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How to Deal if You're Being Treated Unfairly at Work

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Being treated unfairly in the workplace is perhaps one of life's greatest stressors, often having multiple negative effects. Not only does it promote a hostile work environment, but it can tarnish some important relationships, like the ones you have with your manager or co-workers. Though you may feel like all hope is lost, know that there is something you can do about it. Read on for some quick tips on how to deal with being treated unfairly and tricks on how to make it stop!

1. Limit how often you say "yes"

"It's in our nature to want to please people and deliver for our colleagues, but what you don't realize is that the more you say 'yes,' the more you are creating a precedent," says Salvatore Fusari, a Human Resources Generalist at Reckitt Benckiser. "I know it might be difficult, but in order to make sure your priorities are being met, you need to manage other people's expectations."

It's easy to want to take on multiple projects at once and fit in last minute requests, but as Fusari points out, saying "yes" to everything has some serious disadvantages. Your co-workers will start to depend on you so much that you will become a dumping ground for anything and everything. It's great when your colleagues and your boss feel like they can rely on you, but you should stick up for yourself if you feel that you're being taken advantage of.

2. Stand up for yourself

Confidence is key when it comes to being taken seriously in the workplace. If you exude confidence and stand up for yourself when you know something isn't right, it's more likely that you'll avoid being treated unfairly. Your manager and your co-workers will realize that they can't pull one over on you and they won't try to either. But if you do feel like you're not being treated right—your co-worker is getting more perks than you do, your manager is constantly ramping up your workload and not delegating tasks fairly—then make sure you stick up for yourself.

"Whenever a conversation has the potential to evoke an emotional response, always err on the side of caution and confront the individual privately," suggests Fusari. "When you are in that one-on-one meeting, make sure you convey how you feel and the impact it has on you, but more importantly, ask for a change in behavior."

3. Talk it out

Bottling up your feelings is one of the worst things you can do and if something is bothering you, talking it out is always the best solution. Miscommunication happens, but in order to solve it, you need to clearly explain how you're feeling and make sure that you and the other person are on the same page. Organize your thoughts (write them down if you have to!) and practice in front of a mirror so that you can eradicate rambling, stuttering, and other public speaking quirks that may make you sound like you're not confident in what you're saying or unsure about the outcome you're looking for.

4. Head to HR

If you tried speaking with the person you are having an issue with and it didn't produce any results, head to your Human Resources department to see if they have any advice.

"If you don't feel comfortable approaching your supervisor again, don't be afraid to reach out to your company's Human Resources department," says Meghan Murphy, a junior at Northeastern University who said this was a step she had to take during an internship. "It's their job to ensure you are comfortable and have a good work experience, and they can help you to come up with a game plan for dealing with the problem and support you through the process."

Make sure you come prepared, though. Having a timeline of past grievances, instances when you tried to communicate your feelings to the person in question and specific reasons why you think you're not being heard is helpful for your HR representative to know.

5. Remember that you're not alone

Chances are, someone somewhere is going through the same exact thing you are—you just aren't aware of it. Sometimes it's easier to process things when you have the mindset that you're not alone and that other people have (and will!) go through the same exact thing. Reach out to family and friends who may have been in similar positions for advice on how to cope and/or get some help. They may have information on what they wish they did, how they eventually got it resolved and what you can do to make sure the unfairness doesn't continue in the future.

"Sometimes managers will play favorites with certain employees because they like them better as a person or favor their personalities more," says Francesca Sgambati, a 2011 Rutgers University graduate who works as a Digital Media Assistant Editor at NJ Brides. "I've been treated unfairly and watched someone else get better treatment because they were friendly with the management, but I talked to my family and friends about it and they had some great advice: If you do your job and you do your job well, being super friendly with the management can only work in your favor for so long. Every manager wants an employee who can deliver on their work, not someone whose main priority is to be a social butterfly."

6. Move on

If things just aren't working out, it might be time to quit and find a new job. Sometimes employees don't completely gel with their current company's culture, and there's nothing wrong with re-evaluating your situation and finding a better fit somewhere else. If you do go with this route, make sure you give your manager enough of a head's up and explain why you've chosen to leave.

As an employee, you shouldn't have to deal with being treated unfairly in the workplace, but the unfortunate thing is that it happens to a lot of people. Be confident, talk it out with your manager or whomever you're having an issue with and make sure that you don't bottle up your emotions. Being in the workplace is an exciting thing and you deserve to be in an environment that makes you excel in your career. You've got this, graduette!


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