Power “or lack of it” comprises much of our daily experience in the workplace. But power is not just about what title or position you hold. Power can be based on a number of other factors, such as experience and skills, mental and physical attributes, status, and professional networks.
Yet no matter how talented you are at your job, certain situations may make you feel powerless at work. Vivian Scott, author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies, notes that when power is imbalanced, it can create problems that cause conflicts and damage relationships. An example of this is when one person or team has too much “or not enough” power, throwing off the equilibrium in the office.
If you find yourself in any situation that impacts your base of power, it’s important to remember that you are the only one who gets to decide how you feel and how empowered you are. Here are three ways to take back your power and avoid giving it away to someone else in the workplace:
Open your eyes. To improve how you feel at work and your professional interactions, it’s important to become aware of the power dynamics at play. Notice situations that make you feel powerless these are red flags that call for you to take action to address the situation. Don’t wait until a situation becomes unbearable before you do something about it. If you notice that someone you work with is misusing their power or trying to overpower others whether overtly or covertly, talk to your manager or employer and explore safe options for having the situation addressed.
Empower yourself. Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, lists “Give Away Their Power” as point number two on her list of common pitfalls to avoid. While bullying and harassment may be exceptions, Morin notes that it’s best to steer clear of blaming others for our own problems. She maintains that when you accept full responsibility for how you think, act, and feel, you can take your power back, build greater mental strength, and create the life you want.
Recognize your own habits. Darlene Lancer writes in Psychology Today that some people feel uncomfortable with power and voluntarily cede their rightful power to others. If you find yourself frequently deferring to others, letting others make decisions for you, or stepping back when you should step forward to take action, it’s important to identify what’s behind these tendencies. Are you worried that you’ll alienate people or cause others to dislike you if you state your preferences? Lancer notes that this impaired sense of power may stem from low self-esteem, feelings of shame or unworthiness, or codependency. Working with a life coach or career coach is one way to work through these feelings and reclaim a stronger sense of self-empowerment in your career and personal life.
Beware of bullying. Bullying in the workplace has unfortunately become increasingly common. The Workplace Bullying Institute reports that up to one-third of employees may experience bullying (about 20 percent of which constitutes harassment). These are both extreme ways that people may abuse power that has been entrusted to them at work. Bullying and harassment can have serious negative effects on their victims including stress, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. If you believe you are being targeted by a bully or harasser, seek help from your HR department, doctor, counselor, and/or coach to develop a proactive plan of action.
Mark Strong is a Life Coach, Career Coach, and Executive Coach based in NYC. You can find more information at www.markstrongcoaching.com.