You work hard, steadily building your skills, tackling projects and obstacles, always giving 100 percent to the work you do. You don’t make a huge production of your work ethic. It’s just the way you roll. And then one day (or maybe it’s gradual), you start wondering if there’s a place for you higher up the corporate ladder or you hear about a new project that piques your interest, and you wonder … will I be considered for that? Hello? Is anyone noticing how hard I’m working here?
It’s time to speak up. While your boss is probably noticing the great work you’re doing, he or she is not a mind reader. You need to self-advocate. Ask for what you want. Communicate your interest. Good bosses are not offended when you respectfully communicate your interests to them. In fact, most bosses appreciate knowing what makes a good employee happy and what will keep them around.
Like all negotiations, self-advocating involves give-and-take. The difference is that in this scenario, you are the currency. Your perceived value will give you leverage and help you negotiate for what you want. Your value is based on the work you’re currently doing, the initiative you’re showing, the positive attitude you bring to work every day, the skills you’re building, the relationships you’re forming.
Whether it’s a flex schedule, a chance to work from home, or a promotion, your first step is to prepare for the conversation.
1. The preparation
- Gather information. Ask around. If you’re interested in a promotion, find out about the job you’re targeting. Find out about the supervisor for that job. Know why you think you’re ready for a move. If it’s flexible hours, find out if these concessions have been made (or rejected) before. If it’s more challenging assignments you’re looking for, identify them. Draw connections between your existing skills and the skills needed for the more challenging role.
- If this conversation is happening with someone other than your immediate supervisor, find out more about the people you’ll be negotiating with. Are they familiar with your work? Is he or she a numbers person? Plan your approach based on this person.
- Next, know your value. How does your work matter to others? What have your contributions been in the past? How have you been going above and beyond? Think of yourself as currency.
- Finally, consider options. What possible solutions will work for you? What do you think will matter most to the other party? Why might they say no to your proposition? If there are expenses associated with your option, find out what they are in advance of the discussion. Consider how you will address these concerns. How can you create a solution that will make both you and the other person satisfied?
2. The conversation
- In an informal negotiation like this, the other party may not be aware of the problem or opportunity you’re focusing on. Depending on the significance of what you’re asking for, you can either set up a meeting or shift a regular conversation to this topic. The timing of your request is important. While there’s no perfect time, look for a natural opening or a time when your boss might be most receptive. Don’t wait too long for the perfect time. If you’re anxious about the conversation, no time will seem just right.
- Make your value visible first. Talk about your results and successes. Talk about how the change you’re asking for can work for both you and your boss/the company. Be specific if possible. If you’re looking for a flexible work schedule, have written details of what that might look like. Having things written down shows that you’re serious and that you’ve given your idea a lot of thought. If you’re looking for more challenging assignments, talk about career goals and specific things you’d like to tackle.
- Be flexible. Your boss may have ideas of his or her own to address your concerns or help. Also give your boss time to consider your request if needed. Ask when might be a good time to follow up and schedule a meeting. Then, don’t bring it up again until that time.
Speaking up is the best way to let your boss and business leaders know of your interests and concerns. You could be one conversation away from a solution. Prepare and then speak up and ask for what you need.