Types of Unfairness in the Workplace

Learning to deal with unfair people and situations is a key career skill.
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As your career progresses, you’ll run into a variety of situations you might believe are unfair. Although you’ll certainly have the right to be upset at the behavior of co-workers or managers, it might be best to avoid some battles to prevent long-term damage to your career. In other situations, not standing up for yourself can lead to your being labeled a pushover. Recognizing common, unfair workplace situations will help you avoid overreacting and let you navigate office politics successfully.

Lack of Promotion

    If you’re passed over for promotion when you believe you clearly deserve the position, your first reaction might be to lash out. Count to 10 before reacting to stressful situations to avoid making them worse, recommends Marcia Reynolds, author of “Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction.” Lashing out or making accusations of favoritism, even when you’re in the right, puts a negative spotlight on your boss and embarrasses the person who got the promotion. The time to fight for a promotion is before it’s awarded, not after. To increase your chances for advancement, ask for a written job description, an annual review and the parameters for promotion. Let your superior know you want to advance, that you’re willing to work hard to do it and that you would like to know what it will take to get a specific promotion.

No Bonus

    If you counted on a bonus that didn’t come through, you not only feel cheated by your employer, but you also might find yourself in a tight personal financial situation. Don’t count on discretionary bonuses for a number of reasons that aren’t your fault. Your manager might be fired or quit shortly before recommendations are made. Others at the company might underperform, leaving no money for your bonus. It’s not unusual for an unethical company owner to renege on an implied bonus if she’s in a tight personal financial spot. Whenever possible, negotiate specified bonuses, even if they are less than a handshake amount you can’t get in writing.

Stealing Credit

    More than a few employees have worked their way up the ladder by taking credit for the work of someone else. From a blatant lie about who came up with a great idea to keeping quiet when incorrectly given credit, co-workers use different ways to look out for No. 1. To protect yourself, put your ideas, suggestions and accomplishments in writing using a subtle method you can use for confirmation later. Any time you want to verify an accomplishment, send a quick email to your co-worker, client or manager with a note such as, “Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today about the new billing procedure. I’m glad you like my idea for offering two interest rates to encourage early payment.” When a co-worker takes credit, pull out your dated email.

Discrimination and Favoritism

    Whether it’s a manager promoting someone from the same college or fraternity or a biased manager passing over qualified candidates, unfair hiring and promotional practices can be hard to prove. Even if “everyone knows” the manager has biases, making that claim in public can open a legal can of worms and you shouldn’t expect others to join your cause. Leaving a company with a biased boss or manager might be your best option, but using that as a reason in future job interviews might make future employers wary about hiring you. Talk to an attorney before you put any discrimination charges in writing or verbalize them. If you file a lawsuit and don’t win enough money to retire, that action can follow you throughout the rest of your career.

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