How to Ask for What You Need

Feb 08, 2021

I’ve been reflecting on something I’ve been hearing a lot during the pandemic from the women I coach and that is, “I should just be grateful that I have a job.”  This feeling of being beholden to your employer and, moreso, obliged to put your head down and just get on with it actually hurts you and the organization.  It can lead to stress, burnout, isolation and a complete lack of motivation or engagement.  And it can prevent you from asking for what you need.

The truth, of course, is that your good work, engagement and commitment matter enormously and organizations are grateful to have hard working employees.  So if you find yourself wanting to ask for what you need, but this limiting belief that you should “just be grateful to have a job” is holding you back, here are a few things that can help!

Step 1:  Figure out what you need

Before you make an ask, invest time in figuring out what it is that you need. Be specific! Do you need a promotion? Tuition reimbursement? More time off? If so, how much time? Whatever you choose to ask for, it should be meaningful and powerful to you. When you look at it you should say to yourself, “that would really matter and have a huge impact on my work.”

What you need may also be about personal learning and development. Building confidence, overcoming imposter syndrome, learning how to connect with what motivates you, or cultivating habits to help avoid burnout. The point is that you need to identify for yourself what exactly you want to ask for and why it matters.

Step 2:  Write out your accomplishments and successes 

Despite working from home (or sleeping at the office as I’ve come to call it), you have stayed motivated and dedicated to your employer. Unfortunately, far too many leaders forget to appreciate and thank their employees. This is a mistake because research shows that when leaders and managers want more effort from employees, gratitude and recognition go a long way.

Even if your organization isn’t doing a good job of recognizing you, it’s important to regularly reflect on your strengths and accomplishments. Make a practice of paying attention to what you’re good at and what gives you energy. Note how your work has contributed to the overall success of your organization or team. Now make your work visible by talking about it with others and sharing your accomplishments with your manager. Speak clearly about the work you do, and do it in a way that aligns with business outcomes.

Step 3:  Have confidence in your ask

Have confidence when you ask! You’ve done your homework. Stay grounded in the fact that you know what you need and you’re clear about how it will benefit you and the organization. Your work has contributed enormously and you know how to talk about that. Develop a practice of sharing your successes. 

If the help you are asking for is about learning and development, note that many organizations have large budgets for this and often have global heads of learning and development. Why are companies willing to invest so much in learning? Because this investment reaps huge rewards:  greater employee engagement, improved performance, higher productivity, better relationships at work, more collaboration, increased creativity, and so many more. 

Learn about the positive outcomes that development opportunities may give you to bolster your confidence in what you are asking for. For example, you may say “the majority of people who (attend this program, work with this coach, learn to use this application, etc…) see concrete results.” Share what those are and what you hope to achieve!

Step 4: Practice your ask

Create a script and practice! Start with gratitude. Say how much you appreciate the organization and the time your manager spends in helping you grow and develop.

Next, discuss the concrete help you need or the learning opportunity that is right for you. Share what you have learned so far in the organization and how you think the help you’re seeking will further your contribution. Note how it links to business outcomes and development goals that you’ve set.

Finally, provide a clear breakdown of what you are asking for. Include its benefits to you and to the organization, and how you will balance it with your existing work.

Step 5:  Be prepared for feedback

Figure out who the right person to ask for support may be and then be prepared to hear what they have to say. If your emotions get the better of you in these moments, remember to breathe!

They might share some stories with you about others who have made a similar ask and what worked for them. They may suggest you raise your request with someone else. It may be that they need more information about how what you are asking for will positively impact the business and not hinder work. Whatever they say, move from certainty to curiosity and use that conversation to help you refine your request and improve your chances of getting what you want.

Step 6:  Need more support?  Join my program!

In our career growth series, we have multiple coaching exercises to help you get clear on what you want, get confident in your career growth strategy, build and leverage relationships that help you grow, and bounce back from disappointments. 

We’ve also created group coaching sessions to build a network of ambitious women who learn from and support one another. If you are interested, look at my programs and ask your employer to sponsor you in the next cohort. Here’s a sample letter to help you ask for what you need!

Do it. You deserve it and your organization reaps the reward!


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