Angry, frustrated, cheated are these words to describe how you feel about something or someone at work? Emotions such as anger, resentment and frustration can be a key indicator that we feel someone is taking advantage of us and has crossed a line. Maybe you are fed up with a colleague always dumping work on you or for taking credit for your work?

Perhaps you find yourself questioning if you are overreacting and seeking out the opinions of others to give you some sense of perspective. This can be helpful, however, regardless of what others say the key is how this makes you feel. Because, what is important to you, what you value, will be different to the next person. So the question you need to ask yourself is ‘am I willing to put up with this?’

The biggest reason we will stay silent is that we are fearful of the reaction of others. ‘What if they never speak to me again and make my life at work so difficult that I have no option but to leave?'

Fear can be powerful, and it can also be over-exaggerated. We are naturally programmed to focus on protecting ourselves to keep ourselves safe. If you are fearful of speaking up, start to understand both sides of the equation; what are the impacts of staying quiet and the impacts of speaking up.  Which scenario is going to be more painful for you?

Here are four questions to work through and think about each of these in terms of the short and long term impact:

  • How is staying quiet going to help you?
  • How is staying quiet going to hurt you?
  • How is speaking up going to help you?
  • How is speaking up going to hurt you?

And if you do decide to speak up, how do you have a conversation with a colleague in a way which will be received, understood and free from repercussion? (If it is your Manager that is causing these feelings, take a look at this blog and apply the same formula.)  How do you give yourself the best chance of getting your concerns listened to and your needs acted on? Here is my take on the answer to that question.

Start by setting the scene and filling in the blanks. Your colleague may not be aware of how their actions are making you feel, particularly if you have been tolerating their actions for some time or if they are new to the organisation.  Start by considering if they are fully aware of the problem and what information you need to share to bring them up to speed.

For example, if you have previously tolerated their actions you may want to start with an acknowledgement of your involvement.

‘I appreciate it was appropriate for me to support you as you settled into the organisation….’


‘I know I haven’t shared this with you before, but the truth of the matter is ….’

And if they are new to your team or organisation, you may need to start by sharing information on how the team informally or formally works.

‘I appreciate you may not know but we have a practice within the team in which we …..’

Start by filling in the gaps, acknowledging where you may have put up with something in the past or where they may not be aware of the practices within the team.

Explain the impact. In order for your colleague to change their behaviour, they need to understand how it is negatively impacting you, the team and/or the organisation.

‘While I was happy to support you as you settled into your new role, I am now in a position where I am struggling to keep up with my own work which is impacting other members of the team and our clients and therefore I am no longer willing to do this.’


‘We have these practices in place so everyone has the same opportunity and we are all treated equally.’

Support them with the solution. You want your comments to be well received and for your working relationship to not be negatively impacted. The third part of your conversation is finding a solution that works for all while staying firm with your boundaries.

Be clear about what will be changing, or what you expect to change, but ask what do they need to know or have from you in order to be able to bring about these changes. A solution that is worked out together is more likely to be acted on and adhered to.

'Therefore, starting next week, I will not be doing ...., what do you need from me to be able to pick this work up next week?'

The right time to talk. You have planned your conversation; what do you need to consider for your colleague to receive the information in a meaningful way?

The time and location of your conversation are key to how well your message is received. You want to make sure they have the time to listen to you and are free of distractions. Also, no one likes to be criticised publically. So think about when and where you have the conversation, give them time to hear what you are saying and digest it.

Now, what’s your next step, speak up or shut up?

If you are speaking up here is a summary of what you need to think about:

  • Fill in the blanks - what information do you need to share, what do you need to acknowledge
  • Explain the impact - why this behaviour is not working for you
  • Support them with a solution - explain what will be changing and understand what they need from you to be ok.
  • Consider the right time to talk - free from distractions and away from other people.

If you found this blog helpful, check out the following for similar career advice guidance.