The World Is Your Oyster - Ask For It

by Virginia Brown
follow me on Twitter: @3manypuppies 

Getting what you want was the theme at this month’s packed Emerging Leaders Network lunch. A crowded room meant two things: 1) Lots of people aren’t sure how to ask for– and get–what they want, and 2) I had to sit on a counter because they were out of chairs.

Asking for what you want is tough. As was discussed by the attendees, most of us have never tried. And what are the factors stopping us? Mix fear of conflict, anxiety about the unknown consequences, difficult management, uncertainty about levels of haggling with a dash of Minnesota nice, and you’ve got a recipe for keeping your mouth shut for years. One attendee did it for 12 years. Yikes.

The advice shared in the room was insightful, yet not rocket science. And the reality is that I think most of us know what to do to ask for a raise, promotion, new office chair or pony. If you’re not, check out this greatHBR blog or Christine Hassler’s article on the how-to’s. But really, you know what to do. You (me and everyone else we know) just don’t want to do those things. It’s partially fear, but also the ease of doing nothing and having something to complain about at happy hour on Friday. Doing nothing is always easier than doing something.

So I’ll start by sharing the main lesson I learned in business school:


I just saved you two years of your life and $60,000. You’re welcome. Seriously, just do it. Work up the nerve, do the research you know how to do, and march into your supervisor’s office to ask for that thing you deserve. Don’t forget to already have a good relationship with said supervisor, have a proven track record of excellent work, and a solid, non-emotional rationale for why you should get that thing you want.

I’d also say you should be prepared to get a “no.” Hopefully you won’t, but don’t be caught off guard if you do. Know how you’ll respond, whether it’s to resign or duck and cover for two months. Just be prepared.

By not asking for what you want, need or deserve, you can almost rest assured you’ll never get it. Even a boss who loves you and your work isn’t necessarily going to start throwing money at your feet. The world is your oyster, but if you don’t make some effort to get it, you’ll never know how good it can taste.

So, what are you afraid to ask for and why? What's been your experience in asking for raises, promotions, etc. at work? Share your thoughts and tried-and-true methods below.

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