Are you an office doormat?

If you care about doing your job well and (equally) the opinion of others, have you occasionally been up for the Office Doormat award?

“No!” you think. “I’ve always stuck up for my rights, as well as my responsibilities.”

But you could be unwittingly taking on more than you should. Indeed, doormats come in all shapes and sizes and are not necessarily the same personality types. And their doormat behaviours usually, eventually, wear others down.


The non-delegator

I won’t delegate!

I like doing a lot – besides I don’t need much sleep.

Sometimes I do feel exhausted and wish I had help.

We all need goals but we also need capable teams who can share goals and share workloads when some are overloaded. Stop and look at your priorities and then those of the team. Examine the workloads and discuss what is reasonable and unreasonable. This is not just an activity to do because someone breaks down or gets sick from overload. This should be done on a regular basis. If you are overloaded – recognise it and ask for help.


The masochist

True masochists obtain pleasure from being punished. They provoke others to reject them, often bringing baggage from other jobs and relationships to work. This seems to be their natural resting position. Even when they do a good job, they seem unhappy, mooching or complaining to others. Their hurt demeanour brings out the worst in many of the office team.

Don’t get manipulated by a masochist’s behaviour. Talk to this person about what they require to feel accepted and emotionally rewarded and ensure they and staff know where the boundaries for good behaviour must be drawn. Make sure they are an equal member of the team and they learn respect for fellow team members. They may need feedback to gain insight to be able to move forward.

Try and work with them to identify what triggers their behaviours and try to eliminate or reduce the impact of these triggers. Make sure they regain a healthy balance in their lives with interests beyond work.


The hedgehog

This doormat is more like those “hedgehog” doorstops people use to scrape crud off their shoes. They often end up doing other people’s dirty work. A perfect example is asking a busy star performer a fairly minor request. They may perceive the task to be too distracting from their important work, so they swiftly handball it to an overworked team member nearby and then pretend to be busy with something else.

The hand-ballers are often very careful to do their handballing out of sight to others and the hedgehogs just sigh and never complain. They may be out in the kitchen cleaning up after an office get together, or taking care of broken equipment, or staying back late when others go home. Keep an eye out for which staff are being treated like “hedgehogs” and ensure workloads are equitably handled.


The grumbler

It’s been said that grumbling can be a good sign; that a person is getting on to something while letting off a little steam. This may be the case, but more frequently, it’s a warning that this person feels overburdened and is beginning to baulk. 

Take heed that trouble is brewing and try to find the problem’s source and remove the kettle from the stove awhile. Take time out for a chat over coffee, ask questions and show interest in more of their life and work. Just that act of caring will often lead to the resolution or a particular action to take.


The master of chaos

Some doormats cause confusion and chaos wherever they go, because they insist they are “getting around” to completing tasks. Months later, you’re waiting, while they maintain they’re “onto it”. This is a very particular type of doormat, usually well-intentioned, but fundamentally unable to prioritise and in a constant state of stress. They are closely related to the non-delegator doormat. 

Step in, organise or be the capable, non-micromanaging “colleague” who is not overbearing in manner. Work together to reduce the pile and the chaos will gradually subside. If this doormat can’t or won’t learn prioritising, they should work in a role with specific easily achievable tasks. Keep them away from complexity, which is the source of deep stress for these people.

If you are being treated like a doormat don’t accept it! Build your self-esteem and confidence by working with people and tasks that make you feel good. Be proud of your work and if someone is treating you like a doormat – give them feedback.

Explain exactly what and how they are treating you like a doormat and ask for an agreed change. When you are being handballed unacceptable overload work, learn to say no with professionalism and confidence.

If the doormat treatment is so bad that it is actually bullying – report it or leave, and find a better, more caring team and culture.

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace. See the rest of Eve’s blogs here.


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