top of page

Personal Reflections: Learning to Advocate for Yourself in a Challenging Workplace

The workplace can be a challenging and stressful environment, especially when it seems that the company values profit over the well-being and satisfaction of its employees. In this article, we will explore the personal experiences of an individual who worked for a company with poor people practices and discuss ways in which one can excel and find fulfillment despite difficult circumstances. It is important to note that the experiences shared in this article are specific to me and may not be representative of the company as a whole. However, the strategies and coping mechanisms discussed can be applied to any workplace where unfair or indifferent treatment is a norm.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I accepted a full-time position with an agency in Copenhagen. While the pay and benefits were low and non-negotiable, I saw the job as a stepping stone and hoped to move up within the company. A choice made by many, I suspect. I knew I was not alone. A survey conducted by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work found that over 60% of workers in the EU reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health.

  • Women were more likely to report negative impacts on their mental health than men, with 67% of women reporting negative impacts compared to 56% of men.

  • The most commonly reported negative impacts on mental health were increased stress (36%), difficulty sleeping (31%), and feeling overwhelmed (29%).

  • A study by the European Parliament found that the COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionate impact on the mental health of women, particularly those who were caring for children or other dependents.

  • It is important for individuals to take care of their mental health during this difficult time. This may involve seeking support from friends and family, engaging in self-care activities, and seeking professional help if needed. It may also be helpful to advocate for oneself in the workplace by setting boundaries and seeking out resources and support.

A little about myself: I am a highly determined and patient person, with a background in marketing and communications and experience in graphic design. After completing my master's degree in Denmark, I worked as a freelance graphic designer, but eventually sought a full-time job for financial stability. However, from the beginning, I faced challenges in my role. I was assigned to two clients without any pay adjustment, and six months later, I was working with three different teams and three clients without any additional compensation. As my responsibilities increased, I pushed several times to discuss a salary review. Despite my efforts, I was told that I did not have enough experience to be considered for a raise or promotion, among other conflicting reasons. In the two years that I worked at this company, I saw the effect that the stress had on my health. I became depressed, and frustrated in my daily work and it negatively impacted my self-esteem. A lot of it came from my daily interactions with management, who it feels like did not consider the person on the other end, and having to stand up for myself all the time. In this experience, it seems, I am not alone. According to a 2022 survey by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 44% of workers in the EU have reported that their work stress has increased during the years of the pandemic. How much the severity of my case was due to the pandemic, I cannot say. But the reasons for stress given in the survey reflect my experiences well: Almost half of the responders feel “exposed to severe time pressure or work overload” and more importantly to me, “poor communication or cooperation within the organisation and a lack of control over work pace and processes.” Despite the many challenges, I was eventually promoted to a new role within the company. While this came with a small pay increase, it was solely due to my time with the company and not based on my work or contributions. Furthermore, my manager expected me to provide a list of reasons why I deserved a salary adjustment, rather than taking the initiative to assess my performance and determine an appropriate increase. Feeling undervalued and underappreciated, I began to search for a new job opportunity. I eventually wound up at a company that recognized and valued my skills and experience, and I am now much happier and more fulfilled in my new role. If you find yourself in a similar situation where your workplace does not care about your well-being or career development, it is important to remember that you have options. Don't be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself, and don't hesitate to seek out new opportunities that align with your values and goals. It is possible to excel and find satisfaction in your career, even in difficult or indifferent environments. Final thoughts and lessons I learned Here are some additional actionable steps and suggestions that may be helpful to you if you are in a similar situation: 1. Don’t be afraid to ask A LOT of questions during the interviews, especially relating to career progression, performance bonuses and promotion process, and learning opportunities on the job.

  • Make a list of questions and take them with you at the interviews.

  • Don't be afraid to ask for clarification or elaboration if you don't fully understand something.

You can check this guide for some great career questions.

2. Try to figure out your career direction as early as you can, so you know what kind of tasks you can take on later on and what role to aim for. It will help you to orient yourself as you deal with difficult situations.

  • Research different career paths and job titles to get a sense of what might be a good fit for you.

  • Consider reaching out to professionals in your desired field to ask about their experiences and get advice.

3. Decide your worth as a professional, to yourself. If you know your worth, you will have an easier time standing up for yourself and pushing for what you want.

  • Research the market rate for professionals in your field and location.

  • Consider the value of your skills and experience when determining your worth.

  • Don't be afraid to negotiate for a higher salary or benefits if you feel that you are worth it.

4. Try to network as much as you can. The more feelers you put out, the better chance you have of finding opportunities.

  • Join professional organizations or attend industry events to meet other professionals in your field.

  • Utilize social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, to connect with professionals and build your network.

5. Build a strong LinkedIn profile (no need to be an active poster, just have a clean profile that highlights your skills) ie. Follow this Professor Heather Austin

  • Use a professional headshot for your profile picture and include a summary of your skills and experience in the "About" section.

  • List your education and any relevant certifications or professional development courses.

6. Build confidence for the job interview. What I did was find a career coach that could help me figure out a path forward, help me search in the right places and to make myself as attractive as possible to employers. A good career coach really can do wonders!

  • Practice answering common interview questions with a friend or family member.

  • Research the company and the position beforehand so that you can speak knowledgeably about them during the interview.

13 views0 comments
bottom of page