Here’s a hard truth that some of you will hate to hear: If you don’t stand up for yourself and specifically ASK for what you want, need and deserve in the workplace, you probably won’t get it.
Most people (your managers, coworkers, clients, etc.) aren’t looking out for anyone but themselves. This shouldn’t surprise or anger you. Yet every day, I meet professionals who are unwilling to take responsibility for their own needs and desires because they’re afraid or embarrassed. They think, “If I really deserve this thing, they’ll offer it to me.” These people find excuses for why things don’t work out; they drop hints and play games. But they never just bite the bullet and say, “Here’s what I want, here’s why I want it, and here’s why I think you should give it to me.” And then they wonder why they feel so powerless.
People can’t read your mind (and let’s face it, they wouldn’t want to if they could). So it’s up to you to explain what’s going on in there. When you want something, you have to ask for it, plain and simple. Here’s how:
Know Why It Matters
Whatever “it” is—a promotion, a raise, an extra day of vacation, a little help with a project—you have to be clear about what it’s worth to you, why you’re willing to stand up for it, and why it should be yours. Come up with the top three reasons your boss (client, coworker or whoever) simply can’t say no. And, most importantly, make sure you believe you deserve it with all your heart (even if it takes a little convincing).
The process of asking works best when you’re specific, concise and very, very direct. The more vague you are, the more likely your request will be misinterpreted or ignored. I recommend writing it out. One or two sentences is usually all it takes to clearly state your case. It also works best to start with the words, “I’m asking for…” so there’s no confusion.
Pick Your Time
Make sure the person to whom you’re making your request is really listening. Otherwise, your efforts will be wasted. If needed, ask for an appointment to ensure there are no interruptions. (Also, make sure you’re directing your ask to the right person.)
Prepare for Objections
If something matters, it probably won’t be handed over without a little hesitation. That’s perfectly fine. Prepare in advance for potential objections but don’t do the work for them. In this process, you are the sales person. Recognize that your “buyer” is just doing his due diligence but don’t let him persuade you. Stand firm and map out your rebuttals. Look at it as a challenge. This is the fun part!
Confidence makes all the difference. Put your thoughts on paper and then practice, practice, practice. Stand in front of the mirror and watch yourself. Don’t stop until you’re thoroughly comfortable and the words roll of your tongue. Yes, it might feel a little goofy at first, but you’ll get over it. The more you can demonstrate that you believe in yourself and that what you’re asking for is rightfully yours, the greater the chance that you’ll get a positive response.
If your request is declined, don’t put your tail between your legs and go home. Instead, use this as a conversation starter. Ask for more information. Fight for your point-of-view. Find out what needs to happen in order to get to “yes”. Press for specifics and get agreement. Then, follow up. Remember: When something is really worthwhile, it may take time to achieve.
But it all starts with asking.