
Hellen Barbara is the founder and president of Pubslush, a global crowdfunding and analytics platform for the literary world. She presently serves on the board of directors for the Gavin’s Got Heart Foundation, is a member of the Exceptional Women in Publishing organization, and is a Power Circle member of 85 Broads.