The Secret To Asking For (And Getting) What You Want At Work

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woman during performance review

Adobe Stock / YakobchukOlena

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Read all the stats out there and you’re likely to get discouraged: women aren’t promoted as often as men, women aren’t reaching the C-suite as often as men, women are paid less than men
But every study agrees on one thing: we are more likely to get what we ask for.
There isn’t a magic fairy out there watching over us and sending us invitations to do cool things. Our bosses don’t usually give us a raise, put us on leadership teams, or assign career-changing projects to us ... until we ask. 
In fact, the 2016 study “Women in the workplace” by Lean In and McKinsey shows that the women who ask are 54% more likely to get a raise.   
Here’s a ray of sunshine amid the doom and gloom: women are starting to ask for what we want
So, listen up, ladies…your time is NOW. 
Speak up…here’s HOW. 
How to ask for what you want
Like all habits that you want to change, asking for what you want requires knowing what to do, then practicing the heck out of it until it stops being so scary.
For inspiration, check out this TED Talk with Jia Jiang: What I learned from 100 days of rejection
The bottom line: practice until it’s easy! 
What you think 
Asking for what you want starts in your head. If your inner critic tells you that you don’t deserve a raise or that cool project or to be on that leadership team, or that others on your team are more experienced and better at their jobs, or that you just need one more year of experience before you’re ready to ask, or a million other reasons why you’re too nervous, please tell that inner critic to sit down and shut up.
Here’s how to get a grip on that negative talk in your head: 
1) Look it in the eye: don’t ignore it!  
When you ignore it, that voice in your head gets louder. A wise coach advised me to look my inner critic in the eye and say, “Hey, I see you there…” then turn the negative self-talk into a “maybe statement.”
It sounds like this: “Hey, I see you there, telling me that I have no right to ask for this…but MAYBE my boss will be excited to give me that promotion…or MAYBE she wants to know that I have ambition…and MAYBE she’s looking for someone to take on this new project.” 
2) Get clear about what you want.  
Take some time to think through what you want because you can’t ask for “it” if you don’t know what “it” is.
Make a list of everything you want and then prioritize. It’s common to get a no for one thing and a yes for the next thing you ask for. So if you get a no about the raise you want, be prepared to ask for something else like a day a week of telecommuting. 
What you say 
Learn a few persuasion and influence techniques to get more of what you want while building stronger relationships:
  • Be friendly in your tone and body language. â€¨
It can be intimidating to ask for what you want when you’ve spent your career being told no, or you've been called “bossy” or “too assertive” or “off-putting.” 
In one study, when observers watched a video of a woman asking for a raise, men and women alike rated the woman as “less likable” than the man asking for the same raise.  Don’t waste your energy being mad about it. Take action. 
In most situations, you have to be friendly and you have to smile. Yes, it sucks that you have to do this to get what you want. On the flip side, it does feel nice to be nice. And being nice doesn’t mean you’re a pushover. 
  • Be concise. â€¨
Get your facts together and then simply stick to them. Don’t ramble on.
It sounds like this: “Here’s the market rate salary info I found on these sources. Here are the projects I’ve completed and here’s how my work adds value to the company.” That’s it. Don’t mention the economy or your house payments or anything else that is not relevant to what your boss cares about. Your boss cares about looking good to her boss and being able to brag about that. You make that possible by being so awesome. 
  • Be clear. 
When we get nervous, we often accidentally muddle up what we’re asking for. Ask clearly, “I’d like a salary increase” or “I’d like to know what it would take for me to get a salary increase.” 
I love the phrase “I’d like” as a way to clearly state what you want without coming across as too harsh. It’s worked well for me and the women I coach. 
  • Use silence. â€¨
Ask for what you want and then be quiet. 
You may have been criticized for being long-winded, it’s a common criticism for women. Women get interrupted with, “Can you please just get to the point?” Harsh, right? If you’ve ever uttered the phrase, “As I said before…” or “As I mentioned previously…” then you are rambling. Stop repeating yourself, it’s not necessary. Just say it and be quiet. 
Dealing with no
Asking for what you want doesn’t make everyone fall in line behind you with big YESes. I wish it did. If you watch Jia Jiang’s TED Talk, you’ll hear him talk about how the noes were often followed by questions that may have led to yeses if he had stuck with it. In fact, over time, as he got more comfortable asking, this very thing started to happen. 
  • Get comfortable with rejection. You have to stop taking things personally to do that. 
  • Get curious. If you make assumptions about why you’re getting a no, you’re probably wrong. 
Instead, ask: What would it take for me to get a raise? Would you share some specific ideas about what I can do to get a raise? How are you making decisions about who gets a raise? What can I do to add more value to you and the company so that I’m eligible for a raise? How can I get on that Leadership Team? What qualifications are required? Would it help if I shared some of my relevant experience and how I can add value? 
The bottom line
You are more likely to get what you ask for. Learning to use some persuasion and influence techniques will help you get ahead and get along. It’s not necessarily the big, once-a-year negotiations that will make the biggest impact on your life, but the everyday agreements that help you get what you want and build stronger relationships.
Melissa Hereford has been a trainer and coach for 23 years in the corporate world. She teaches women solid communication skills to get Everyday Agreements: Be yourself. Get what you want. Build stronger relationships.


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