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Career + Finance

Are You Professionally Codependent?

I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if you read this title and wondered how it is even possible to be professionally codependent. After all, usually when that word is used, it’s in the context of romantic, platonic, or familial relationships, right? But trust me, as someone who comes from a long line of codependent people, it is very possible to be this way in your line of work. That’s the bad news. The good news is once you are able to spot the flags, you are well on your way to correcting your behavior so that you can thrive in your professional space.

So, just what does it look like to be a professionally codependent individual. Let’s see.

You (constantly) do tasks that you weren’t hired to do.

Listen, it’s one thing to be a “team player” and offer to go above and beyond, every now and then. While we’re here, it’s also a good idea to do all of your work in excellence. These two things can definitely take you pretty far on the professional tip. At the same time, one of my favorite Aristotle quotes is, “The excess of a virtue is a vice”. That basically means that even good deeds can become problematic when there is no balance—for instance, when you’re not taking care of yourself in the process of serving others. 

I can’t tell you how many people have told me, shoot, just this month alone, that they feel taken for granted at work. Mostly it’s because they are doing a billion things that have absolutely nothing to do with their job description. Constantly succumbing to this isn’t admirable; it’s low-key professional abuse because you’re allowing your boss or other employees to utilize certain skills that you weren’t hired to do—and they’re getting away with it for free. We all have salaries for a reason. If you are doing 2-3 jobs right now that you aren’t being compensated for, that is definitely a sign of being professionally codependent.

You’re always letting others take credit for your work.

Former President Harry S. Truman once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” When it comes to altruism, I agree. When it comes to a job, this sounds like someone who used to hustle his staff. While yes, a ton can get done without you getting the credit, the side of the story that he didn’t address is when you don’t get the credit, someone else will. And when the impression is given that the one who took the applause and accolades is the one who is qualified to do even more work—guess who gets to move up the ladder while standing on your blood, sweat, and tears? When things are a team project, collective credit is fine. But when something came solely from you, you need to let that be known. A lot of media companies steal Black Twitter posts all of the time. If it triggered you, just to hear that…good.

You fail to communicate your professional needs and expectations.

While it’s not fair (or realistic) to expect anyone to read your mind, let me tell you one place where you need to totally let that expectation go—at work. There is simply too much going on and folks have too much on their plate to be trying to figure out why you might not be feeling as satisfied and fulfilled at your job as you used to be. You’ve heard that closed mouths don’t get fed. You know what else? They typically don’t get as recognized, promoted, or end up with an increase in salary. Watching everyone else succeed because they weren’t afraid to state their needs and expectations is no way to live. 

Be professional. Don’t be rude or demanding. At the same time, be comfortable about being quite clear about what you would like to see happen for you personally, on the professional level. If your boss adheres to your requests, you’ve just moved a few steps ahead. If they continue to ignore you, then you know it’s time to do some shifting. Right?

You enable more than actually help.

It’s one thing to have a job where there is no opportunity for growth (which pretty much sucks, by the way). However, that is not the same thing as putting yourself in a position that prevents employees—and perhaps even your boss—from professionally developing because you are always catching their slack. This is why it’s so important to have healthy boundaries in the workplace. While it’s great to cultivate an amicable atmosphere and perhaps even have a few “work friends”, don’t get so attached or involved that you keep doing things that they should be doing, believing that you are being a good buddy or you are merely helping them out. You got hired to do one thing. They got hired to do something else. There are clear lines for a reason. It’s so important that you honor them.

Your self-esteem is wrapped up way too much in your job.

The late and great Lucille Ball once said, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” Your job is no exception here. Yet here’s the thing that I want you to remember about this particular point. It’s so important that you not only understand what your gifts, talents, and abilities are but that you affirm them too. That way, you’re not reliant on praise from the people in the office; that way, esteeming you is something that you appreciate without it being something that you are totally dependent on. Because, believe you me, if folks start to take note that you are needy for their approval or that disappointing them will devastate you on some level, they could start to use that to their advantage and emotionally manipulate you to get what they want without factoring in what you need. Being recognized by others is awesome. But it should be a bonus, not something that you require on a daily basis, just to feel good about yourself.

You no longer have solidified professional goals or plans.

What do you want? What do YOU want? If you’re staring at your computer screen with a blank look across your face—yeah, that’s not good. A surefire way to feel stagnant—or, if you let it go too far, totally frustrated—with your life is if you get to the point where most of your waking hours are all about doing whatever you need to do to collect a check so that you can pay your bills. Geeze, what a drab existence. The reality is codependent people are oftentimes underachievers because they are so busy doing for others that they forget how to care for themselves; this includes professionally. It’s hard to evolve without clear goals and plans. If you can’t remember the last time you had some, you already know what I’m about to say. Yep. That’s a professional codependence issue too.

So, now that you see what it means to be professionally codependent, what are you gonna do to change it? Set boundaries? Say “no” sometimes? See a therapist/counselor/life coach? Create a professional vision board? Pamper yourself (so that you can feel better about yourself)? What? There’s no time like the present to break the cycle of codependency in your life.

You’ll only get better if/when you do. Personally and professionally. I promise you that.

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