Eight Ways Not to Be the Office Doormat

Eight Ways Not to Be the Office Doormat

Anyone who’s ever had a job has probably felt disrespected and undervalued at some point. But for the office doormats of the world, disrespect and a lack of appreciation are daily facts of life. 

Office doormats don’t have to remain meek and mistreated forever, though. Career experts offer tips on how office doormats can turn their situations around:

1. Drop the Victim Act

Here’s the cold, hard truth: Most office doormats are at least partly responsible for their doormat status. Identify the reasons you’ve become a doormat -- do you avoid tough conversations or let others take credit for your work, for example? -- so you can start changing those behaviors.

2. Learn to Say No

Doormats have typically removed the word “no” from their vocabulary, says Sally Haver, a senior vice president at the New York City office of The Ayers Group, a human capital consulting firm. “A little basic assertiveness training is in order here,” she says. “Learn to say, ‘I wish I could help you out, but my plate is full, and I can’t disappoint those to whom I already have commitments.’”

3. Stop Enabling Coworkers’ Bad Behaviors

If your colleagues have gotten away with taking advantage of you in the past, they will do so again, says Los Angeles-based organizational consultant Phil Cooke, author of Jolt! Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing. “Position yourself so you can’t be taken advantage of,” he says. “Be ‘too busy’ to get their coffee. Be ‘on a deadline’ so you can’t do their work for them. After hitting a wall a few times, they’ll get the picture.”

4. Command Some Respect

Office doormats generally don’t want to rock the boat, and think that keeping the peace is critically important, Cooke notes. But you’ll lose all influence in the office if you never speak up about anything.

5. Force Yourself to Have the Tough Conversations

You will remain a doormat forever if you always avoid conversations that contain an element of conflict. So prepare yourself by writing a script and practicing ahead of time. If you’re underpaid, make an appointment with your boss to discuss the situation, and bring research that shows salary ranges for employees in your job.

6. Communicate on Your Boss’s Level

If you’re being mistreated or need to lighten your workload, try communicating with your boss in much the same way you’d communicate with a small child who acts out, says Lynn Taylor, a Santa Monica, California-based workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. Sandwich constructive feedback between positive statements: “I enjoy working with you a great deal. But recently when I brought in my new client and you asked me to leave the meeting to make copies, I felt demeaned.” End the conversation with “Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. I do really enjoy my job.”

7. Take Credit

If others have been routinely taking credit for your ideas, “speak privately to them but ensure that your boss knows what your contributions were through status reports,” Taylor advises.

8. Polish Your Resume, If Necessary

Doormats who take steps to change their situations usually build confidence in the process. So if you’ve done your part but your boss or workplace environment isn’t changing, it may be time to update your resume and start looking for a new job. “Who knows? This might be your chance to finally get from where you are to where you want to be,” Cooke says.