When You’ve Been Treated Unfairly at Work

Nothing irks us more than being treated unfairly at work.  Part of you feels that everybody should stop what they’re doing and recognize the injustice.  Even when the consequences are insignificant, you are left with the unpleasant feeling that you’ve been wronged.  So what is the best way to handle this situation?  Here are some tips that may help:

Pick your battles.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of unfairness in the workplace.  Hard work is not always rewarded, and the best candidate doesn’t always get the promotion.  If you try to take a stand against every injustice that you see, you won’t get very much work done.  Sometimes you need to hold your nose (and your tongue) and accept that today just wasn’t your day.  Learn to distinguish between a big injustice that you cannot (and should not) accept, and small injustices that aren’t worth the time or trouble to fight.

Try to see the other point of view.  Often when you are treated unfairly, it is the result of an unintentional oversight.  For example, if you were scheduled to work on a day that you booked off, it is possible that the manager lost the form, or that they filled out the schedule incorrectly.  It is even possible that someone asked for that day off before you did.  Keep in mind that the situation may look very different from the other person’s perspective.

Explain why you felt that you were treated unfairly.  If you have decided that you need to address the issue, it is best to talk to the other person directly.  Approach them professionally and discreetly.  Without blaming, tell them how the situation made you feel.  Do your best to communicate your feelings while still preserving the relationship.

Reflect on the situation.  These difficult situations can be valuable learning experiences, but only if we take the time to reflect on them.  Do you feel that you handled the situation well?  How did the other person respond?  What would you do differently next time?

Bill Gates uttered a tough truth when he said, “life isn’t fair; get used to it.”  He is correct that if we go out into the world expecting fairness, we will be disappointed.  However, some situations truly are unjust and cannot be tolerated.  The secret is to know when to draw the line.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)


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