6 Ways to Know You’re Being Held Back & What to Do About It

January 13, 2016

Do you ever find yourself asking, “am I being held back at work?” Or do you think that a certain peer or superior is holding you back from getting a promotion or just receiving the recognition you deserve for your hard work?

Everyone views success a little differently, but how much you are earning relative to others may have an impact on how you feel about your level of success. It’s easy to want more money for your hard work, but it’s an entirely different story to know that you should be earning more but you are stuck because of some factor seemingly outside of your control.

All too often smart, productive, and hard-working people find themselves in a situation where they aren’t achieving their personal goals while participating on a team, working for a particular company, or reporting to a specific individual. We’ve all heard horror stories about bosses who make their employees do all of the work, but take all the credit in meetings and when talking to their superiors.

While not all situations are as blatant as that, enough time working in an environment where you are not reaching your potential can make you blind to the fact. Much of the time, it’s not until you’re out of that situation that you realize just how many opportunities were being missed.

Because of these blinders that we unintentionally put on when working a job day in and day out, it’s good to have a reality check or a test to know if your subtle, but persistent unhappiness is caused by your team, company, or boss holding you back. Here are six different ways you could know that’s exactly what’s happening:

  1. You have a strong belief about some aspect of your business, but you concede to a different strategy or approach. Then you find yourself repeating your beliefs over and over again, but your ideas are never adopted.
  2. You feel like you’re the person responsible for a major share of your team’s productivity, but you’re not taking the lion’s share of the pay.
  3. After putting in countless hours and going above and beyond, you start to feel deflated. You begin to question exactly why you’re working so hard for others.
  4. You know that you could be earning more money somewhere else, but you are committed to your team and think if you just wait it out, eventually you’ll earn more.
  5. You lose sleep worrying about aspects of your work that others don’t seem to feel responsible for.
  6. You find yourself looking at the job offerings on LinkedIn or you give serious consideration to an offer from a recruiter.

If you feel like any of these describe you, it would be fair to say that you are being held back. It may not be that bad, but chances are, if you stick it out, it will never get better and could possibly get worse.

What To Do If You Feel Like You’re Being Held Back

Once you realize that others are truly holding you back in your professional life, you can either accept it and be miserable or you can change your situation. Of course, this is easier said than done, but there are some critical steps you need to take in order to get ahead.

The first thing you need to do is have a plan. I’ve been responsible for a few major decisions throughout my career, and with each decision, nothing was accomplished until I had a plan in place. The best part about it was, often my goals were accomplished well before the deadline in my plan. As you think about your own plan, it’s important to set goals so you have something to work toward and a benchmark to evaluate your progress.

I recently learned about SMART goals and was surprised that I had never heard of them before. A SMART goal is a specific outcome you wish to achieve; there is a way to measure your success in your pursuit of it; it is attainable or you have a benchmark for which to compare to; it is relevant to what you are trying to accomplish; and there is a clear timeline for achieving it.

Once you have a plan with SMART goals in place, you can begin to execute. But this is the hardest part. Having an idea and achieving success could not be further from one another. What separates the two is action. It is important that you do something each and every day to move closer to your desired outcome. That could mean writing a business plan, making a list of potential job openings, calling people you trust to ask for help, or just talking about your plans with someone who is close to you.

The last thing that you need to do is to pay close attention – to everything. If you’ve ever read the book The Secret you would know that many successful people believe that by constantly thinking about and believing that what you want is possible, your dreams will manifest themselves. I believe this is true, but it’s likely because you begin to see things that happen as opportunities that fit into your plan. Had you not constantly thought about and worked toward what you are aiming to achieve, they would just be things that happen.

Getting what you want out of life and being happy is not selfish; in fact, continuing to get mediocre results from your efforts and being miserable is likely because you are serving as someone else’s crutch. You’ll do them a favor by forcing them to stand on their own two feet. And don’t be the victim, don’t settle for the status quo, and don’t let others drag you down and hold you back. Take control, make a plan, take action and pay attention. Before you know it, the world will shift around you.

If you’re looking for more ways to get unstuck, check out my article on climbing the corporate ladder: Stop Trying to Climb the Corporate Ladder: Transcend the Corporate Ladder Instead. Do you know of some other signs that might indicate you’re being held back? Tell others who are in the same boat by sharing them in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

  1. I am in this boat, yet, there is one more aspect I want to share. I am approaching the age of retirement. I have concrete evidence of my success. I have it in black and white. I have it in testimonials. Yet my boss refuses to acknowledge it. There is a degree of vindictiveness about her that is undeniable. I am stuck in a rut feeling trapped.

    1. Post

      Bill, there is only one person who can get you out of the rut you are in and it’s you. Take your validation and make it valuable for someone else. Start a side hustle. Become a consultant for your field. I call retirement the “R-word” because what are you really going to do when when you retire? If you don’t continue to create value for the world, I promise you’ll die sooner and at the very least you’ll get bored quickly. Most likely what you need is to break free of the shackles of your current employment and spread your wings. If you are as valuable as you say you are, someone else is willing to pay a lot of money for that.

  2. I’m failing 3 classes with a 50% and if my parents know about it they will stop loving me I don’t know what to do at this poing

  3. The problem is in many toxic places, there are people that hold you back. Truth be told, in many organizations this is what actually happens.

Discover your exponential growth

Book a complimentary call with an experienced strategist. Our team will discuss your organizational goals, identify solutions, and define action steps that benefit your brand. Gain new knowledge and leave with inspiration to elevate your business or nonprofit.
Start with a 30 minute call