Recently a friend mentioned that she has been hearing from several people seeking advice on their jobs. Specifically, women are asking things like:
- Are they being paid what they’re worth?
- How should they ask for more money?
- Is their title appropriate for the work they are doing?
- How to ask for support when not being given the resources to do their job effectively?
- Should they negotiate? How?
This conversation got me thinking about self-advocacy as a component of self-care. While self-care is an extremely fast growing industry, only 32% of women and 39% of men report making time for it.
Self-care is defined as:
The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness,
in particular during periods of stress.
Most people think of self-care as taking bubble baths with scented candles while sipping green tea. That is definitely nice and one way to pamper yourself. Today I want to talk more about protecting one’s happiness during periods of stress.
Self-Advocacy can be defined as:
The action of representing oneself or one’s views or interests.
Whether at home or work, if we’re not representing ourselves and our best interests, we are likely compromising our well-being and happiness. Not asking for (or insisting upon) what we need for our well-being or happiness is going to create stress. When we think about self-advocacy as a form of self-care, we see the importance of advocating for ourselves.
The Great Resignation
We are in the midst of what has been called the Great Resignation. Employees throughout the country have become fed-up with their current situations. Whether it’s their pay, the culture, or they have visions of something more for their career, people are leaving the workforce at a tremendous rate. Employers are struggling. Businesses are being forced to reduce their hours, limit their services, or compromise the quality of services or products they deliver. Everyone is hiring and struggling to find the staff they need to run their business.
As a result of the Great Resignation, employees are in a very good position. Employers do not want to lose the quality staff they have. While they may have previously been closed-minded when it comes to accommodating their employees, supervisors (who want to keep staff) are listening and compromising.
When, Why and How
When it comes to advocating for ourselves, it’s worth considering these three questions – When does it make sense? Why is it a good idea? And how do we do it? Let’s walk through each of them.
When: Generally speaking, there are a few conditions that should exist before you start pushing for more in your job. These may not be true 100% of the time, but when they are you will have a better chance at success.
- You’ve been in your position for six months or longer. If you have not had the opportunity to prove your value, it might not be the best time to ask for more. Leaders who have a traditional mindset may look negatively upon those who expect more when they haven’t really “cut their teeth”. Those who have been doing quality, results-driven work for a while will be in a better position to negotiate.
- You’re delivering quality work that is respected. Employees who are struggling to meet expectations or manage their workload, need to focus on improving their quality of work before they start negotiating for more. Staff whose work is recognized and driving the business towards their goals are in a good position to advocate for themselves.
- You are providing skills or services that are valuable to the business. If the company could get along without your position, you’re not in a great negotiating position. In fact, in this situation, you may want to consider taking on more responsibilities. Seek out ways to make yourself indispensable.
- BONUS ~ You are willing, and able, to walk away if you do not get the response you are hoping for. This situation gives the employee all the power. Knowing you could easily find another job, or survive without one for a while, helps you become extremely confident. Confidence is a great tool when self-advocating. This is your ideal situation.
Before asking for things like more money, additional flexibility, or position advancement, make sure the conditions are right. Otherwise you run the risk of appearing as if you are disconnected from reality.
Why: When conditions are right, there are many reasons to advocate for yourself. We usually think of pay, position, or titles, but there are several reasons to start a conversation representing your views or interests.
- Speak-up for yourself – Now is a good time to start speaking up if you haven’t been. Share your ideas and push to be heard. Bring up the challenges that make it difficult for you to be productive and effective. Find your voice!
- Gain access to information – It is also a great time to push for additional transparency. Having access to the right information can make a big difference in your ability to do your job well. Transparency empowers employees to be better advocates for the company, and strengthens their commitment. Ask lots of curious questions and push to expand your understanding.
- Gain additional support – Good employees often find their workload expanding. As they produce quality work and as other staff leave, more and more may be allocated to the ones who stay. This can provide the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and your commitment to being a team player and advancing the company. However, there comes a time when you cannot take on more or where you are being taken advantage of. Consider requesting additional staff, technology or outsourced services to help you manage your workload.
- Asking for help – There may be any number of things that could make your job more manageable. Flex time. Job sharing. Additional training. Mentorship or a sponsor. Skills development. If it’s going to help you to be more productive and happier at work, bring your ideas forward.
- Rally for advancement – Advocating for your personal advancement can be great for your career. It alerts leadership to your desire to grow with the company. Quality management develops a deep bench. It’s very helpful for them to know who is committed to being included in their plans. If you are ready for your next step now, this is an excellent time to state your case and gain a position on management’s radar.
- Request a salary and/or title increase – There are a few conditions here that are key to a successful conversation. First, if the organization is struggling to make payroll, asking for a raise will make you appear out of touch with reality. A sinking ship will not be in position to give raises or promote their staff. Second, if you are already at the top of the pay scale or compensated better than your peers, you run the risk of presenting yourself as self-centered. On the other hand, employees not compensated consistently with others doing the same work can justifiably start these conversations.
How: Once you determine that conditions are right and you have good reasons for self-advocacy, the next step is to process how best to move forward.
- Mindset: The very first step in advocating for yourself is knowing your worth. Challenge your own thoughts of self-doubt. Know that you are worthy and deserving of the things you are asking for. Additionally, know that everything is negotiable. Leaders expect these conversations. Lastly, realize that if you don’t get everything you ask for, that is part of the negotiation process. It’s a give-and-take.
- Organize Your Thoughts: Think through what will improve your situation. Process how the changes will also benefit the company. Organize your thoughts in a way that communicates both your needs and speaks to the needs of the organization. Leaders make decisions based on what is best for the business. That is their job. Help them see how your proposal is good for the bottom line.
- Practice: Practice with a friend if possible, and ask for feedback. At a minimum rehearse in a mirror. Along with practicing, think through the various scenarios that could arise. For example, if your boss is known for interrupting, practice refocusing the conversation.
- Focus on Facts: Women tend to tie our emotions to everything. This isn’t at all a bad thing; however, some supervisors view it as a weakness. By focusing on the facts we keep the conversation on track.
- For example: I have taken on X, Y, and Z, yet have not received a raise in 2 years.
- Rather than: I’m frustrated and don’t feel appreciated.
If emotions do bubble up, it’s appropriate to ask for a moment to collect yourself, so you can refocus on the point of the conversation.
There is a lot that goes into self-advocacy. Frankly, there isn’t one right way to go about it. Every situation is different and everyone’s personality varies. The act of self-advocating is a success, regardless of the progress you make towards your requests. This content is meant to give you a framework for increasing your self-advocacy. And as a result, expanding your self-care. If you would like to read more about why self-care is so important for leaders, back in February I wrote this article.
Want to discuss your opportunities for self-advocacy? I would love to help! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect for a free 30-minute discovery call. Also, I am hosting a discussion on Women’s Self-advocacy on Wednesday, November 17th at 5:00 pm. Email me if you are interested in joining the conversation.
Kim is a mom, wife, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of nonprofits, small businesses and leaders.