Asking for what we need at work can feel intimidating and risky, especially if you are a woman, a person of color or LGBTQ. But the danger in avoiding these important conversations is that we eventually become less engaged and productive at work, and inevitably begin looking around for the next best thing. Addressing these issues head-on, and verbalizing the things we need to grow as professionals, are the keys to being successful (important) and happy (even more important).

It’s worth noting that your request is more likely to be granted if you consider your manager’s point of view and approach the situation from a place of clarity and mindfulness. Of course, you can’t always get what you want, but there’s no shame in asking for it…and no shame in not getting it either. Here are some tactics to help you gain the confidence needed to prepare for a hard conversation:

  • Get clear about what you want. Before you approach your boss or manager, you should spend some time figuring out exactly what it is you want. Know exactly what you want to get out of the conversation, how far you are willing to go and where you’re willing to compromise. Figure out ahead of time what your priorities are and make them clear.
  • Be positive. Talking about what you appreciate or love about your job right out of the gate immediately demonstrates your commitment, and will likely make it easier to ask for more. If you start by making demands or pointing out how you’ve been underappreciated and wronged, it’s easy to immediately create a negative dynamic. Attempting to establish a positive vibe and create a sense of cooperation will make other people feel it is in their best interest to support you.
  • Outline the benefits for your audience. When framing your request, it can be easy to get caught up in why you want something and forget about why it could also be great for your manager. Put some thought into what the benefits are to your manager or colleague if your request is granted.
  • Follow up after allowing time to process. It’s very possible that your request won’t be immediately granted during the initial meeting, and that’s OK. If  your request is rejected, ask follow-up questions to better understand the “why” behind the no. This will help you get to yes next time.

There will be times when you do everything right and still don’t get what you want or feel you deserve. At this point, you must assess whether or not you can continue to stay engaged at a level that feels fulfilling to you. Sometimes, the answer may be to move on. The good news is that it’s often much easier to make this decision after you’ve had the tough conversations: and by figuring out how to take this first step, you’re already halfway there.


Harvard Business Review (2022, August 5) Deborah Grayson Riegel: Ask for What You Need at Work
Forbes (2018, August 9) Sarah Sheehan: How to Ask for What You Need at Work
Financial Management Magazine (2021, September 10) Hannah Pitstick: 5 Tips for Asking for What You Want in Today’s Workplace