How To Stand Up For Yourself At Work Today

How To Stand Up For Yourself At Work Today

Do you ever feel like you are being taken advantage of at work?  Do you ever feel like you can’t stand up for what you think or believe at work?  One thing that I have learned in my job is that you have to speak up for what you think because if you don’t, it usually means more time and work.  Even if no one listens to what I have to say, at least I have said what I think and believe.  I remember how hard it was to stand up for myself when I first started my job.  It was terribly difficult.  Now that I have been with my company for 6 years, people expect me now to say what I believe.  And they actually value and listen to what I have to say, but it isn’t always easy.  I disagree with people.  I tell them that they are not right.  That is terribly hard but sometimes that is just part of your job and what you are hired to do. If you always agree with other people, you will not be valuable to your organization for being able to think on your own and share your great ideas.

Here is what Forbes has to say about standing up for yourself at work:

Knowing how to stand up for yourself at work is an essential skill. Whether you’re being overworked, treated unfairly or micromanaged, the way to successfully stick up for yourself is to remain professional. Lay out your argument in a confident yet calm manner, and choose your words wisely.”

So, if you feel like you are being pushed around and into doing things that you don’t want to do or that you believe aren’t the right things you SHOULD be doing, here are my five tips to help you stand up for yourself at work today:

  1. Don’t Get Angry.  I wish I could say that I always followed this tip.  Sometimes, it is hard for me to remain calm and relaxed when someone is trying to convince me of something that I know is wrong.  You can defend your arguments WAY easier if you don’t get mad.  Also when you get mad, the other person will get mad right back at you and effective communication is out the window!  So take a deep breath, and try your absolute best to remain calm and relaxed and not angry.
  2. Be Prepared. If you are about to defend what you believe in, make sure you have a few notes written down or that you have practiced in your head what you are going to say.  You don’t want to finally say something and then have it totally not make sense when it comes out of your mouth.  Think about how you could do your work more efficiently and better.  Write it down and tell your boss what you think.  Think about what types of great opportunities you really want at your company.  Write them down and tell your boss where you want to go next.
  3. Be Firm.  If you are going to be convincing, you can’t back down.  Even if no one believes what you have to say and they think you are stupid, stick to what you think.  There are certain types of people in this world that always have to be right and will try to convince everyone to agree with them.  They will not like you for arguing with them and showing them another side.  But who cares what they think. You have demonstrated a very valuable characteristic by speaking up. You are now even more valuable to your team because you have a mind of your own and you use it instead of just going along with what’s not working. Don’t give in.  A situation like this happened to me last week. I didn’t give in and 15 minutes later, the person I was discussing my view with thought about it some more and finally said that he agreed with me and that I was right.  Glad I didn’t back down!
  4. Trust Your Instincts.  If something just doesn’t feel right, act on it.  Say what you think.  I know I often have this pit in my stomach when someone says something that I don’t believe in.  If it is a client or boss, I don’t want to interrupt because that is impolite.  But, if you trust your instincts, maybe you can speak up and tell them what you think after the meeting when it is just one on one.  You don’t want to make them look dumb, but you do want to get your ideas on the table and let everyone you work with know that you want to contribute and make the team better.  So trust your instincts.  If you know that you have to say something but don’t feel comfortable in a big meeting, find another time.
  5. Be Assertive and Learn to Say No.  In my job, I have to say no to some things or I would be working 24/7.  There is nothing wrong with saying no.  Being assertive isn’t about being rude or pushy, you can definitely be assertive and classy at the same time.  Assertiveness is being straight-forward and strong without harming your reputation in the office.  Being poised and self-confident will let the person you are talking to know that you mean business and you aren’t backing down.
Remember that you are a valuable member of your organization and your thoughts and feelings are important to the team, even if you don’t feel like it.  As you start practicing standing up for yourself, the easier it will become!

How do you stand up for yourself at work?

Photo Credit: Jerry Bunkers (Photo 1 and Photo 2)



About Anna Runyan

Hi! I’m known as the leading authority on getting women unstuck out of careers they hate. For the last 5 years I’ve been helping clients transition into careers they love. I have worked behind the scenes helping hundreds of professional women find fulfilling, challenging and purposeful careers. Make sure you sign up for my Free ‘CHEAT SHEET’
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  1. Chasing Joy says:

    Great Article and Tips. It is really hard to stand up for yourself with authority figures. I have a harder time standing up for myself at work than in any other area of my life.

    • Anna Runyan says:

      Thanks Chasing Joy. I am so glad you enjoyed the tips. I am with you. I have a hard time standing up for myself with authority figures but the more you do it the easier it becomes! :) I hope that you are working on standing up for yourself because you deserve it! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Priya says:

    I believe i am really good at being assertive i was born an aries and its second nature to me but there are always sometimes when another person is just trying to provoke because they are control freaks and they want to control you so they will provoke you to get a reaction out of you so they can see you stand up for yourself or criticize you and say you cannot take care off yourself so they can seem more competent then you are.

    • Anna Runyan says:

      Priya, that is great that you are good at being assertive. It does suck when someone else tried to provoke you. Just stay as positive as possible and don’t let them get to you! It sounds like you have a pretty tough situation on your hands. Feel free to email me if you want to talk more about it.

  3. Priya says:

    Its difficult to stand up to teachers/ people that you respect sometimes it better to just not care about people and not respect.

  4. Priya says:

    It also hurts when you care about someone and they have a fight with you and call you a bitch.

  5. Priya says:

    Standing up for yourself can get really tiring and exhausting sometimes.

  6. Priya says:

    Hi Anna,
    I also find being knowledgable about your own human rights as the best way to stand up for yourself and using your own nose to exploit your own talents the best way to stand up for yourself in life generally. I think you are brave to talk about your own experiences and your own problems with standing up for yourself Anna i admire that you are willing to help other women too.

  7. Priya says:

    Being calm and clever always works like a charm.

  8. vinay prabhakar says:

    I find it very valuable. While reading this i felt if this one was for me only. I have started to try it in my daily life….and i find myself in a very confident and comfortable position. Thank a lot for such a nice article.

  9. Ruth says:

    Hi Anna, I enjoyed reading your post. Yes, it is everything that I already know/knew. It’s often very difficult when it involves management, bosses, people retiring and perhaps not caring as much as normal, and people who are concerned with retaliation or reactions of others. The world seems to just want to “put a band-aid & turn a blind eye” to what they know/and have spoken is right, but do not want to “get involved or create waves”. There’s instances where action(s) are promised and put off and then the situation gets ignored or made worse with the next round. When things become surmountable and addressed in the slightest, the offender/abuser/wrong-doer (whatever the case may be) becomes defensive/irrate and “scares” others…. the result: just appease and tread lightly….. then the person who caused such upset (even though they were standing up for what is right) is looked at with all the “WHYS” because of the upset, fear, and uncertainty of future dealings with the individual and they do not want to not be helped/liked if there’s a future time of need. Yes, this is a BIG deal that has become much too large for a quick fix (aka band-aid). What has happened to today’s society and the times of honesty, loyality, and integrity???

  10. Robbie says:

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  11. Jill says:

    I enjoyed this post. I have always had difficulty standing up for myself. The fear of not being liked, retaliation, not knowing what to say, etc. has always prevented me from speaking up when appropriate. Currently, I am trying to find the nerve to say something to a colleague who repeatedly manages to involve herself in my projects….and then take over. My fear is that, if I say something (even in the calmest, most professional manner), she might retaliate by saying something to my client (we all work remotely). I have found that people who manipulate others do not like those who defend themselves. They seek out people who will be doormats. Now I am in a situation where I don’t know how this person will react. It’s tricky because I will still need her help with certain projects. I just need to her to understand that they are my assignments, and I run these particular projects. No idea what to do and concerned how this might play out. I can’t help but feel that it will come back to bite me.

    • Anna Runyan says:

      Jill- I would just let her know that you got this and you are going to tackle this project and will let her know if you need any help. Tell her that you are really trying to learn and grow and would love the opportunity to do this project by yourself. Make it about you not her. Like you want to grow and get better, not she is annoying and nosy. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

      • Jill says:

        Anna – Thank you for the great advice. I had a pleasant conversation with this person and did as you suggested. I made it about me…..not her. I advised that I was excited for the opportunities to take on particular projects. I let her know that I already had my plan in place and had things under control. However, I also advised that I appreciate her offers to help and would certainly take her up on them if need be. She was receptive, and because I was clear and direct, I’ve not had to approach this discussion again. If an issue arises again, I will handle the same exact way. While it was a little uncomfortable for me to be so direct…as I’m not used to having to do this…it was well worth it. A few moments of nerves wound up alleviating a problem that would have caused a much greater deal of stress. Thank you!

  12. Jaclyn says:

    Hi, I need some insight:
    I got a new job in July of 2013. My coworkers would often call in sick and I even drove my boss to work a few mornings because she was out partying the night before. Last month, December, I called out sick twice. Today, January, I called out sick again. I am sick each time. I was born with a type of blood cell and allergy issue. Last week I did my job and my boss’s job for 5 days and worked a lot of over time. She was sick with pnemonia after having a full week off of work for Christmas the week before. I know she was actually sick, last week. My coworkers hang out with each other outside of work, but I don’t get invited nor do I hang out with them much. So I got badly scolded today about my repeat calling in sick by my bosses. I am so mad. Especially because we have a new boss of 2 months and he already gave notice. Why are my coworkers doing whatever they want while I get in trouble for taking a few sick days? I have

  13. Jaclyn says:

    I have the sick hours to take off.

  14. Straight forward me ! says:

    I have had to stand up for myself alot at work. However I donot have a problem with this. I have had more than one instance I. Which I have received written warnings for something and other people in the work place do the same thing yet do not get a warning. This is not fair to me therefore I speak my mind and explain my situation and I do not sign anything until I have written my statement then I sign as I do not agree with the above alleged warning. I can be bitchy however I do not curse when explaining and standing up for myself even if I raise my voice I do not yell. I might have a time or two but being written up for the same thing other people are doing is not right and I have no problem saying so . Of
    course they do not like it when I speak my mind but I do . We are overworked underpaid and do not receive proper training on anything increasing the stress in the
    already stress. One person can only do do much until you reach a breaking point!

  15. Shelly says:

    I am a manager and find it very difficult to stand up for myself to MY boss. The worst is where there is a meeting with myself, my boss and my own employees, when my boss is clearly talking in circles, not considering my opinions and questioning the policies that i am putting into place at the workplace that i manage while undermining me in front of the employees that am responsible for. its amazing that its so hard not to be spineless at work but at home i let NOTHING slide. I am almost militant, to a fault. I guess hte difference is that I’m trying to make a good impression, and NOT get fired. i need to stop thinking that its not always viewed as bad thing to speak up against the boss man.

  16. mehnaz says:

    I have been working at my current job for over a year now, management have always taken advantage of my calm nature, i get soken down to and sometimrs spoken to very harshly infront of my collegues i find it really embarassing and the worst thing is i really want to stick up for myself but everytime i go infront of them i become nervous and start muttering dont know what ecactly to say although my english is quite good i find when im standing before them i make no sense which makes me look stupid. Please help.

  17. Alane says:

    I had a sitution where the Boss approved my leave for the day. As i was leaving my Team Lead (she is not a manager or my Boss;just a team lead) asked me about a work assignment, i politely told her i would finish it when i return the next day. As i was leaving,she storms in the Boss’s office,slamming the door. When i received an email from my Boss,i informed that i told the team lead i would finish the assignment the next day, i also informed the Boss that others team members had an opportunity the day before to have their assignment documents edited, but the editor was not finished with my document yet. I reiteracted the fact that i wanted to edit my documents too and have the same opportunity to have my work edited as the other team members. Team Lead is very critical of others and their work and laugh and talk about others behind their backs. The Boss saw thru her. I asked to speak to the Boss about it and she then said it was not an issue after i pleaded my case and exlplained the issue to her. Wow this Team Lead has some issues. She is going thru a divorce and she is having a hard time with it. I went thru a divorce,but i did not bring my problems to work. My first day she and another team member talked about our divorces for an hour during a team meeting. She said the meeting help

  18. Alane says:

    Continued She said the meeting helped her. But she talks about everyone even the Boss. She overwhelms us with unrealistic due dates. We are not college students. Every day we are tasked with more assignments and stuff she wants us to read. After working there for only 2 months i plan to start looking for somthing else. I plan to retirein a few years, my blood pressure has been normal and i want it to stay that way. Thanks for reading my comment.

    • Anna Runyan says:

      Thanks for stopping by Alane and for leaving a comment! It sounds like a tough situation with your boss and your health is definitely important. It is hard when people bring their personal problems to work and it effects their work performance and the happiness of the entire team environment.

      Please feel free to email me if you need any help with your job search (! I think there are a lot of resources here that you will find very helpful. Good luck!

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