human resources

Four things you’re putting up with at work (and what to do about them)

Women's Agenda /

It doesn’t matter whether you work for Australia’s biggest bank or a boutique designer, the same irritations crop up in every sort of workplace. Sometimes they’re so familiar you don’t even realise you’re putting up with them. Don’t accept your discontent – here’s how to take action.

Lack of appreciation

You stayed back late for a week to save the company’s butt, and your boss says…nothing. You go the extra mile for your clients but usually only hear about problems. Women may be socialised to be modest but don’t wait for your good work to speak for itself. Linda Murray, executive coach at Athena Coaching, says women need to speak up with pride about the things we’re good at.

“Don’t be afraid to share your skills, efforts and achievements,” she says. “Think of it as sharing your wins. Don’t you enjoy hearing about someone else’s achievements or valuable skills they can contribute? Well, they feel equally happy when they hear about yours!”

When you do receive positive feedback at work, reward the person’s thoughtfulness with a sincere thank you. Murray also suggests you lead by example. “Exhibit the behaviours you would like to see in your organisation. They will be contagious. If you see colleagues achieving great outcomes or going the extra mile, acknowledge them for it,” she says.

Waste-of-time meetings

Meetings leave you with more work and less time to do it. The irony is that no-one likes time-wasting meetings, but no-one thinks to challenge them.

Murray suggests you simply ask some questions:

  • “Could I have a copy of the agenda so I can prepare beforehand?” will make sure there is one. Also encourage information to be sent ahead of time so you can use the meeting for making decisions.
  • “There’s such an assumption that meetings are 1 hour. How long do you think we’ll actually need?” or “Let’s make it a power meeting. I’m sure we can churn through this in 20 minutes.”
  • “What’s the return on investment?” If hard data is influential in your workplace, do some calculations of the cost to value ratio. Having four people on $100,000 a year in a room for an hour costs at least $300. Ask whether you’re guaranteed a positive ROI.
  • “What are the next steps?” To leave with a clear outcome, always spend the last few minutes recapping the decisions and actions.

More work than you have time for

You know the saying: “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” If you’re known to handle a heavy workload, your boss will rely on you to keep handling it but may have no idea how hard you’re paddling beneath the surface.

Murray’s advice is to share your to-do list. “Set the context of :’I want to ensure I complete everything in a timely manner. Can we please have a quick look at my list to ensure you agree with how I am prioritising my time,'” she says. Next time you’re asked to do something, check how it stacks up against your agreed priorities.

She believes that while time management is important, so is energy management, which includes how you structure your day. For example, “Science has proven that structuring your day in 90 minute sprints with renewal breaks in between massively increases your productivity,” she says.

Other energy boosts come from discussing your team’s purpose, growing the exciting parts of your job, being physically healthy and spending time with people you love. With more energy, you can get more done in the same time.

Over-controlling bosses

Murray suggests you first try to understand what they’re afraid of (regardless of whether it’s rational or not), by putting yourself in their shoes. Perhaps they’re afraid you’re too inexperienced to do a good job, or you’re so good you’ll make them look redundant.

One tactic she recommends is to agree upfront about the milestones of a project and when you will check in. You could ask: “So that you don’t need to spend your valuable time tracking every single stage of the process, what would you like to see at those milestones so you can be confident with my progress? How would you like me to present that information to you and when?”

Like everyone in your workplace, your boss is only human. But taking a few proactive steps to help your workplace work for you will make everyone’s job a little easier to enjoy.

This story first appeared on Women’s Agenda.

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