Standing Your Ground at Work: Smart Move or Suicide Mission?

If your manager doesn't take kindly to being challenged, tipping the proverbial apple cart could cost you dearly. (Think layoff, demotion or belittling you in front of your peers any chance they get.)

"Sometimes just standing up for yourself on small issues can tick someone off enough [to] make life miserable for you," said Kay.

"Most bosses do not tolerate any perceived threat to their authority," Palmer added. "So even though the issue that's on the table may not be that big, a lot of bosses are not going to back down."

For this reason, Palmer said, if the issue in question isn't an ethical or legal one, but simply a matter of principle or personal preference, often you're better off letting it slide.

Sometimes Better to Let It Slide

That's what "Danya" did when her company gave employees an extra paid holiday off this year, only to reverse their decision months later, after Danya had already purchased plane tickets for the long weekend.

"This just infuriated me," said the Scottsdale, Arizona communications professional. "How could a company take back a paid holiday that they already announced months earlier?"

Danya made her case to the higher-ups, offering to work remotely from her mini-vacation. But it was no use; her boss wouldn't allow it. Her only options were to change her travel plans or use one of her scant few paid days off for the trip.

"I was pretty burned up about it for a week or two but in the end calmed down and used one of my vacation days," Danya said. "It wasn't worth making such a huge stink over."

Gauge the Stakes Before Your Speak Up

Sucking it up may not be your strong suit. But before you give your boss a piece of your mind, it's important to consider how your feedback will be received.

"Don't react immediately to what you've discovered. Think it through," Kay said.

Likewise, she added, if you do choose to confront your boss, do it privately and diplomatically; don't go barreling into his or her office and start hurling accusations.

For a second opinion, run the issue in question by a trusted mentor outside the company, suggested Ryan.

Or, offered Palmer, ask a trusted co-worker who's familiar with your boss' or company's history how those who've stood their ground in the past have fared: Were their concerns heard, or were they promptly cut off at the knees?

Moral of the story: Before you act, consider whether flapping your gums could cost you the job -- and what your backup plan will be if you suddenly find yourself unemployed.

"People really need to know what they're getting themselves into and pick their battles wisely," Palmer said. "You could be this crusader trying to fight every battle. And worst case, you could wind up unemployed in this economic environment with no fallback."

Michelle Goodman is a freelance writer and former cubicle dweller. Her books include "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire," and, "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube." Follow her at @anti9to5guide.

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