Advocating for Yourself at Work: How To Get What You Deserve
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Advocating for Yourself at Work: How To Get What You Deserve

March 14, 2024 by Pathforward
It can be scary to advocate for yourself at work, but it's essential for your professional growth.
It can be scary to advocate for yourself at work, but it's essential for your professional growth.

Does the fear of speaking up for yourself at work keep you from getting what you want? Maybe you've been passed over for a well-deserved promotion, or you've taken on new responsibilities without a comparable pay increase. In these situations, you can learn how to advocate for yourself in the workplace to get what you need — and deserve. Not sure how to get started? Use this guide for helpful tips or book an appointment with a PathForward Advisor for some additional insights.

Why Is It Important To Advocate for Yourself at Work?

Self-advocacy is important in every area of your life, and it's absolutely essential in the workplace. Yes, your employer pays you a (hopefully equal and appropriate) salary to do a specific job. But that doesn't mean you need to put the company's needs ahead of your own. When you advocate for yourself, you become empowered to grow in your role and achieve your professional goals. In the end, it's a win-win situation for everyone — your employer included.

Advocating for yourself in the workplace can also have these benefits:

  • It helps others recognize your value: When you speak up for yourself, others begin to recognize your work. They're more likely to acknowledge and value your contributions.
  • It allows you to grow professionally: Whether you want to earn a promotion, learn a new skill, or become an expert in your field, self-advocacy can be a valuable tool to get you there.
  • It improves your mental health: Being unsatisfied at work can take a huge toll on your mental health. By advocating for yourself, you can reduce work-related stress and minimize the Sunday scaries you might get each week.

When Should You Advocate for Yourself at Work?

The short answer: always, of course. But there are some situations in which it's vital to speak up, set boundaries, and express your needs. Here are just a few examples of when it's time to advocate for yourself at work:

  • When you deserve a raise or a promotion.
  • When you need to address unequal pay based on gender, race, or another factor.
  • When you need a better work-life balance.
  • When you have a scheduling issue or need to negotiate flexible hours.
  • When you require additional support or accommodations, such as if you have a disability.
  • When you're experiencing workplace bullying.

Communication Skills for Self-Advocacy

For many people, especially women, it can be scary to advocate for themselves at work. It's not a skill you usually learn in school. The key to self-advocacy is effective communication. When you can communicate your needs clearly and convincingly, other people are more likely to be receptive to them.

These are some essential skills for workplace communication:

  • Confidence: When expressing your needs, concerns, or goals, speak confidently. Practice with a partner or friend if you need help in this area.
  • Respect: What they say is true — you'll get more respect if you're willing to show it to others.
  • Active listening: Even if you're 100% sure you're right about something, take the time to listen to others' perspectives. Do your best to understand where they're coming from.
  • Willingness to accept feedback: When you start to put yourself out there, you might receive some good or bad feedback. Be willing to accept constructive feedback and allow yourself to grow from it.

Professional black woman

How To Become Your Own Best Advocate at Work

The average person spends about one-third of their life at work. It's worth learning how to advocate for yourself so you can be happy and productive while you're there. Follow these steps to become your own advocate in the workplace.

Identify Your Needs

You can't expect others to understand your needs if you don't know what they are. Take some time to identify your professional desires, values, and goals. When you know what you want and need, you can better communicate them to others.

Connect Your Needs to Your Employer's

While an employer should want to address your needs, sometimes they need a little convincing. Explain how meeting your needs can benefit their bottom line. If you want more flexible work hours, for example, you might explain how you're more productive during certain parts of the day, such as early mornings. Discuss your contributions to the team or company to remind them of your worth.

Do Your Research

When advocating for a specific request, it's helpful to do your research ahead of time. For example, if you're asking for a raise, research the average salary for your position and experience level. Providing this context and data can make others take you more seriously.

Brag About Yourself (With Grace)

Ideally, you work for a boss who acknowledges your hard work and gives you kudos when it's deserved. Unfortunately, not everyone is this lucky. If that's the case for you, become your own hype person. Learn how to brag about yourself with grace. This might look like discussing a successful project outcome at your next team meeting or sending your manager a quick e-mail to let them know you've exceeded your quarterly quota. When it comes time to ask for that promotion, everyone will know why you deserve it.

Develop Boundaries

Just like you set boundaries in your relationships, develop professional boundaries, too. For example, you might commit to taking a 30-minute lunch break outside the office each day, or you might stop checking your work e-mail after 6 p.m. Communicate your boundaries to others and be consistent with maintaining them.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you've never advocated for yourself professionally, don't expect to master this skill overnight. Start with small steps, such as asking for a biweekly check-in with your manager to discuss your goals and progress. As you become more comfortable advocating for yourself, you'll be able to express your needs and earn others' respect.

Need some more help with learning how to advocate for yourself? Schedule a session with a PathForward Psychic Advisor for more insights and tips on speaking up for yourself. Self-advocacy can be a hard skill to learn, but you don't have to do it alone. With some help and practice, you can empower yourself to go after what you deserve in the workplace.

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