A Career Woman’s Guide to Self-Advocacy in the Office

When you spend 40 hours — or sometimes more — in the same place surrounded by the same people, you want to make sure you’re in a comfortable environment. However, it’s inevitable that sometimes tricky situations will arise in which you’ll have to communicate your needs and feelings firmly, without stepping on any toes.

Advocating for yourself at work can be uncomfortable or awkward, especially for women who feel pressure to appear easygoing, reliable, and confident at work. But if you don’t learn to self-advocate in the office, you might find yourself overlooked and underappreciated. 

Jump down to the infographic or read on to see our advice for navigating nine common workplace scenarios. 

1. Asking for a Raise

Talking about money is always awkward, especially at work. It can be easy to feel aggravated if you aren’t getting offered a raise, especially if you’ve been taking on extra work or are a long-standing employee at your company. 

When asking for more money, it’s important to time your request for a low-stress time at the company, wait until you’ve helped on a big project or scored a big win, and prepare what you’re going to say ahead of time. Be prepared with specific examples of your accomplishments, and stick to concrete details that show your value. 

Say this: “I’d like to discuss my salary. I’ve recently helped with X, and completed X. As a result, I think a salary increase of X is appropriate.”

2. Letting Someone Go

It’s hard to tell someone they are being let go — even if they aren’t a good fit, or have broken company policy. As a manager or business owner, these situations will inevitably arise, and it’s important to prepare for them so you don’t make it harder than necessary. 

When looking to dismiss an employee, be firm and to the point to avoid conflict or confusion. Discuss the employee’s performance with HR to develop firm talking points, and stick to those points without getting emotional. 

Say this: “Unfortunately, your performance isn’t up to company standard and we’re going to have to let you go.”

3. Asking for Help 

The first step to asking for assistance at work is to get over your reluctance to do so. Some employees avoid asking for help for fear of looking incompetent or needy, but the reality is everyone needs a helping hand sometimes. 

In these scenarios, show gratitude for your coworker’s help, be direct with what you need, and be courteous and understanding of their time. When asking for help, it’s also best practice to find a solution that works for both you and your coworker.  

Say this: “If you have extra time today, could you help me with X? I can do X, but need help with X. Thanks so much.” 

4. Critiquing Your Manager

Critiquing your manager — a process called upward feedback — can be uncomfortable and feel risky. When faced with this scenario, you should aim to handle this situation gracefully, kindly, and firmly. It’s also important to be prepared! Write down your feelings ahead of time so you can go into the meeting with direct talking points and avoid feeling anxious or tongue-tied. 

Say this: “Thank you for meeting with me. I want to discuss X — I noticed that X, and think it could be improved by X.” 

5. Communicating Remotely

With more and more employees moving remote, workplace apps like Slack, email,and Zoom have become the new normal. Though these apps have created strong lines of communication between in-office and remote workers, it’s also hard sometimes to navigate discussions without the nuances or inflections of in-person conversation. When communicating remotely,  aim to successfully strike a balance between friendliness and professionalism. 

Say this: “Hello — I hope you’re doing well. I wanted to check-in on the status of X. Let me know if you have any questions or need any help!” 

6. Presenting Your Ideas

In collaborative work environments, it can feel difficult to present your ideas effectively and have them be acknowledged. When bringing your ideas to a group meeting or a one-on-one with your boss, make sure to communicate them concisely, confidently, and with authority. At the same time, remain open to constructive criticism, and be prepared to discuss your thoughts without getting defensive. 

Say this: “I think we should do X because X. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?” 

7. Asking for a Promotion

The general rule is that if you aren’t moving up at your company, it’s time to move on. Asking to move up can be scary, especially if you fear being rejected by your manager. That said, asking for a promotion can actually show you’re interested in more work with the company, and want to remain on board. 

The first step is to familiarize yourself with your company’s growth track, schedule a meeting with your boss, and prepare a list of your accomplishments. Prepare to discuss your accomplishments and how they align with the company’s growth strategy.

Say this: “I’ve been with the company for X and in that time I’ve completed X, X, and X. I would like to discuss the best path for me moving forward.” 

8. Saying No to a Project

Just as we must sometimes ask others for help, there will also be times when we have to deny requests from coworkers or managers. Saying no is a hard life skill to learn, especially when we want to appear capable, easy going, and confident at work. 

However, it’s necessary sometimes to say no to things we can’t handle or don’t have time to take on. Consider finding an alternate solution that works for you while making your coworker feel supported.  

Say this: “I’m at my bandwidth for the day and won’t be able to help you with this  — can I help with it tomorrow, or support you in another way?.” 

9. Bringing Up Annoyances

Whether your desk neighbor smacks their gum, consistently speaks at a loud volume, or steals food from the refrigerator, there are times when office conflicts are unavoidable. 

It’s hard to navigate how to bring up annoyances with coworkers without appearing rude or closed-minded. The most important thing to do is avoid placing blame on them, be kind, and have the conversation one-on-one to avoid embarrassing them. 

Say this: “I find it hard to focus when you X — and I sense you also X. How can we meet in the middle?” 

By finding a middle ground between firmness and fairness, you can learn to communicate effectively while still being a champion for your needs. Check out our infographic for more tips on self-advocacy at work.

It’s important to be your biggest fan and advocate. By showing up for yourself, you put yourself in a better position to succeed and be confident in the workplace. 

For more ways to advocate for yourself in life, contact Bestow for a life insurance quote.

Sources: Learn How to Become | The Muse | Harvard Business Review | The Institute for Women’s Policy Research | Grant Thornton | Bustle