5 Signs That Your Boss Is Taking Advantage of You

A businesswoman kneads her forehead in stress while two coworkers gossip behind her.

Are You Being Taken Advantage of at Work?

To many Americans, their career isn’t just a means for economic production or material wealth—it’s the core of their identity. Since the 1980s, western society has romanticized the idea of “the grind,” sparking a phenomenon also known as workaholism.

So, what does this mean for U.S. workers?

This culture of overwork—of equating human worth to productivity—can make it all the more challenging to recognize manipulation and toxicity in the workplace. The average person spends one-third of their life working. Although societal norms can dissuade us from seeking a healthy work-life balance, it’s important to prioritize our mental health and wellbeing—in and out of the office.

5 Types of Workers That Bosses Take Advantage Of

One-third of your life is a long time. Just imagine spending 90,000 hours of your life feeling undervalued, overworked, underpaid, or mistreated by a boss.

It's no secret that an employer can “make or break” a job. A bad boss can turn anyone’s dream career into a living nightmare. Those in higher positions have more power, money, and influence than the average employee, equipping them with the ability to influence every vein in the company from the top-down.

It’s normal to want to excel at your work or impress a supervisor, but it’s important to recognize when a boss goes too far or demands too much. Where are the boundaries in a healthy workplace? How can you tell if your boss is resorting to manipulative tactics for their own personal gain? Is your boss taking advantage of you?

The following behaviors may indicate that your employer is treating you unfairly at work. If you feel stuck in the workplace, ask yourself if you identify with any of these 5 worker types.

#1. The Yes-Man

You suffer from a “heck, yes!” reflex.

“Listen, I need a favor,” your boss says with an apologetic smile—and just like that, your stomach sinks. Maybe their words are kind, or their tonality conveys an underlying message: “We’re all friends here, right?” or, “I know I can always count on you.”

We all want to make a good impression at work, but blindly obeying your boss’s every whim can cost you in the long run. No matter how politely a boss requests something from you, it’s wrong for an employer to unburden themselves by overburdening a subordinate…especially if they do so because they know you’ll say yes.

If you suspect that you have a yes-reflex at work, it’s important to set healthy boundaries and clear expectations. “Yes-Men” of the American workplace can be proactive by learning to say…well, no.

Of course, this is easier said than done, but there are ways to decline additional tasks because of an already-overflowing plate. Before you feel the knee-jerk “yes” on the tip of your tongue, come up with an alternative response to your boss. Exercising honest, assertive, and respectful communication is the most effective way to prevent burnout, and can save you a lot of grief later on.

#2. The People-Pleaser

You feel obligated to fulfill extra duties requested of you—even when you don’t want to.

For many of us, being part of a team is a rewarding experience. Dependability is an excellent quality to have, and positive recognition from colleagues and supervisors is often a fulfilling part of our careers.

However, there is such a thing as being relied on too much. After all, there’s a big difference between being a team player and being a doormat. Here are some signs that people-pleasing might be negatively affecting you at work:

  • Your colleagues or managers have stopped asking if you’re too busy to take on more tasks.
  • You’re the go-to employee when there is overspill work or forgotten deadlines to meet.
  • Your boss expects you to stay late or “go the extra mile” even when your coworkers clock out at 5 o’clock on the dot.
  • You’re expected to pick up slack when coworkers are on vacation, call in sick, or resign.
  • You think overburdening yourself is easier than risking conflict with your boss.

If you relate to any of these, you might be prone to people-pleasing at work. Consider reflecting on ways you can stand your ground and exercise assertiveness in the workplace next time you’re stretched too thin.

#3. The BFF

Your boss is excessively friendly…when they need something.

Being on amicable terms with your boss isn’t always a bad thing. Research shows that treating employees like human beings instead of “cogs in the machine” not only improves respect and self-worth in the workplace, but enhances employee productivity.

Maintaining professional relations at work can help us avoid conflict, awkwardness, and even legal liability. However, there is a line between our personal and professional lives for a reason. If you work for a boss who is overly friendly, reflect on these 3 questions:

  1. Does your boss go out of their way to make you feel special and appreciated, but only when they want something from you?
  2. Does your boss’s friendliness come with strings attached?
  3. Does your boss “ice you out” when you try to set healthy boundaries?

If your boss constantly overburdens you with tasks before inviting you to grab a beer after work, they might be taking advantage of you.

Don’t allow a supervisor to keep you in their back pocket because it’s convenient for them. No matter how badly your boss tries to be your BFF, it’s crucial to maintain a professional distance from your employer to prioritize your wellbeing and preserve a professional, functional relationship going forward.

#4. The Loyalist

Your workload is steadily increasing, but your pay remains the same.

Are you holding out hope for a promotion you deserve, but haven’t received? Have you dedicated years of your life to the same company without change? Does your boss refuse to award or even acknowledge your loyalty?

If you find yourself investing time and energy without being fairly compensated, your boss might be taking advantage of you. It’s easy to overlook long-term employees. After all, the people creating ripples and being loud are more likely to be noticed than “ol’ reliable” workers who get their work done efficiently and effectively day after day, and year after year.

Loyalty is a valuable but sadly overlooked employee trait that companies should value highly. While pay is an important component, the simple act of recognizing and appreciating an employee’s efforts goes a long way, too.

Do you feel like the “office dinosaur?” Are you starting to wonder when you should request the compensation you deserve? Here are signs that you should consider having a conversation with your boss regarding pay or promotion:

  • Your responsibilities exceed the workload, knowledge, or skills of your current position.
  • You haven’t received a raise after past performance reviews, or haven’t had a recent performance review entirely.
  • The current market value of your position is higher than what you’re being paid.
  • You have a lengthy track record of success, and you’ve gone out of your way to better the company and take on additional responsibilities.

While asking for a raise can be intimidating, it’s critical to know your worth. Many Americans are pleasantly surprised when initiating a seemingly awkward conversation yields their desired outcome. Regardless of your employer’s response, you never know until you ask…so you might as well ask, right?

Having a conversation can at least give you more clarity on whether you’re comfortable staying loyal to the company for another decade (or two, or three) or should seek greener pastures that value your contributions more.

#5. The Castaway

Your boss guilts or excludes you when you attempt to set healthy boundaries.

Children are taught many core principles at an early age: respect, patience, honesty, sharing, and the like. If small humans are capable of honoring these basic values, it’s only fair that we hold adults accountable, too. When a boss resorts to manipulative behavior to take advantage of an employee, it affects everyone, often leading to a toxic workplace.

Retaliating against an employee for exercising respectful communication, setting professional boundaries, or being honest about their workload is wrong. When a boss chooses to let their emotions run the show, people tend to get hurt. Professional boundaries are blurred. Workers stay silent out of fear or intimidation—and that never leads to anything good.

The last thing a company wants is a reputation for fostering a hostile work environment. Is your boss deceiving you through manipulative behavior? To get a better idea, reflect on these questions:

  • Do you walk on eggshells around your boss? Do you find yourself nervously wondering what type of mood they’re in, or hesitate to speak up out of fear of provoking them?
  • Does your boss love or hate you depending on the day? Is their good mood based on your compliance? Do they shower you with praise one day, then humiliate you in the department meeting the next?
  • Does your boss go out of their way to exclude you when they’re unhappy with you? Do they put you down, guilt you, talk over you, or box you out of social interactions in the office?
  • Are your boss’s emotions unpredictable and polarizing? Does their behavior make you or other workers uncomfortable or “on edge?”

If any of these scenarios sounds familiar, your boss might be abusing their authority to take advantage of you or silence you to avoid reaping the consequences of their inappropriate behavior.

How to Assert Your Rights Without Sacrificing Your Job

You have the right to work in a respectful and non-toxic workplace. No American deserves to spend 90,000 hours being mistreated by a string of bad employers. If you feel like you’ve been unfairly discriminated against in the office, it’s important to take action.

With over 25 years of experience in employment law, our dedicated attorney is here to advocate for you. At Polaris Law Group, LLP, we assist with serious employee issues, including (but not limited to):

Are you being taken advantage of at work? You have the right to hold your employer accountable for any unjust actions. U.S. workers are protected by state and federal laws designed to prevent toxicity, discrimination, and injustice in the American workplace. Don’t wait to speak out against injustice.

Are you being mistreated at work? Our dedicated employment law attorney can help you assert your rights. Call (888) 796-4010 or contact us online to schedule your consultation today.