Work It Out

What to do when your boss takes you for granted 

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Dear Work It Out,

I have been struggling with a situation at work. I have been so stressed out and feel like I’m worthless.

For the past seven years, I have dedicated myself to my job. I have put it before my family. I have two small children. It took me seven years to get my own office with this company and 17 years in the medical field. I have played the role of office manger but never actually had the title. I continuously go above and beyond to make sure I produce quality work. This week they gave a new coworker a managing title. They also put a sign outside my office door with her name right below mine. So I guess I’ll be sharing an office now?

I don’t know how to handle this. I don’t know if it’s professional to go to my boss and say, ‘Hey what about me?’ I don’t want to leave my job. I love what I do, but I feel like I’m constantly being taken advantage of or being overlooked.

Looking for some advice. Please help!

It sounds like you are angry and at your limit, and that should tell you something: You don’t feel respected. That’s a problem.

The fact that your boss didn’t even have the courtesy to tell you you’d be sharing an office shows me that they take you for granted.

No matter what people say, business is personal, and it’s important to have a healthy relationship with your job and with your manager. You should feel valued, recognized and respected. And just like any good relationship, that requires good communication.

You asked if it’s professional to go to your boss. Short answer: Yes, absolutely. As a manager, I can tell you most of us have good intentions. But we’re also busy and flawed, and we aren’t mind readers. You have to help us out by communicating your needs and goals.

Of course, it would be unprofessional to march into your boss’s office and throw a tantrum, demanding to know why some undeserving outsider has a fancy title when you’ve been working your butt off and getting ignored. That would probably feel great, but it’s a terrible idea.

Instead, I would recommend you have a direct and mature conversation with your boss about what you want. That may require some self-reflection. Do you know what you want? For example, are you looking for additional responsibilities? A private office? New title? 10 percent raise? Be specific.

Once you know what you plan to ask for, schedule a meeting with your boss and prepare them for the conversation. As with any difficult discussion with your manager, it’s better to eliminate the element of surprise. Email your boss and ask to sit down to discuss your “career aspirations and future with the company.” Then they’ll know it’s serious.

I’d advise keeping the conversation focused on you and your career path rather than talking about your coworker, which may come across as petty. Ask for a timeline and feedback on what it would take to get you to the next level.

It’s possible your boss takes you for granted because you haven’t spoken up and asked for more. Being a good soldier can come back to bite you if you don’t set boundaries. On the other hand, they may not really see you and the value you bring — now or ever. If that’s the case, it could be time to look for something else, be it a new department or new company.

Either way, it sounds like you need to emotionally detach from your work. It’s an easy thing to say and a hard thing to do, but it makes a world of difference. Shift your focus back to yourself and your family and the things you enjoy outside the office. I’m not saying flake on your responsibilities, but take a step back. Remember — there’s more to life than work, even if you enjoy what you do.

When you find that balance and strength within yourself, your boss and peers may start to notice and stop taking you for granted.

Have a pressing career concern or question? Email me anonymously at workitout@cnbc.com. Submissions may be edited for length and clarity.

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