How to Advocate for Your Needs with Your Boss

Everybody wants to feel fulfilled at their job. But that can be difficult when certain needs and desires aren’t being met. Whether your employer asks you about your wants, or you just feel compelled to let them know what they are, your approach can make all the difference.

How to respectfully share wantsBe direct, but not demanding

Let’s say you’ve decided to let your boss know you want more responsibility. Taking the long and winding road to get to this point is only going to frustrate both of you. Speak in clear, concise sentences that convey your message—but avoid making a want sound like a demand. There’s a notable difference between the statements “I’m primed to take on more challenging work” and “I deserve better projects.” Your employer will be more apt to give you what you want if you lose the entitled tone.

Be confident, but not arrogant

Expressing your wants to your employer requires a certain level of confidence just to get the conversation started. Once you’ve made up your mind to tackle the challenge, stand tall and resolute. You need to hide any signs of weakness, even if you’re totally out of your comfort zone. If your boss senses you don’t really expect to get what you’re asking for, they probably won’t give it to you. If you want a raise, demonstrate you know your worth. If you want new software, validate your request with facts and figures.

Of course, while confidence is important, be careful not to cross the threshold into arrogance. If your boss is offended by your attitude, the chances of your desires being met will take a serious nose-dive. Humility will almost always take you further than pride.

Be persuasive, but not manipulative

There are always techniques to turn the tables in your favor with the right approach. One is to concentrate on how your wants fulfill your employer’s needs. For example, if you want on-site daycare, don’t talk about how it will make your life easier. Talk about how it will benefit your employer by reducing absenteeism and improving morale. In other words, look at how your goals actually align with theirs. It’s more often the case than not, what’s good for an employee is ultimately good for a company.

Be resolute, but not closed-minded

Sometimes we get exactly what we want. But usually, we have to compromise on some level. Therefore, even though you should be confident and resolute when you share your wants with your employer, you also need to remain open to negotiation. Maybe you want a full-time assistant, but your employer can only afford a part-time assistant. Not everything has to be all or nothing. Sometimes partially satisfying a want now is a steppingstone to total fulfillment in the future. So don’t walk out of your boss’s office feeling like you failed because you compromised. When done properly, compromise makes everyone a winner.

Be honest, but not offensive

Most people appreciate honesty, until they don’t. Be truthful with your boss about what you want, and which needs are not being fulfilled. However, you don’t want to make it seem as if you are blaming them or the company for your unmet wants. This will immediately put them in a defensive stance, which inevitably leads to conflict instead of mutually rewarding dialogue. Say what you need to say, but do it with tact, respect, and humility. There are no winners in the blame game.

Sharing your wants with an employer requires a thoughtful approach. The idea that it is not so much what you say, but how you say it, is particularly applicable here. The dos and don’ts described above should help you effectively master those difficult conversations.  

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