Advocating For Yourself At Work

If your workload has increased but your salary hasn't, this article is for you. Here’s what to focus on when advocating for yourself at work. 

Advocating For Yourself At Work

We’ve all been there—things at work were going fine until the load got heavier, your responsibilities ramped up, and now you’re swamped. Worse, your paycheck hasn’t increased at the same rate as your day-to-day tasks. 

Maybe your boss asked you to take on a big new project. Maybe you’re always clocking out an hour after everyone else. Or maybe you’re doing work your colleague should be doing, but you’re not getting recognition for it. 

While situations like these might feel out of your control, they’re really not—as long as you remember that advocating for yourself at work is something you have the power to do. Negotiating raises, clarifying your roles and responsibilities, and earning promotions are all possible when you know how to navigate tricky career situations. 

Here’s what to focus on when advocating for yourself at work. 

Advocating for yourself at work in 3 steps

1. First, speak up 

Advocating for yourself at work starts by speaking up. This might sound like an obvious place to start, but the truth is, most people in tough work situations don’t speak up. They’re afraid of the pushback it might cause, or that they might be reprimanded for negotiating. 

You’re unlikely to get what you want if you don’t assert yourself in the first place. And there are ways to be heard without turning it into a career-defining confrontation. 

Start by arranging a meeting with your boss, colleague or supervisor. Don’t come into it from an adversarial perspective—instead, collect all the data you can about your recent work, hours spent completing projects and other important info. Doing this and then approaching your boss in a good-natured way will do two things:

  • First, it’ll help you backup your claims that you’re taking on more than you’d like.
  • Second, it’s a good way to stay on the right side of managers and other higher-ups—they’re less likely to work collaboratively with you if you come into a meeting stressed out and exhausted, but without examples to prove it. 

2. Collaboration instead of confrontation

Alright. You’ve got your data and your meeting scheduled. What’s next?

Collaboration! Yes—when proposing a solution, focus on collaboration rather than confrontation. Your goal should be to work together to create an agreement that feels fair and beneficial for both you and your employer.

The most important thing about this process is that you should already know what you want to advocate for at work before you do it. Are you trying to negotiate a raise? Do you want more PTO? Or are you just trying to clarify the expectations and job responsibilities of your role?

Knowing what you want is key to getting what you want. If you simply throw up your hands and say “I’m too burnt out to do anything,” you’re not going to have a productive conversation. 

The other reason this is important is because it allows you to work together with your boss toward a solution. Telling your boss that you want to find a way to lighten your load so that you can leave the office at a reasonable time each day will help them understand and work with you to create the kinds of agreements you want—instead of “fixing” the problem in a way that doesn’t work for you. 

3. Focus on the outcomes you want

One powerful approach to advocating for yourself at work is focusing on creating "pathways to entry" rather than strict boundaries. 

What does this mean?

In short, what you’ve heard about boundaries isn’t true. People propose creating boundaries all the time; they’re what we rely on to prevent things we don’t want from happening.

But that’s exactly the issue. Boundaries are about PROHIBITING certain behaviors—for example, refusing to work overtime or take on additional tasks. While this can be occasionally helpful in the short term, focusing on what you DON’T want puts you in a perpetual reactive mode, constantly worrying about and defending your red lines.

And if you’re always worried about your boundaries being crossed, how will you have time to get the results you DO want instead?

This is where pathways to entry come in. Pathways to entry are about proactively defining the things you want. What responsibilities or projects would you be excited to take on? What kind of schedule or compensation would allow you to thrive? By framing the conversation in this positive, solution-oriented way, you're more likely to reach an agreement that works for you.

For example, let's say your boss approaches you about leading a major new initiative at work. Instead of simply saying no because you're already overloaded, you could say something like: "That project sounds really interesting, and I'd love to be involved. However, my current workload is already quite full. Could we discuss adjusting my other responsibilities or increasing my compensation to account for the additional work?"

Advocating for yourself starts with YOU

Negotiating raises, advocating for yourself at work and carving a path for yourself in a fast-paced professional environment can be complicated. But it IS possible to get what you want out of your role, your career and your life—if you’re willing to speak up.

We can help with that. We’re coaches trained to tackle thorny work situations, and we’re always available for a complimentary call to talk shop. Get in touch with us and let’s see how we can help you earn that raise, reduce your work stress and create a better living. 

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