Five Tips to Help You Manage Exploitative Coworkers

Stressed worker giving more files to sort through sitting at a desk filled with stacks of files alreadyAs an employee, you’re a part of a team. And being part of a team means helping each other out when they need it, and if you’re the generous type you probably give out a lot of help. But sometimes your coworkers will take advantage of your generosity to get out of their own jobs. Here are some tips to budget your generosity so that you can avoid being taken advantage of.


Tip #1 – Clearly Communicate When You Can Help

Your time is precious, both during and outside work hours. If a coworker asks you for help and it doesn’t interfere with your work time or personal time, then help them out. But if helping this person cuts into your own work or leisure time, firmly (but politely) reiterate your boundaries. Helping someone else get their work done shouldn’t put you behind on your own. Directly communicating with your coworkers gives them a better understanding of why you are declining or accepting their request for help.


Tip #2 – Don’t Overextend Yourself

If you’re naturally someone who likes to help in the office, it can be easy to put too much on your own plate. Even if you have the time to spare, doing too much can tire you out quickly and lower your quality of work, regardless of whether it’s your own or something you’re helping with. You must know your limits, or you’ll burn out. You have your own duties that need to get done, and you can’t do them if you have no energy.


Tip #3 – Know Your Worth

It’s important that you have a clear understanding of your job duties, skill level, and position in the company so that you can more clearly identify when you’re being taken advantage of. For instance, if you’re an administrative assistant, it’s within the job description to deliver papers, handle phone calls, schedule meetings and perform other clerical duties for the higher-ups. If that is not the job you are being paid for, then it is not a job you should be doing for a coworker, especially if they are not your supervisor or superior. At the end of the day, you have a job, and you know what you’re being paid for, so don’t stumble into accepting another informal (unpaid) position.


Tip #4 – Remember it’s Okay to Say No

A lot of people struggle with declining requests from others. It’s easier to say “yes” to everything to avoid conflict or making a scene. But if someone asks for your help and you can’t provide any, or you’re behind on your own work, or you just don’t want to, it’s okay to decline. Of course, if it’s your job to answer complaints to provide help to employees (like if you work in HR for example), then declining a request would be not doing your job. However, if this request is outside of your scope, you have every right to decline.


Tip #5 – Recognize When It’s Time to Leave

Sometimes no matter how many times you try to set boundaries, you’ll have a coworker who steps over them anyway. Or maybe you can’t complain to management because it’s management who’s trying to cross your boundaries. If it comes to a point where you’re doing more work than you signed up for because your coworkers don’t want to do their own work, it might be a suitable time to leave. At the end of the day, it’s always a good idea to get out of a toxic workplace.


There’s nothing wrong with helping around the office. Offices are communal spaces; everyone has a part to play in making sure they run smoothly, both workwise and space-wise. But if you have someone who likes to take a mile on your team, the workplace can become toxic quickly. So, if you find yourself doing more work than everyone else on your team or doing someone else’s work, try to reestablish yourself and your space. But if that doesn’t work, there are other companies that could use your skills.


Looking to get out of a toxic work environment? Area Temps has seven offices conveniently placed around Northeast Ohio that can help you get a job anywhere in the region. Check out our job board here for any open positions in your field/area or click here to get in contact with your nearest Area Temps office.

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