I don’t get what I want, just what I ask for…

Has anyone ever told you to work hard and do your best until you get noticed by the leadership of the company? Supposedly, this is the key to unlock career advancement and a long-lasting supply of promotions leading you to the highest level of the company. I’m saying “supposedly” because there are more stories out there of people complaining about not getting the return on that investment than stories backing it up. Here’s why…

It’s a great story though because it feels right. It’s aligned with the work we’ve known since our childhood, with our parents telling us to work hard at school, telling us that it pays off. It feels right because getting good grades at school leads to getting recognition for your hard work. So, it’s only natural for us to expect our workplace to follow the same rules.

It’s also an enticing story because we’d love it to be true. That story is the promise of not having to ask for anything. We would be responsible for doing our job and our boss would be responsible for our career advancement. How cool is that? Our boss acting as an agent in charge of moving us forward!

But truth be told, it doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t in the workplace and it doesn’t in many other places. You get only what you go after personally… once in a blue moon someone might hand you a promotion without you asking for it and it’s awesome when it happens, but you can’t build a career based on that strategy and if it’s yours, then get ready for a long and very slow ascent.

There’s an experience many parents go through that illustrates nicely this concept. In many countries, and at least in the US and Europe, there’s a medical exam called the “Heel Prick Test” or “Guthrie Test” that’s performed on every new born child, within the first few days of his or her life. That test is quite hard for parents to watch as the nurse draws blood from the new born baby, either from the back of the hand or from the heel. It’s hard to watch because your baby is so fragile and new that it hurts to see him or her in pain from the needle piercing the skin.

Only, every baby doesn’t go through the same experience, simply because babies are different. Some of them make themselves heard while others know from day-1 how to sustain pain in silence. I know that because my children are on both ends of that spectrum.

My son is very vocal, so when they performed that test, guess what happened? The nurse hurried and did the best she could to get it done as quickly as possible. And it worked, within less than a minute, the test was performed… What do you think happened to my daughter who’s so quiet and calm that she didn’t even cry when the needle pierced her skin? The nurse took a lot more time, didn’t hurry and didn’t seem to take into consideration the pain my daughter must have been in…

I mean, it’s no different than hurting a fly or a fish. Those animals make no sound, so it’s much easier to hurt them than to hurt animals you can hear screaming…

Long story short, it’s the same at work. If you don’t make yourself heard, don’t expect to be on the fast track to your goals. Expect those that make themselves heard to be promoted and moved to other positions faster and before you. It’s not related to company politics and it’s not related to favoring the extroverts. Here are some of the reasons for that:

  • First of all, you’re the only person responsible for your success. If you work hard that’s great, it means you’ll have good ground to ask for that promotion, but ultimately, you’re the one that’ll have to go after it.
  • Second, don’t expect other people to know what you want. Not everyone wants to manage people or have a lot of responsibilities. Some people do but not everyone does. So, if you’re open minded enough to acknowledge that people have different motivations, then you should be open minded enough to accept that your boss might not know what you want for yourself and that he or she shouldn’t push it on you.
  • Then there’s the point around the fact that people do what’s convenient for them. Everyone has to choose his or her battles, in life and at work, so when your boss has to choose his or her battles, he or she has to decide if pushing your promotion is going to make it into the priority list. And promotions are tough battles because many people want them and only some can be given at any point in time, so if you don’t make yourself heard, chances are you won’t make it into the list.

There’s no downside to asking. Many people think about worst case scenarios that are much worse than the worst that can really happen. The chances of getting fired are almost inexistent and if someone gets actually fired after asking for a promotion, believe me, there’s a different reason behind it.

So, make yourself heard. Asking is not begging. It’s the strategy that leads to getting things to move, to reaching higher grounds. If you don’t tell your boss what’s important for you, then expect her or him to make an assumption on your behalf and serve you what she or he believes is important for you. What are the odds of that assumption being aligned with your desires? Pretty slim I believe…

Assertiveness can be improved, you just have to exercise and run experiments in your day to day life

If you don’t feel at ease speaking up for yourself, then do something about it and don’t wait for other people to make it happen for you. Assertiveness is a critical skill to develop. At some point in my career I didn’t feel I was assertive enough and believed I could accelerate my career by doing something about it. So, I read a lot, learned a lot and I created for myself a list of simple exercises. I practiced those exercises and that list helped me better understand my assertiveness deficit and got me on the road to improving it. It really made a difference to my career. If you’re interested, you can receive it instantly by email by clicking here…

There another interesting resource for you which is Chris Croft’s course on LinkedIn Learning called “Learning to Be Assertive” and I selected for you a video below on changing your inner dialogue

Take the 3 minutes and 26 seconds to watch that video and get that list of exercises and make them your own… Learn why you’re lacking assertiveness and how to improve it because that’s a skill that’ll make a significant difference in your life personally and professionally…

You don’t have to become an extrovert to be assertive. You can stay true to yourself and still make yourself heard. So, make yourself heard!

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