Advocating For Yourself At Work

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advocating for yourself at work

Advocating For Yourself At Work

When we reflect on the things that truly matter to us – our family, our friends, and our community – advocating for them comes naturally to us. We do it because we care.

Yet, when it comes to standing up for ourselves, it often becomes a different story. The act of advocating for our own needs and desires can feel difficult.

But the truth is, advocating for ourselves is how we can show others we care about the things we do. It’s an act of self-compassion.

By advocating for ourselves, we acknowledge the importance of our own needs, just as we do for those we deeply care about. It’s about taking responsibility for our own happiness and actively seeking the opportunities and support we deserve.

At work, it’s important for us to think about. According to a recent study, 22% of people didn’t ask for a raise simply because they lacked the skills necessary to communicate what they wanted. Good news is advocating for ourselves is a skill we can all sharpen. Below are 3 strategies to consider:

1. How To Master The Ask

It’s a fact of life that we can’t sit around and wait for opportunities to magically fall into our laps. If we want something, we’ve got to ask for it. But let’s be real, the thought of asking for what we want can be downright nerve-wracking. To help, we can frame our ask using the SAW Framework. This is a way of asking for what we want that keeps it concise and impactful.

SAW Framework:

  • Strong Case – When we’re making a strong case for ourselves, it’s important to address a few key questions ahead of time: Why is this the right time? Who will benefit from my ask and why? Sure, our request will benefit us personally, but if we can zoom out and communicate the benefit to others, we’ll have a better chance of getting a positive response from our manager or whoever we’re talking to. For example, let’s say we’re pitching a new project and we want to take the lead. Instead of just focusing on how it’ll benefit us, we can emphasize how it’ll benefit the whole department. We might say something like, “This new project has the potential to streamline our department’s processes, leading to increased productivity.” By highlighting the positive impact on the team, we’re not only showing our leadership skills but also demonstrating how it’ll benefit everyone involved. That is a strong case.
  • Align Our Objectives – When it comes to aligning objectives, this means considering what the other person cares about. If we’re speaking to our manager, they’re probably juggling two big concerns: time and money. So, if we want to increase our chances of getting a resounding “yes,” we’ve got to address these concerns head-on. If our manager wants to know how this project will fit into the existing workload and schedules, we’ve got to present a solid plan on how we’ll allocate the time needed. If we can effectively communicate how our request is in line with their priorities and objectives, we are increasing the chances of them saying yes.
  • Why Us – Finally, we need to have a clear understanding of why we’re the perfect fit for the job. This is now where we loop in why we’re asking for this. Let’s say we’re aiming to lead a project—it’s essential to showcase why we’re the ideal candidate for that leadership role. For example, highlight your previous experiences, responsibilities, and how you’ve prepared yourself to lead. And don’t forget to express your sincere enthusiasm for the project. This way, you’ll show you’re not only capable but also eager to take on the challenge.


2. Confidently Say No

Here’s the thing: saying no is just as important as saying yes when it comes to advocating for ourselves. If we always say yes to things we don’t really want to do, we’re essentially diverting our time and energy away from the things that truly matter to us. That’s why learning how to say no without damaging our relationships or credibility is crucial. We need to be strategic and thoughtful in our communication approach. This is where framing our no using the EOT Approach can be helpful.

EOT Approach:

  • Explain – When it comes to explaining why we can’t take on another project or handle extra work, being concise and clear is key. We want to convey our reasons in just a sentence or two, getting straight to the point.
  • When we say no to someone who needs help, it’s important to remember that we can still offer support by providing alternative options or suggesting someone who may be better suited to assist them. We don’t want to leave others hanging! For instance, if someone asks us for assistance, but we’re unable to take on the task, we can offer alternatives. We can say something like, “I’m not available to help with this right now, but let me connect you with John. He has expertise in this area and might be able to assist you.” By recommending another colleague who might have the capacity to help, we can show we genuinely care and are willing to facilitate finding a solution. By offering alternatives and making connections, we show our willingness to go the extra mile to ensure their needs are met. 

  • Tone – When it comes to saying no, striking the right tone is crucial. We want to be direct and straightforward while still being mindful of our communication style. It’s all about finding a balance without being too wishy-washy or overly forceful. 

Saying no at work can be challenging. But here’s the thing: with some effective communication strategies we can boost our confidence when it comes to saying no.

Advocating for ourselves is just as important as advocating for the people we care about. It’s about striking a balance. While it might feel like navigating a tricky tightrope, mastering the art of asking for what we need and gracefully creating boundaries can truly make a difference. The key lies in preparing our responses in advance, so we can enter those tricky conversations with confidence.


Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways we can help you:

  1. Discover your communications style so you know where to start. Over 4,000 people have found theirs here.
  2. Attend our monthly communication workshop to build communications confidence (new topics: public speaking, advocating for yourself, building credibility, etc) here.
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