My train today was late. As I was waiting, I overheard a rail employee on the phone complaining about this affecting his total work hours, and that he does not get paid overtime. He was very upset as this had been happening with increasing frequency. He clearly felt exploited.

What makes an employed person feel exploited? Indeed, what makes anyone feel exploited?

In the rail workers case he was angry because there was zero recognition by the large rail company of his value as an individual human being, of the cost of him being taken away from his down time/personal time. His relationship with his employer was purely transactional. His employers relationship with him was purely transactional. If this is the way you do business, you get what you get. The minimal effort and commitment from an employee and zero loyalty.

I think about the times I have been exploited, and I have to admit that it was almost always because of my authorisation. I said yes to the relationship…without being precise about my expectations. Without the front end conversation to clarify my value, and the recognised and anticipated exchange.

Often times we don’t bring precision into our conversation because we don’t see our own value. And when we cannot see it, or name it, we dare to think other people will. Which they rarely do. The net result is fields of disappointment, and the deepest sense of being continuously exploited.

When we were young kids we all knew the difference between ‘no’ that meant ‘no’, and ‘no’ that meant ‘maybe.’ When someone speaks with total alignment and coherence, it makes it easier for the other party to engage or not. This includes being clear about our value.

Most predators will zero in on those who fail to either nominate their value, or have little sense of their own value.

Next time you feel exploited, perhaps the first place to start is with your own communication and your own acknowledgement of the value you bring. If you are not clear about this from the get go, then don’t expect people to do anything other than exploit.

Photo credit: Peg Hunter via Compfight (interesting that when I searched for images using the word exploitation Walmart came up countless times.)






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