how to ask for what you want at work

The summer is a funny time in the life cycle of work and careers. It is a natural time for holidays and Out Of Office responses, and yet, things continue to tick over; tasks still need to get done.

I have heard a lot of, ‘I’ll do it in September’, or ‘let’s leave it until after the summer,’ from my coaching clients. And while, deferring applies in some situations, where whole teams, or certain leaders need to be present, in general, I like to make a stand against this train of thinking. Let me explain.

The mercurial, often informal summer atmosphere is actually the perfect time to make headway. We are all slightly out at sea during July and August. Guards come down, colleagues go for impromptu summer drinks, others step in to cover co-workers otherwise engaged on a beach in the Med. There is a sense of movement and flux, and it is this that you can harness for your advantage. I am talking specifically about asking for what you want.

Being able to articulate and then communicate where you want to go is vital if you want to remain motivated and continue progressing. It might be your financial aspirations, a vision you have for an internal move upwards, goals you hold around company equity, extra pro bono work you’d like to engage in – whatever drives you, now is the time to tell others about it.

We assume, because we work closely with our colleagues, and most often, they know us pretty well, that our line managers, the leaders at work, know what we want when it comes to our careers. This is very rarely true. If you are lucky, they might notice you working hard, but the chances are, unless you specifically spell it out, they won’t have any sense of your personal aspirations. This is a problem because without knowing where you see yourself, or how you want your career to grow and evolve, your name is less likely to come up and be shared when opportunities present themselves.

Self-promotion, which asking for what you want, absolutely falls within, is a career development behaviour linked to pay growth, progression, leadership development and work satisfaction. I have pulled together a list of 5 ways to be more vocal about asking for what you want at work, because now is the time to have those conversations. Capitalise on summer’s softer professional edges. Get yourself at those summer drinks, or orchestrate informal workplace conversations, because everything feels easier during July and August. Now is your time.

5 Tips To Asking For What You Want

how to ask for what you want at work

1. Utilise The Magic Ratio

It is always worth putting credit in work relationship banks, so that when you have a big Ask to put on the table, the other party (a decision-making party, most likely) will already hold you in a positive light. These don’t need to be big actions: sharing relevant articles, name-checking them on LinkedIn, thanking them for something they have done that you appreciated, and sharing the impact it had. When you Ask in against a landscape of positive interactions, you will be in credit, ready to draw done for what you need.

2. Be Specific

Do your homework, and clarify exactly what it is you want and how this might be achieved. Rather than just Asking, be someone who is solution focused. Look at the impact of what you require, and notice what else has to change to make this a reality. The more that you can specifically map out this Ask, the easier it will be for the decision-maker to say yes.

3. Interrogate Those ‘No’s’

It is important, in the dance of Ask and Negotiation, that you are able to read the nuance in these conversations. Often, a big Ask, doesn’t lead to an immediate Yes. In fact, most likely, it might get met with some kind of No. This does not mean that you can’t proceed, rather it is a junction at which you can learn more about what is going on, and amend your Ask for later down the line. Here are some examples of what a No could mean:

  • No, not now (When would be a better time to ask?)
  • No, not that amount (What figure will satisfy all parties?)
  • No, not this role (Which role best suits?)

Also, remember, a No, is most often not personal. Prepare yourself, and then get reading between the lines.

4. Know Your Audience

Asking isn’t a one size fits all situation. Just as a company would do customer analysis before launching a new product, there is so much value in really understanding the person you are asking. What are their current pain points? What are their potential gains within this Ask? What obstacles do they face? How do they best interact? The easiest way to do this is to draw a stick person on a piece of paper, and to annotate around the edges. The more you know, the better you can tweak your Ask.

5. Cultivate A Positive Effect

Humans are mirrors; what we show is usually what we get back from other people. This is something to recognise and use to your advantage when you ask for something at work. Other people are much more likely to give their energy, time, attention and resources to someone who brings joy to the (work) party, so as much as possible, remember that this is a long game, which like the Magic Ratio, will pay dividends in time. When you make a request from a position of comfort and positivity (not dejectedness and desperation), you are more likely to make the other person feel comfortable, too which will increase the chances of success, or at least, great exploration on how to find a balance that works for all parties

Ultimately, asking for what you want at work is a form of negotiation that requires deep understanding, forward planning and some luck. If you view it as a project, rather than a binary question, you are much more likely, in time, to get what you want.

Want to receive more great articles like this every day? Join our daily email now