5 Ways to Advocate for Yourself at Work

Written by Amanda Huettner

The Canadian job market is tough.  I hear time and again from friends and clients that they are afraid to rock the boat and advocate for themselves, even if they are frustrated, unhappy or struggling at work.

To that I say: you deserve a job that works for you! And frankly, your employer deserves and desires a happy, inspired and productive employee.

Here are 5 tips that will help you ask for what you need at work:

1.  MAKE A LIST OF WHAT WORKS... AND WHAT DOESN'T

Before you book a meeting with your boss, take some time to reflect on the benefits as well as the frustrating aspects of your job.  Is change really necessary, or are you focusing on the negative and simply in need of some perspective?   Stress and deadlines can make us lose sight of the things we love about our work.  

That being said, a moment of reflection can also strengthen you resolve and make you confident your decision to ask for change is the right move.

2.  FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU'RE REALLY ASKING FOR

A moment of reflection can also clarify what you really need to ask for.

For example, a former colleague had gone through a divorce, and was struggling with her new reality as a single mom.  She was determined to ask to work full time from home, until she reflected on what she loved about her position.

She realized the joy and community that came with seeing her colleagues each day was too important to give up.  So, she asked instead to start her day earlier and shorten her lunch hour so she could leave in time to pick up her child from school.  This was a far easier request that worked for everyone!

3. THINK LIKE A BOSS AND DO YOUR RESEARCH

You’re advocating for a change that will benefit you, but what’s in it for your employer?  Of course your employer wants you to be happy, but in the end, they are likely more concerned about their bottom line.

Put yourself in their shoes.  How will the change you’re proposing benefit the organization?  Will it save money or increase company morale?  What evidence do you have to back up the benefits you’re claiming?  Once you determine what you are asking for, bring hard facts to support your request.

Asking for a raise?  To support your request, use online pay scale sites and search job listings for salary ranges, and research articles that discuss how rewarding worker with a raise can benefit a business.  Make sure to use reputable sources (Forbes online or LinkedIn sponsored articles are perfect).

4. PRESENT A SOLUTION - NOT A PROBLEM

I can’t emphasize this enough: complaining without offering a solution does not work and is the quickest way to be turned down or even risk losing your job.  You were hired because you are bright and can solve problems, so demonstrate your skills!

Say you are having issues with a toxic, gossipy co-worker that is making your work-life miserable, and you want to advocate for a healthier work environment.   I’d suggest doing research on teambuilding and communication exercises.  Offer your boss two or three options: send everyone to a FACE BC conference (wink wink!), suggest a local team building consultant, or even offer to spearhead free lunch and learn sessions in which each employee helps plan a teambuilding or communication exercise.

5.  GIVE A SPECIFIC TIMELINE

Bosses are busy people, and even if they are supportive of your request, it can get pushed to the back burner.  Offer a clear step by step approach to making your change happen that includes dates, and make it as independant as possible so you are the main person in charge of meeting the deadline.  

A good example is transitioning into a work from home role.  Present a timeline for your transition, suggesting you contact IT to set up your online access, look into forwarding calls to your home phone, and every week you decrease your time in the office by 1 day so colleagues can adapt to the change.

Do you have experience advocating for yourself at work?  FACE BC wants to hear from you! We are looking for speakers and participants for discussion groups, workshops, and conference q&a panels.  Email FACEofBC@gmail.com