Doormats get walked on all day long. You don’t want to be a doormat.
And yet, all too often, we see nonprofit communications staff behaving in ways that reinforce these “let me wipe my dirty feet all over you” bad behaviors in others.
You might be a doormat — or at a minimum, sending doormat signals — in your nonprofit communications job if you . . .
Let other people put things on your to-do list, no questions asked.
Apologize for missing deadlines that were set without your input.
Regularly fix things for other people without their knowledge.
Take work home all the time but aren’t compensated for those hours.
Let other people tell you what they expect from you, but you don’t say what you expect from them.
Work your butt off to get things published on time (or close) even when your content contributors missed their deadlines
Take full personal responsibility for things going out late or being wrong in some way when it’s actually a team or leadership failure.
Rarely match what comes out of your mouth to the internal dialogue in your head.
Can’t remember the last time you had a genuinely strategic conversation about your work with your supervisor.
I can hear some of you saying, “That’s not fair. I am just being a team player.” Or “I don’t really have a choice.”
That’s what doormats in denial say.
So how do you get out of this position? Ultimately, you’ll need to stand up for yourself, set some boundaries, and let OTHERS deal with the consequences of crossing those boundaries, rather than rescuing people from themselves and making everything OK.
But before you get to that point, consider these three initial steps.
Refill Your Tank
The first step in setting boundaries is always some self-care. You can’t make good decisions about how things really should be when you are stuck in survival mode. Get some sleep and step away from the work chaos for a bit. Take the weekend for yourself, no work. Do something that really fills you up emotionally or spiritually.
Think About What You Want
With some mental balance restored, the next step is identifying your preferences for what you want your work life to be like. Yes, we all have to compromise. But it’s a very slippery slope from adjusting for the good of the team and becoming the team doormat. You must know what you prefer and what you absolutely cannot tolerate any longer before you can find a workable solution.
For communications directors, these wants often fall in the categories of
- knowing things sooner
- being supported in holding others accountable
- being included in both strategic and tactical decisionmaking
- being able to say no (or at least “not yet”) to ideas from others
- being trusted about how much time, money, energy, etc. is required to produce quality work
Identify Your Fears
Now, there’s a reason you are letting others treat you like a doormat. Fear of something or someone is likely at work. Why haven’t you insisted on getting what you want? What are you afraid of? What worst-case scenarios are you running in your head all the time?
For communications directors, these fears are often about being punished in some way for setting a boundary and speaking it clearly to others. For some, that punishment may look like getting fired or yelled at. Or maybe you fear being marginalized or frozen out. Or maybe you are afraid that you will be perceived as a bad person in some way.
Getting in touch with how you are feeling with these three steps will help you prepare to set some boundaries.
We’ll get back to more advice on setting those boundaries next week.