Do you often find yourself being overly polite to the point that your coworkers constantly request favors from you?

Are you fed up of being the “nice person” in the office that everyone gets to share their sad stories with?

There is a fine line between politeness and being taken for granted.

While the former helps you gain a reputation at work, the latter makes you a helpless hostage when faced with the option of helping someone out even if you’ve got your own things to do.

So how exactly do you guard your sacred space and prevent people from taking advantage of you? Well, that’s exactly what we are here to learn.


Every workplace has the usual shy individuals who win their colleagues over by offering a helping hand frequently. Unfortunately, the workplace is also like the jungle, where the strong prey on the meek and where kindness is translated into getting free work done for your co-workers.

Just when things couldn’t get any worse, your boss storms into your room and dumps a large batch of files on your desk and asks you to get the job done before the weekend.

And with that, you’ve just canceled your weekend plans while you see all your colleagues with their smiles walking past your cubicle with their weekend party hats on.

Does it seem fair? Of course not. But what choice do you have to save your job?

To eliminate this vulnerability of being taking advantage of, first begin by tweaking your personality.

By being stern and confident, don’t worry about coming off as an overbearing and arrogant individual. Having your own opinion shows that you know right from wrong and it immediately causes your colleagues and bosses to stop taking advantage of you and move on to a more vulnerable target.

Overly Polite Individuals are Indecisive

When polite people are asked by their colleagues if they would have lunch with them, their usual replies are – “Sure, I don’t mind” or “Of course, I’d love to”.

Even when they don’t wish to spend their time with others or if they are planning to do something important. Overly polite individuals believe that if they refuse an offer, they would come off as rude and that would mean losing the friendship of others.

This is far from the truth.

When you accept a proposal even when you don’t feel like it, the only thing happening is creating an indecisive personality within you.

Soon, it transforms into a prolonging habit to refuse people favors even if you’re in no position to fulfill them.

Take, for example,

Your coworker has a large loan to pay off. She comes to you as she knows that you’d never refuse a favor when asked. She requests a cash amount of $4000. Unfortunately, you are unable to say “No” due to your indecisive mindset and further, your mind beckons you to help your coworker in need.

You reassure her and proceed to give her the money that you saved for years. By not considering your own life problems, you’ve made a terrible decision by giving out money that you worked hard for just because of your inability to deny others a favor.

Now, let’s analyze the worst-case outcome — if your colleague quits her job and with no formal contract on the loan amount, your money is in danger of being lost forever. The other solution is to continue following up for your money frequently. Overly polite people never follow up as regularly as they should as they believe they’d hurt the feelings of others by constantly reminding them of their dues.

The above case demonstrates how politeness is a deception and how you’re forced to nod your head in approval every time someone asks for a favor.

Don’t allow yourself to be taken for granted. Practice the art of saying “No”.

The Science Behind How Politeness is Distinct From Compassion

Stop trying to impress others with the things that you own. Instead, inspire them by the way that you live – Unknown

We all like the approval of our peers. It’s a great feeling to be talked about in conversations and to win their trust. However, trying hard to win the attention of those you admire will likely cause you to be a pest in their life. Overly polite individuals usually change their opinions to match those of the people they are trying to impress.

They’ll laugh at jokes that aren’t funny to gain the stamp of approval.

By doing so, you cause others to be suspicious of you. Every time you enter the office, you’ll be the office clown talked about in whispers due to your attention seeking personality. At the end of the day, you’ll never set out to achieve what you wanted – to win the approval of everyone in your office space.

In a study conducted to understand psychological behavior, a few researchers came together to ask people with varying personalities to split their money with anonymous individuals. Out of all the personalities, the overly polite people were more likely to share their money with their “not-so-polite” counterparts.

The study proved that overly polite people didn’t really think their decision through and would just go the distance to please people even if it had an emotional overbearing on their minds.

So how polite should we really be?

While it’s alright to empathize with your coworkers, it’s also necessary to assess your own situation before going ahead and accepting their proposal.

There isn’t a single social rule that states denying your colleague a favor makes you a bad person. It only makes you a person unable to fulfill their request at this present moment due to the lack of personal resources.

Understanding the difference between politeness and compassion may be the most important discovery node for overly respectful citizens.

Remember, if you aren’t personally harming them, there isn’t a negative effect by denying favors to them.


Being polite is often considered one of the nicest traits for a human being to possess. A polite person usually assesses the situation and takes the backseat when needed without hogging the spotlight. However, what happens when the “backseat” becomes your home for the rest of your professional life?

Being too polite is a recipe for disaster. With no one to acknowledge your politeness and reciprocate the same emotion back to you, you’ll begin to resent all your co-workers and even your boss can seem like the devil running the show.

Now the big question — How exactly does one know the difference between being polite and demonstrating an excessive polite attitude in the workplace? These 3 signs will demonstrate if you’ve crossed the boundary of being overly polite or not.

1. Withholding your Opinions

Human beings have brittle hearts and let’s face it, frequently we are forced to listen to nasty words only to reply with a smile. It’s one thing to compose yourself when you take an artillery fire from your boss for not being able to complete your project but it’s not okay to listen to your colleagues sit and offer their negative opinions on you. Stuff like —

You won’t make it past this month in this job.

Your skills are highly ineffective, please quit.

You’re wasting your time here.

Statements like these are quite common to hear in the workplace but when you hide behind a veil of politeness, it only makes the situation that much worse. You’ll be the giant magnet for all jokes uttered in the office.

Your office mates will come up with new ways to harass you, the more silent you remain and eventually, you’ll have a mental breakdown and quit.

Was it all worth it to remain polite and smile at their insults? No, it wasn’t.

That’s why the next time you are confronted by a rude demeaning coworker, be straightforward and ask them to mind their business or you’ll be filing a harassment claim with the Human Resources team.

Also, when faced with the dilemma of providing your honest opinion about your coworkers with a senior manager.

Be honest and notify them the harassment being faced immediately.

You’ll not only be the savior of the workplace, but you’ll be well respected by all the new recruits.

2. Pressure of Conducting Favors for Others

One of the most common forms of being taken advantage in the workplace is when you’ve been doing less of your work and more work for your colleagues.

Polite individuals are taken for a ride the moment they demonstrate their passive side in the workplace. Instantly, you are marked with a title that reads “Willing to do favors at any cost”. Just imagine carrying that signboard everywhere you go within the office, ridiculous, isn’t it? But that’s exactly how your colleagues see you as.

Ask yourself the following questions to get an idea if you’ve been doing favors past your generosity.

  1. Have you done two or more favors for the same colleague in the same month?
  2. Do you find yourself being neglected by your colleagues all the time except when there are favors needed by them?
  3. Are you finding it difficult to say “No” to someone when they ask you for a favor?
  4. Do you find yourself working the most in the office in a single work week?
  5. Do you feel like you’ve made no friends even after being extremely friendly and polite in over 2 months of joining?

If you’ve answered yes to at least two of the following questions, you certainly demonstrate the signs of an overly polite person.

Remember, for every favor that you perform, you lose time that you’ll never get back and you’ll waste energy that could be used to concentrate on your own work.

You sacrifice your overall productivity to achieve someone else’s goals. Soon when it’s your turn to shine in the spotlight, guess what?

The whole office will be nominated for the position that you wanted as their work records are perfect, thanks to your generosity.

3. Feeling of Powerlessness & Irritability

Now that you’ve put your needs on the backburner and prioritized everyone else in the office, you obviously lack any self-esteem to live your life normally.

At home, you spend 30 minutes daydreaming about the incident at the office. Replaying it in your mind and feeling irritable.

You had promised yourself you wouldn’t let anyone else step on your feelings or use your valuable time as their own, yet you didn’t follow through with your courage and it’s brought down your overall self-confidence to rock bottom.

If you’re feeling constantly stressed and irritated with yourself at office for no good reason, the lack of self-confidence in doing the “right thing” could be holding you down. While your mind knows it’s wrong, you feel powerless to confront the people that anger you.

In fact, a study conducted by Cornell University demonstrates that individuals who neglect to be upfront about their situation usually end up with “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”. The syndrome is characterized by symptoms of depression and exhaustion all the time. The subjects that were tested reported having suicidal thoughts during their lowest point of the day.

Do you really feel being polite is worth ending a precious life? If you ever suffer from chronic exhaustion or feel depressed all the time and fear the workplace, it’s necessary to visit a psychiatrist and seek help immediately. Workplace harassment is a cause of worry and not a light topic of debate.

Always confront your harassers in any form and you’ll save yourself from years of pent-up stress.


Not every opportunity that presents itself is a career-boosting one. Especially not if the indicators demonstrate that your work colleagues and boss always land at your desk with a favor in mind.

Working hard in these circumstances doesn’t do much for your career.

On the contrary, you’ll be prioritizing their work over yours and it can severely affect the outcome of your productivity in the long run.

Here are 4 common ways where you’ll find yourself in a pickle of a situation and the answers to how to get out of them without sounding rude.

1. Working Overtime

In our professional lives, we’ve at some point or the other been subjected to unacceptable behavior by our seniors who make us work beyond our work hours and with absolutely no additional pay. While working overtime can be a personal responsibility to finish up with your pending projects, it can’t be a substitute for your boss to get his work done through your time.

So how do you say “no” without sounding arrogant?

Let’s take the below scenario and answer this problem.


Boss: Hi [Your Name]. I’d like you to do something for me and finish up this paperwork if you’ve got the time after work. I’ll put in a good name for you at the next month’s board meeting and there might be a sweet promotion in it for you.


The good old “bribing the employee with a promotion” method.  A classic!

In this scenario, your boss politely asks you to complete some additional work with “no pay” of course for a terrific deal at making it up the ranks of the promotional ladder. At first, this feels like a deal of the lifetime. I mean to be offered a promotional chance for doing some extra hours is unbelievable. You’ll automatically be forced to accept it because by some lucky stars you’ve just gotten a golden opportunity.


The only reason you’ll be promoted is for the work you do and how you’re able to handle your responsibilities. Have you ever heard of anyone in your life that has been promoted because they did a few hours of additional work? That’s just crazy!

The Right Answer

You: “I’m sorry, Sir. But I’ve got a lot of workload on my table and would like to concentrate on it. In fact, the time frame provided to me isn’t enough and I’d like to go home and think of a possible solution. Also, I’d like to get some possible rest as the entire week has been rough on me.

Your boss will have to excuse you and choose another candidate on the list to get his work done. You left him with no option since your answer had no real holes to pick on. You need the rest and you only want to concentrate on the work you’ve got on your table. Promotion isn’t really on your mind.

Another answer that’s great if you feel a flat refusal won’t do is to diffuse the situation in a tricky way such as.

You: “I’d love to get your work done but currently I have a lot going on in my personal life. If we could postpone this to a future date, I’d be able to help you out.”

This allows you to show that you’ve got the friendly demeanor in check, but you don’t really want to perform the work currently. Your boss will mostly get the work done by someone else and you’ll still gain the brownie points.

2. Accepting Additional Responsibilities

For the last time, accepting additional responsibilities doesn’t shift the spotlight on you for career advancement.

The only time you’ll ever advance in your career by accepting more responsibilities is if you’ve already learned all there is to learn in your job and are looking to make a huge leap.

In that case, you’ll need to approach your seniors and demonstrate why you need an advancement.

Don’t just perform all your colleague’s responsibilities while they end up at a fancy dinner ball while you’re left burning the midnight lamp at the workplace.

By accepting an additional responsibility from your colleague, there are some guaranteed perks in it for you such as

  • Networkable clientele
  • Understanding the ropes required for a different job
  • Building your current job’s strengths
  • Additional income
  • A favor to ask back when the time is right

If the additional responsibility has nothing to do with the above perks, you’re probably going to be doing meaningless work that isn’t accounted for.

It’s like working at a community center, except you aren’t doing any community service and your work friend is just taking advantage of your politeness.

Still, don’t see it?

Let’s demonstrate with an example

Picture yourself working at a premier bank in the city. You work in the personal account section and your day-to-day responsibilities are to manage personal bank accounts of individuals. Now let’s say you have a minimum target achievement of attracting 50 new customers to open personal accounts every month and you’re barely able to meet the minimum requirements.

Your friend from the insurance section has the same 50 targets but to sell insurance to her clients. She decides to pitch in a plan and convince you to talk to your customers about opening an insurance account with the bank and refer her name as you pitch your personal account plan. She continues to state, “It’s just 2 minutes of your time and you’ll be doing me a huge favor”.

At first, you accept her request because you’re simply helping a friend out by spending 2 minutes with your clients to talk about the insurance policy. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself completing her target of 50 for her on your time while your own minimum target begins to suffer. This is because you’re the only one pitching the work for her, she isn’t reciprocating the good deed with her own clients by referring personal accounts back to you.

Do you see where we are going with this?

Not all additional responsibilities add a positive impact to your career. These side projects just slow your overall responsibilities down. If you’ve got the time to help a work colleague, do it once and ensure you receive the same good deed back when you’re in need. Remember the famous quote “A friend in need is a friend indeed” if you are the only one doing the hard work in this friendship, the word “friend” holds no value.

3. Allowing Personal Credit to Be Stolen

Power grabbing is a term used when your sales idea gets stolen by your team/boss with absolutely no credit linking back to you. In realistic terms, it’s like writing a 20-page essay for your school project only to have the school bully snatch it off your hands and put his name on it.

Unfortunately, not many stand up for this type of abuse and allow their peers and seniors to steal their glory. All because of a silly thing called “politeness”.

In a survey conducted by Andy Harrington on over 1000 working professionals. 69 percent of them have had their idea stolen regularly by either their colleagues or bosses.

The survey further found out that most of the respondents felt miserable and were close to quitting their jobs.

Most of them even replied that it affected their productivity greatly as they felt angry towards their stolen glory and hence, prevented themselves from working at their best.

Here are 3 Distinct Ways to Prevent This Inner Backlash From Happening

Don’t pitch your entire idea

Never ever discuss a project with someone you deem to be unreliable. If you happen to be someone that trusts others easily, don’t share your professional ideas to anyone in your office without a valid reason.

An idea isn’t office gossip.

What you have could be worth millions and if it falls in the wrong hands, you’re at risk of having your idea stolen.

Here’s a billion-dollar example of a worthwhile sales idea.

Two famous companies — Twitter and Craigslist were 2 business ideas that were initially side projects of their respective owners while working at different firms. Imagine what would happen if these billion-dollar ideas were to become the vision of a corrupt colleague that the owners decided would be great to discuss on a Saturday lunch?

If you’ve got a sales pitch make sure there are a team of people listening when pitching it in, so you’ve got someone to vouch for you. If your boss decides to have a private conversation on your idea, it’s important to discuss bits and pieces without revealing the entire plan. Just provide a blueprint of the idea but not the overall idea.

Document Your Entire Idea

Having pre-existing records of your project on paper and on online storage drives is a great way to safeguard your idea. This way the boss will think twice before announcing the idea as his own when he must reveal the white paper to the entire team.

You’ll also have full access to how you planned the entire idea when the necessity arises and will be credited appropriately as the brain behind the idea. Filing your ideas every time a single phase is complete is a good way to counter others from stealing your ideas.

Take for example ­—

You’ve got an excellent input on how to launch the latest smartphone for your company. The boss loves your idea and when he asks for a detailed breakdown you can simply share your Google Worksheet and then forward it to all your relevant colleagues that are working on the product. This way, your boss will never think of stealing your idea as everyone will have a copy and know that you’ve been the mastermind behind it.

A One-on-One Talk

One of the biggest mistake employees commit when their idea or vision is stolen is to keep quiet about it. Ensure you point out the mistake to your boss or colleague on why the idea meant the world to you and how much work you put into it.

Pointing out their mistake while using statements such as the below given ones will make them see the mistake from their side.

The idea was something I came upon over months of brainstorming. It really hurts when the company I am committed to doesn’t show credit towards it.”


“I’d like to get a load off my mind as I am unable to concentrate on my work. The project that was launched last month had no mention of my name even though I had provided valuable input. It’s discouraging to know that months of my work has gone uncredited for. I’d like to know your reason for doing that.”

Confronting your boss doesn’t always have to be rude, the above statements make it quite clear that you’re deeply disturbed by having your ideas stolen. If your boss understands you he’ll immediately put your name on the project and credit you for your contribution, if not, it’s time to shift your workstation to a new company.

4. Waiting for a Promotion Forever

Have you been promised to receive a bump up the ranks in your professional career by your boss? Before you jump the gun and begin feeling exhilarated about the entire fiasco, it’s necessary to fully grasp the situation and understand if you’re really getting a promotion or have been baited into working harder for the company.

Being polite can get in you in a hurdle of sorts. You could be waiting forever for that promotion while your peers around you move past you in ranks. Ultimately, you’ll feel the crushing weight of feeling used by your seniors and all for the promise of a promotion that is never going to come.

Here are Three Signs to Know if You’re Being Taken Advantage of When a Promotion is in the Talks


Always be mindful of the duration between the time you were promised a promotion to the time you are expecting one. Usually, if you’re getting promoted, your boss would have plenty of meetings with you to fill you up on your new job role. If none of this seems to happen and weeks become months, then you’ve probably been baited into a promotional dream.

A promotional dream is where you think you’re receiving a promotion but in fact are just made to work harder to secure your promotion. A deadline will help clear up the promotional dream by giving you the right amount of patience to wait and not a minute longer.

Say, you’ve been promised a promotion in May, if you’ve been waiting till October for it, you’ve just latched their bait. Always follow up in a month’s time to see where things are. Ensure you follow up week after week after a month has passed to really push the word in and embed it into your boss’s mind.

While slow and steady usually wins the life race, it’s just not worth waiting for in the professional race. Be the rabbit and claim your spot!


Do you believe your last project that you completed played a large role in the company’s success?

If yes, you’re doing great injustice to your job role by limiting yourself to your current professional state. You’re valuable to the company and everyone knows it. By asking for a slice of the pie, you aren’t leaving the sanctity of the ground below to touch the clouds. In short, asking for what you’re worth — money or promotion — is a necessary stepping stone in every professional’s life.

Despite all your contributions if you still feel there has been no recognition or salary bump in the last few months, you’re being used by your company for their own selfish needs. It’s time to walk into your boss’s office and display all the contributions that you’ve brought for the company.

Your accomplishments should make it clear why you need a salary raise and if they don’t, well they just stand to lose a valuable employee.

Minimum Time

No matter where you work across the globe, the minimum time required for any company to promote their workers is about 18 months to two years. If you haven’t been promoted in this time, it’s time to look out for a new company that values your time and efforts.

Your senior management will begin to think you’re too polite to ask for a promotion and will continue to have their way with you.

Here’s an explanation on what the minimum time frame that you’ve worked for means according to the BBC statistics.

Less than eight months ­— Considered a terrible work employee due to non-commitment to a company for even a year

A full year — Depending on your contributions in this duration, you might get promoted but the chances are low.

Eighteen months to 2 years — Your chance of being promoted is extremely high and it’s considered a good time to move up the ranks

Three years and above — Unless you’re a severe underachiever or an extremely polite worker, there’s really no reason for you to be in the same job role for more than 48 months.


There’ll always be a reason for your colleagues and boss to take advantage of you if you’ve let your defenses down.

Sometimes, it might be a necessity to do the extra work but most times you can counter back with a blatant “no” if your colleagues request you to get their work done.

Remember, it’s always necessary to work smarter and not harder to accomplish your career goals.

You’ve been doled out the same set of problems that others have, it doesn’t make it ok for others to use your politeness to get their way with it. Set up a clear stop sign and deny any form of negative assistance.

Are Your Boss and Colleagues Taking Advantage of Your Politeness? 4 Simple Indicators to Find Out

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