Can you imagine a job where you can ask for exactly what you want and get it? Do these jobs actually exist? It turns out they do! I was recently inspired and rather surprised when a friend of mine shared she ended up extending her two week vacation from work to three weeks. When I asked her how she managed to do that her response was, "I just told the truth and asked for what I needed." Her first week and a half of vacation visiting home turned out to include more work and obligations than she bargained for. Coupled with bad weather that kept her housebound, she felt she had not had enough rest, relaxation and fun. Instead of making up some story about why she needed more time off, she simply told her boss she did not feel rejuvenated to come back and asked for another week.
Without hesitation, her boss gave her the extra week and expressed that he'd rather have her gone than come back more stressed than she was when she left. It's worth mentioning that my friend's position at her company is extremely busy and her absence was not something the company did not feel; however, her boss had the ability to see the bigger picture. Unfortunately, I cannot think of many companies where an employee can call their boss and say "I haven't had enough fun yet on my vacation so I'm staying an extra week" and be supported. But after hearing about her renewed enthusiasm for her job and increased gratitude for the place she works, I wonder why more employers do not treat their employees with the same degree of personal support and understanding.
This got me thinking about all the people I've coached who come in struggling with wanting to ask for something like a vacation, different hours, or a raise from an employer and being absolutely petrified to do so. So many times I have had to dissuade a client from fabricating a story or coming up with excuses to justify a well-deserved and reasonable request. I advise them to present their request in a professional, articulate, non-emotional way and tell the truth. Usually the response I get to this advice is something along the lines of, "The truth? You mean just outright ask for what I want? I don't think I can do that." I get it. I remember my days of working as an assistant at a talent agency and being terrified to ask to go to the doctor or to take a day off when I felt completely drained for fear that I would either be yelled at or told no without any explanation.
Like I did in the past, many employees continue to buy into the belief that when it comes to asking for what they want at work, it's better to either suck it up and not rock the boat in anyway or come up with some kind of acceptable white lie they believe will be more acceptable than the truth. But this kind of behavior does not make employees more valuable to their companies - all it does is reinforce old paradigms of hierarchal corporate structure, division, and dishonesty.
Imagine the changes companies may experience if we could eliminate the fear and intimidation from our workplace culture. Imagine the loyalty companies would receive from their employees if employees could openly communicate when they needed additional support in some way and not fear loosing their job because of it. Imagine how much more empowered employees would feel if they could ask for what they want at work and actually be heard without resistance.
I realize a lot of employers may have employees that are plenty demanding and have no trouble asking for what they want. However, the majority of employees in the workforce today, especially when the fear of loosing one's job is so prevalent, are nervous to ask for anything outside of their comfort zone. If you are such employee, playing it ultra-safe right now may feel acceptable, but it is creating bad habits of not making self-honoring choices which will begin to impact your work performance. So my encouragement to employees is to start asking for what you want at work that will increase your productivity, reinstate your loyalty and uplift your attitude at work. Make a reasonable and well-deserved request in a non-demanding, honest way. And my encouragement to employers is to meet your employee's request with an open mind and a willingness to see the big picture - both for your company, for your subordinate, and for yourself as a leader.
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