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Shift the Story
8 Narratives We Need to End About the Way We’re Seen at Work
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger
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We tend to believe toxic narratives in the workplace because, too often, workplace cultures reinforce them.

It's not easy to break our mindsets or change the way we think because the following workplace behaviors are largely rewarded for the wrong reasons. But it's imperative that we rewrite these narratives to reclaim respect for ourselves and our hard-earned careers.

Here are eight wrong things we tell ourselves about the way we're seen at work.

1. "I work long hours, so I'm seen as a productive person."

A 2014 national Gallup poll finds that the average number of hours a person works a week is 47, which is about 9.4 hours per day — and many report that they work 50 hours per week, which is far more than most of us expect to work. But, for a multitude of toxic reasons, we believe that working regular hours — showing up on time and leaving on time — isn't enough. We have to do more — to be the first one at the office and the last one to leave. We need to prove that we're reliable by being willing to regularly work long and odd hours, forgoing all semblance of a work-life balance.

But the reality is that overworking yourself doesn't make you productive. Rather, it does quite the opposite. Working too-long hours can actually lead to burnout, which will have a significant impact on your productivity and workplace performance.

2. "I never take vacation because I'm a hard worker."

According to Project Time Off, Americans seldom take vacations even when they're given to us. It's not because we don't want to, either. Rather, it's because we're afraid that we'll be considered unreliable or irresponsible for taking time off. But the truth is that taking a vacation can actually make you a better employee.

3. "No one else can do my job as well as me, so I can't delegate this."

A true leader understands how to delegate tasks. They know who has strong skills and relevant experiences to handle specific duties, and they hone in on those. They also know that doing everything themselves will only lead to burn out.

4. "My work is a priority, so I can't make time for anything outside of it."

A wealth of studies show that most of us appreciate a work-life balance. In fact, being able to juggle multiple priorities — work, family, physical and mental health, a social life, etc. — is what keeps msot of us feeling satisfied and fulfilled. Companies give time off for a reason, and that's to utilize it to focus on these other priorities. It's important that you make the time for other important aspects of your life because, if you don't, it'll surely take a toll on your work anyway.

5. "If I don't help out with [unrelated task], I won't be seen as a team player."

Women are too often expected to be "momagers" or "office moms" who take care of everyone at the office, grab coffee, restock the kitchen, plan coworker get-togethers and help with non-related work tasks around the office. They're often worried that, if they don't lend a helping hand all the time, they'll be seen as less likable or won't be considered a team player. In reality, what makes you a team player is doing your job. Because not doing it affects the rest of your team, too.

6. "I come into the office even while I'm sick, because I'm a trooper."

We live in a society in which we're told to "power through," even when we're severely under the weather. But coming into work while ill doesn't make you a trooper. Not only are you unable to perform optimally, which can ultimately hurt your performance (especially if you prolong your sickness because you didn't rest and take of yourself), but you may also risk infecting everyone else around you. Plaguing the office does no one any good.

7. "I never ask for help because doing so is considered weak."

Asking for help can feel awkward. But there's no need to feel ashamed for needing a hand or clarification at times. In fact, many believe one's ability to ask for help to be a sign of strength. There are, of course, ways to go about asking for help that don't hurt your professional image. But it's imperative that you do so that you continue to grow.

8. "I always answer emails at night and on the weekends, so I'm deemed reliable."

Answering emails all day and night, seven days a week, doesn't make you reliable. It makes you glued to your technology and unreliable in other aspects of your life — like to your friends and family who are also important. Getting adequate sleep at night and taking necessary breaks allows you to come to the office mentally prepared to be productive and work hard, which makes you an even more reliable colleague than if you were to burn yourself out.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.

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