Are you being taken advantage of at work?

Here’s how to tell – and what to do about it


After the stress and uncertainty of a job search, it can be tempting to think that having found a job, you can relax a little. But there’s a real danger in becoming too ambivalent in your position after you’ve landed in one.

For one thing, this can lead to a lack of ambition and progression in the future. But there’s something even more pernicious that everyone who’s working should aim to stay cognisant of: whether your company is taking advantage of you.

In an ideal world, everyone would always be treated fairly. A job should always be a healthy balance of give and take. Sure, you may feel grateful to have landed the position you do. But it’s hugely important to value yourself, too.

Remember that you were hired for a reason, and that you are an asset to the company. Becoming a doormat at work can be a real problem – and to make matters worse, it’s a vicious cycle. Once it starts to happen, it tends to grow and grow, making it hard to undo.

It can be difficult to know what’s normal to expect from work, and what is undeniably unfair. But staying aware of how you’re being treated is key – and our guide is here to help. Here’s a handy list of ways to tell if you’re being taken advantage of at work – plus some bonus tips on what to do about it.


People don’t check first


Being overwhelmed with tasks is a sad reality of work for many people. While it can be difficult to deal with, it’s unlikely to be a sign of exploitation. What could be, though, is how this work is passed to you. If people seem happy to put even more on your plate, and don’t even bother to check first, then that can be problematic.

If people seem more than happy to pass over work – even if it isn’t technically in your wheelhouse – then that’s a pretty clear sign you aren’t being respected. It’s also worth being aware of who is assigning you work, because if it’s co-workers and not a manager or boss, that’s problematic.


Learn to say no


Many of us are naturally people pleasers. But it’s important that you learn how to turn things down, or risk becoming so swamped that you can’t actually be productive at all. Saying no doesn’t have to be a negative thing, and coming up with strategies which work for you can hugely help you out in the long run.


Lack of positive reinforcement


It may sound childish, but being appreciated and thanked after going the extra mile with work can make a huge difference. It shows that the work you put in is noticed, and that you are valued as a part of your team.

If you’re never getting a thank you, that’s a clear sign people have stopped noticing and valuing what you do – which can feel pretty terrible.


Draw attention to yourself


It can go against our natural instincts to try to attract attention and praise. But in the world of work, doing so might be the only way to avoid being overlooked.

Consider booking a short meeting with a manager to check in on how you’re getting on, and come prepared with all the facts on your latest successes. This will make it nigh on impossible for your work to not be acknowledged.


Your role has become vague


When you applied for your position, it’s likely you had a pretty clear idea of what your work would entail. While it’s natural for this to move and shift over time, it’s still worth keeping this original job description in mind if you’re worried you’re being taken advantage of.

If the majority of your day to day tasks are far outside what you originally signed up for, then it may be that you’re being given work that shouldn’t really belong to you. Going above and beyond is one thing, but taking on responsibilities that have little to do with your position is, quite simply, unfair.

Talk to someone


If you’re working outside of what your job title dictates, it can be worth pointing this out to someone higher up. Even if the changes in your role have actually been welcome, it can be useful to a manager to better understand the workload.

It may even be you need a restructuring of your role to better accommodate how the position is panning out. Drawing attention to these issues can make you feel less alone, and more secure in the future of your job.


You’re always expected to be on


Although they sometimes get a bad rep, breaks are hugely important to both your well-being and your productivity. Taking a look at how your place of work regards breaks can be a great way for you to understand whether your workload is normal.

A healthy attitude towards breaks and holidays should be expected, and even more so during times of higher stress or increased workload.


Be firm


You may need to explain to someone that you’re feeling overwhelmed, not only by your work but by the lack of downtime. Many people are pretty wrapped up in what they’re doing, and may not have even noticed how overworked you’ve become.

Making sure people understand that you need to take breaks – and that these breaks will actually help the entire workplace out overall – is essential.


Lack of real life compensation


A pretty concrete sign of your being taken advantage of is if you’re being constantly passed over in terms of a promotion or a raise. This can have a really adverse effect on you, not just because of the lack of actual compensation, but because of what it can represent.

Feeling like you’re unappreciated or not valuable to your company can make it hard to remain motivated at work.

It can also have a hugely adverse effect on your confidence. Understand that it isn’t greedy to ask for what you’re owed, and that if you want something, you may have to be a little more proactive than you’d expected.


Take yourself seriously


It’s difficult to convince others of your value if you aren’t too sure of it yourself. Remind yourself that you’re talented, hard-working, and good at what you do.

You have to be firmly on your own side, or you can’t expect anyone else to be. If you truly feel like you deserve better, then you should go for it. Ask your manager about booking a meeting to discuss your future prospects, and come prepared with any information on what makes you such a great asset to your team.

It can feel uncomfortable having to take matters in to your own hands – but in terms of getting what you deserve, it’s really so worth it.