Women tell Women

How to stand up for yourself at work?

— Yessenia Funes

Historically, I’ve regretted just about every time I’ve stood up for myself at work. Looking back, I realize I didn’t always take the right approach. I often grew too emotional or said one too many words. Drama usually followed, yet the problems I had tried to address remained. 

In short, standing up for yourself is never easy. You’ll probably get it wrong a few times before you figure out how to get it right. Now, I can stand up for myself more easily. In fact, it comes natural to me. The key was practice. Even if you aren’t sure what to say, say something. Never stay silent. Trust that what you’re feeling is true—while having the self-awareness to know when your feelings are misplaced. Don’t rush to speak before you’re ready, but don’t let the hurt fester for too long, either.

Standing up for yourself at work becomes easier when your perspective shifts to how the work serves you versus how you serve the workplace. Are you getting what you need? Or are your bosses or co-workers sucking you dry? Once you know what you want out of your job, you must learn to communicate that effectively. (Therapy helps, I must admit. Mentors do, too.)

Assert your boundaries and your needs, especially to supervisors who may otherwise take advantage. This won’t always work, but at least the people in charge will know where you stand. Be direct. And always be kind. At least that way, people will learn to respect you enough to stop bugging you so much.

Yessenia Funes –
Environmental Journalist

Yessenia Funes is an environmental journalist. She’s presently the Editor-at-large at Atmos, a magazine devoted to the convergence of climate and cultures. She has covered environmental and climate justice for nearly 10 years with bylines in The Guardian, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Earther, Grist, HuffPost, and more.