How to Ask for More Responsibility without Appearing Bored

In general, asking questions at work can be one of the more nerve-wracking things for employees—if only because you don’t want it to appear like you don’t know what you’re doing. But questions can also lead to new opportunities, especially if you are actively looking to increase the scope of your job title. But how do you go about asking for more responsibility without seeming like you are not busy enough as it is? Read on for a few things to consider.

how to ask for responsibilities

Check your notes

Before you consider speaking with your boss, dig through those old meeting notes and to-do lists that have been languishing in your drawer or on your computer for months. What about those projects that have been brought up but then shuffled to the end of the line for not being “time sensitive”? Review what you can find and see if something sparks your interest. You could have a great proposal sitting around that is ready to take to your boss and not even realize it.

Ask around

This is another item on your to-do list that you might want to consider trying before going to your boss. Speak with your colleagues (and your supervisors if you feel comfortable) to ask if they need help with anything. Yes, you could end up being asked to assist on a mind-numbing task, but it is a good way to form great connections with coworkers, which definitely won’t hurt when you decide to speak to your boss.

Schedule the meeting

Now comes the hard part: Asking your boss for more responsibility. If you have offhandedly mentioned your lack of work in general terms during a previous meeting, now is the time to make it the reason for a meeting. Ask for a specific time block and come prepared with your agenda.

What does that agenda look like? CBS News suggests playing a giant game of pretend. As in, “Pretend you don’t have a job. Pretend that you’re going in for a job interview for the job you already have.” Imagine that the manager asks you all the types of questions she would ask you during an actual interview, such as “What can you bring to this organization?” Really take the time to think about your answers and consider what you can offer to the company that makes you uniquely qualified for your job.

Make a plan

Take that self-reflective information and use it to create a concrete plan. What is a problem in the company that needs solving? How would you go about doing it? CBS News posits this doesn’t even need to be a project that can be completed on your own. If it will involve other team members, then fine—the important part is that you come up with an official sounding proposal that will make your boss’s life easier (while fulfilling the company’s interests).

With one or more firm ideas in hand, the discussion with your boss will come across as much less aimless—less “I’m bored, and I don’t know what to do” and more “I want to help out more in the office.” This is an important distinction when you are looking for more quality work and less busy work. Sometimes bosses are busy and hope you will just figure it out as an employee. Whether that’s the case or your boss simply hasn’t given your workload a second thought, having a clear, calm, and forthright discussion with them—with possible new project ideas and solutions in hand—is the best way to get her attention and demonstrate you need guidance in taking the next best step.

Sometimes added tasks are not exactly welcome in the workplace. But with these tips, it is possible to find a tactful and productive way to speak with your boss about increasing the scope of your work— not necessarily just the volume.

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