The fine line between being a good egg and being exploited.
Q: In the last few years at my company, I’ve frequently been asked to take on new responsibilities. Promotions have been hinted at that never come through. I’m getting tired of doing more and more work without comparable rewards. What can I do? —Sydney, 41, communication lead
A: Take a long-term view to determine what’s in your best interest.
There are undoubtedly some positives in being asked to take on more responsibilities. You expand your skills, remain challenged and build your resume. You also may be seeing some personal gains, as you expand your relationships at your company and enhance your reputation as a team player.
Here comes the but: There is a matter of fairness to consider.
It’s not reasonable to routinely ask an employee to take on new responsibilities without rewarding them in a tangible way. There are, of course, circumstances in which people need to step up. It’s the repeated requests and ongoing expectation that smack of exploitation.
Only you will know where your situation falls on the continuum of being a good egg vs. being taken advantage of. This is worth figuring out so that you know when you’ve had enough.
To work through this, take a comprehensive look at your life.
Try drawing a circle, giving pie slices to family, work, hobbies, health, spirituality, friends, etc. How much of your life goes to each? What is your ideal?
Then use this to diagnose your current work issue. Do the demands you face at work threaten the balance on other important aspects of your life? If so, that may be a warning sign that you are being pushed too far.
Take a similar approach to thinking about your career vision.
Divide another circle into work aspects such as time commitment, recognition, status, making a difference, pay, etc. How do your current and ideal compare?
Now, let’s imagine that you are highly motivated to advancement and assuming high leadership levels.
Based on your experience and observations, decide whether that’s realistic at your current company. If not — if top jobs tend to go to outsiders, for example — you may be better off cutting your losses and looking for an organization that will support your goals.
However, if you are generally satisfied with your company, try taking steps to address this problem. As in so many situations, communication is key.
Start by laying out your concerns to your boss. Do your homework before the meeting, perhaps even creating a timeline of the contributions you’ve made (and the promises that have been made to you, too).
Also bring a solution.
What is the change you would like? If you can make it concrete, you make it easier for your boss to grant your request or be an effective advocate for you up the chain.
If you are angry or frustrated, get that out of your system before you meet, using your preferred approach to managing emotions such as exercise, meditation or just talking it out. You want to focus on co-creating a positive future.
If nothing changes, decide on the consequences of just saying no when new requests are made. If you remain pleasant and professional, this may be a way to make your point and maintain balance.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.