Employees: Watch Your Back, No-one Else Will

Written by Chloe Harwood

For a long time, employees have been asked to believe a convenient myth that, for the most part, we have accepted. The idea that the companies we work for are part of our community and have our benefit and our interests at heart is simply not true in a large number of cases. There are great workplaces out there, but it’s not wise to rely on them to have your back; you should always know how to have your own.

Standing up for yourself

In most cases, there is never going to be someone as invested in your own happiness and success at work as you. If you encounter a coworker that takes credit for your ideas, pushes blame unfairly on you, or treats you like a subordinate rather than someone in an equal position, you might look to authority figures to step in for you. However, that’s rarely going to happen as most managers and employers simply want to stop the boat from rocking. It’s important to pick your battles, so that you’re not complaining or gossiping about every little thing. If you truly do feel the need to stand up for yourself, blog Classy Career Girl offers a few key pieces of advice on how to do it. These include keeping your cool, behaving professional, and learning how to project confidence so coworkers don’t see you as an easy mark.

Dealing with harmful behavior

Sometimes, workplace relationships go a little further than unpleasant. Sometimes, they can be explicitly harmful. Harassment and bullying at work should never be tolerated, but how do you make sure that you handle it in a way that sees actual results, rather than just being treated like a case of one side arguing against another? Most companies have resources such as an HR section to take advantage of. But it’s recommended you take notes and record instances of harassment or bullying, and that you try to convince any witnesses to corroborate your story, as well. Your employers have a legal responsibility to stamp out harassment where it’s revealed, so you have some firmer ground to stand on, here, compared to the average workplace dispute.

Pushing your cause

If you are going to HR, you have to know how to deal with them. They can help you affect change, but a skeptic’s look at HR, in general, would warn that it is often there to have the company’s back, not yours. That’s why it’s a good idea to look at resources like CBS News which shows a few examples of when you should and when you shouldn’t take your complaints to HR. For instance, if it’s a problem you can resolve yourself or if you haven’t done your research on what you think you deserve, your trip is more likely to be fruitless.

Recognizing today’s connected world

If you’re online, then you most likely have a social media account. Your account might feel like it’s a whole world away from work, but that’s not strictly true. More and more, employees are getting pulled on their online behavior. It’s important to know your rights regarding how your employer can react to what you say on social media. So long as it’s not inappropriate, for instance, it is by no means within their rights to fire you over advocating for better working conditions, such as pay or safety improvements. However, you are more inclined to get in trouble if you use social media to complain about your boss or coworkers. Similarly, offensive and discriminatory language or viewpoints, sharing information you shouldn’t, and broadcasting when you’re looking for work can all get you fired.

Going your own way

To a degree, being a “company man” or “company woman” might be the safest way to build a career within a company. But more and more people are turning away from the idea of sticking with one employer until retirement. Careers are becoming more flexible, with people switching positions more often, and now, more of us are starting to work for ourselves. While advancing yourself in your current position and making yourself indispensable to the business, you should aim to make yourself more reliant with a focus on independent skills learning and qualification earning while at work.

Protecting your future

Let’s not forget that your employer is not as invested in your future wellbeing as you are. Financially, you should prepare plenty of safeguards for your income including emergency funds and income insurance. What’s more, you should be willing to stand up for your rights, particularly in the case of an injury or accident at work. A lot of people misunderstand workers’ comp, which can allow some bad employers to get away with paying less than they really should be. Workers comp lawyer Finkelstein explains your entitlements, including ongoing financial assistance if you’re unable to earn a paycheck due to disabling injury or illness. Don’t rely on employers to follow their responsibilities. Many of them refuse to pay when they should, by all rights, so have the right contacts at the ready when you need legal assistance.

Anticipating disruptive changes

Taking a step back from the exhausting world of office politics, let’s look at something a lot more concrete: the idea of future redundancy. We have already seen industries that have suffered large cuts to employment due to automation or roles becoming obsolete and it is fast becoming clear that future industry disruptions can affect all of us. It’s important to guard your career against technological change and one of the most widely recommended ways to do that is to get involved in the change, yourself. For instance, in manufacturing, many of those who survived the turn to automation largely did so because they trained in operating and maintaining the automated equipment, instead.

You don’t necessarily have to show mistrust towards every employer you work for. Endeavor to be a team player and to contribute as much as you can to their goals. Just be a skeptical thinker and know when you have to show some support for yourself rather than the company line.

About the author

Chloe Harwood