6 signs you’re being taken advantage of – and what to do

Especially when you’re a natural-born overachiever, going above and beyond at the workplace is second nature to you. Not only because you want to impress your manager but you have high standards for yourself and your performance. While this is a positive trait to have, those who are incredibly self-motivated run the risk of being taken advantage of. Those who aren’t as hard working or enthusiastic can prey on you, since they know you’ll deliver whatever project, deadline or presentation is put in front of you.

Branding and career expert Wendi Weiner challenges those who may feel undervalued to speak up… stat! “Standing up for yourself shows empowerment and self-respect. If someone is continuously taking advantage of you, then they aren’t showing you the respect that is due and owing. You then become a doormat to the person and their expectation is they can always walk all over you,” she explains.

Here, clear signs you’re not being respected:

You never feel good enough

After weeks of working diligently on a new launch for your company, the big day comes and goes swimmingly. But even though you gave your all and exceeded expectations, your boss fails not only fails to acknowledge your work, but has negative feedback. You probably find yourself scratching your head and wondering what you missed the mark on, which can be bad news for your sense of self-confidence. When you never feel like you live up to expectations, it is more likely that you shrink, instead of rise to the next level of your career.

This type of upper leadership attitude illustrates your manager’s perception of you, according to branding expert and career coach Ali Craig. “It is human nature to crave validation so withholding verbal praise is an easy way to control someone,” she explains. “The same holds true if your efforts are always being nitpicked. Living in a state of constant criticism increases anxiety and stress responses.”

When your boss lists out what you did wrong – or doesn’t say anything at all – take a deep breath and ask for feedback. What specific tasks could you have done better? How can you improve? What did they think – and why?

You are always helping others

Someone needs help editing an email? You’re there. Another person needs you to pick up the slack where someone left off? You got it. Though this helpful mentality is appreciated, it is also easy for many to take a people-pleaser for granted.

“It is one thing to help out a co-worker who is in a pinch, but if it becomes a weekly situation, then it’s a red flag that you are being taken advantage of,” Weiner continues. The best way to handle it is to advise that you are buried in time-sensitive projects and can’t help right now, she says.

Your boss never takes responsibility – or takes all of it

When a client meeting bombs—are you left with the burden of the fail? Or when it goes swimmingly—is your name somehow left off of the big company-wide announcement email? When your manager refuses to take responsibility for the bad stuff but always steps up for the praise, Craig says you’re treading on unhealthy grounds.

“It may seem like a cultural phenomenon, but lack of assuming responsibilities isn’t just bad manners, it is also a sign that the relationship isn’t valued,” she explains. “The person taking advantage usually never takes responsibility for anything from their words, actions, and subsequent outcomes, and instead puts all of the responsibilities of the other party.”

When this happens, pull your boss aside and have a discussion. Though it might be uncomfortable to articulate, coming armed with examples will help make your case, and hopefully, provoke a change.

You are doing way more work than you’re paid for

No matter the industry, everyone is short-staffed sometimes — whether because of vacation or a slew of folks jumping ship for new opportunities. Being understanding of the company’s needs, you might step up and take on extra work. Though that is a welcomed short-term solution, it isn’t one that should be insistent … if you’re not getting a salary bump or title change in exchange. “If your boss doesn’t acknowledge your new additional responsibilities, you are being taken advantage of, and you may want to have a conversation with your boss about how you can be compensated for your extra help,” she advises.

You’re always apologizing

Two words that are far too often in the frequent vocabulary of most professionals (particularly, females)? ‘I’m sorry.’ And 99 percent of the time, you have no reason to apologize—you’re merely showing how antsy or on edge you feel with your manager. As an experiment, keep a record of how many times you slip these words daily. You’ll probably be surprised by the number!

“If you find yourself always apologizing especially if you are doing it just to ‘keep the peace’ – you aren’t being respected. This increases the giving party’s stress level but it also subconsciously increases their commitment to seeing the relationship through,” Craig explains.

The solution here? Stop apologizing, unless necessary. Instead, justify or stand firm on your choices and actions, showing your manager or co-worker how tough your backbone actually is.

Your ideas are never taken seriously

You spend countless hours brainstorming ideas and you take your time to provide thoughtful, thorough suggestions when your manager requests them … but nothing is taken seriously. This can be a big downer on your own opinion of your work and contribution to a team, and as Craig says, a clear indicator that your boss is taking advantage of you.

In this extreme, recurring case, it might be in your best interest to seek new employment, where you can recreate a respectful relationship from day one.