Q: I try very hard to be helpful and cooperative at work. However, most of my co-workers just take advantage of my good nature and keep...

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Q: I try very hard to be helpful and cooperative at work.

However, most of my co-workers just take advantage of my good nature and keep asking for more.

Why aren’t they more grateful?

A: It’s human nature for people’s demands to keep expanding until they hit your boundaries.

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A useful question to ask yourself might be: Are you good-natured, or do you have difficulty saying “No”?

You can be firm about your boundaries and still be helpful and cooperative with co-workers.

If you don’t diplomatically train them about what you won’t do, you can guarantee they’ll keep asking for bigger favors.

Most folks make the following mistakes when attempting to set limits:

1) They smile nicely until they want to put poison in everyone’s coffee, then they throw a fit.

2) They don’t start business relationships by clearly, concisely and behaviorally spelling out their expectations, nor the consequences if their expectations aren’t met.

3) When they do set limits, they accuse others of being thoughtless, ungrateful heels, rather than just stating what they want.

4) They don’t realize their anger or resentment is a signal that they need to stop doing so much.

Ask yourself what you’ve trained your co-workers to expect.

Realize your colleagues are being normal people when they keep pushing until they hit a wall.

Ask yourself what walls (or limits) you need to set up.

You wouldn’t leave at the end of the day and not expect the door to your company to be locked for the night.

It’s prudent to anticipate that doors without locks or guards invite thieves.

Similarly, don’t walk around your organization with no boundaries and expect people not to “steal” your time, efforts, or help.

Lastly, keep in mind that there’s no amount of gratitude from others that will make you feel OK about being a doormat.

The last word(s)

Q: I work with a woman who thinks she’s too good for the rest of us.

She only goes to lunch with our managers and barely talks to me.

How can I tell her that she’s a snob?

A: Calling folks names works far less effectively than telling them what we want.

If you want her attention, ask her to lunch.

If you feel inadequate around her, improve yourself.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube