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Advocating for Yourself in the Workplace

The last few years have seen a major shift in how workers interact with their employers. As a result of the pandemic, many employees lost their positions or were forced into remote roles. This led to many re-evaluating their relationships with the workplace. Eventually, the Great Resignation saw record numbers of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs.

The reasons for people quitting are numerous, but many of them have to do with not feeling valued by supervisors or the company they work for. They felt that they could find better prospects with another company, or in some cases, by starting their own business. The reality for a lot of workers, however, is that quitting may not feel like a viable option.

When this is the case, your only recourse to improve a work situation is to advocate for yourself. It may not be easy or natural for you to stand up for your needs or desires with your employer, but it is a valuable skill that can drastically improve your quality of life. Here are a few ideas for advocating for yourself in the workplace.

Prioritize Personal Safety

Even office environments can come with some risk factors that could put the health of employees in danger. Whether you sit at a desk all day or operate heavy machinery consistently, it is important to consider your safety in the workplace. If a policy or scenario seems to present a risk, can you report it to HR or a trusted supervisor? Should an incident occur that results in an injury, don’t be afraid to contact a worker’s compensation lawyer who will ensure that you receive the benefits you are owed if you need time to recover. If another employee behaves recklessly, report the incident so that you and others are not put in danger in the future. Standing up for your safety and well-being is the first step to stronger self-advocacy in the workplace.

Evaluate the Internal Culture

Part of advocating for your needs is learning to recognize when they are not being met. In many companies, internal culture is not always easy to define. There are certain signs to watch out for that can indicate if a workplace culture is healthy or not. Are people afraid to approach supervisors with their concerns? Is micromanagement an issue that workers are talking about regularly? Is there a lot of employee turnover at this company? These could all be signs of an unhealthy workplace culture that will make it difficult for your needs to be heard, let alone met. Whether you have just started at a company or have worked in the same place for ten years, take some time to evaluate the culture of the workplace. If there are more questions than answers and workers seem to be uncomfortable, you may want to consider bringing it up to decision-makers or looking elsewhere for employment.

Negotiating Salary

One of the biggest challenges that employees face is advocating for what they believe is fair compensation. Many people are hesitant to ask for a raise or better benefits because they fear the repercussions of doing so. But there are ways to advocate for yourself that can minimize any risk that you feel you are taking on. Strategies for negotiating your salary include doing industry research, having an exact number in mind, defending your case with work performance evidence, and picking the right time. Studies have found that people are much more agreeable later in the week, so try planning a meeting to discuss your salary on a Thursday rather than a Monday. Negotiating for better compensation is a great way to improve self-advocacy.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

The key to any form of self-advocacy in the workplace is to know your strengths and weaknesses, both as a worker and as a person. If you know what type of environment you thrive in, it becomes easier to understand your relationship with a supervisor and with the company as a whole. Before you even start a new position, understanding your skills and the gaps in your knowledge can make it easier to find the right role with the right company. When negotiating for a better compensation package, you can talk yourself up by highlighting strengths and how you can help the company. The more you understand your personality traits and areas of expertise, the easier it becomes to advocate for your needs to supervisors, fellow employees, and other parties that you interact with regularly.

Self-Advocacy Takes Practice

Not everyone has the confidence needed to ask for what they want from an employer right off the bat. Maybe you do not have the personality or experience to advocate for yourself in the workplace. Fortunately, it is a skill that you can work on. Practice talking up your strengths with a friend or family member. Take time to evaluate what your skills are and how you have used them to help the company in the past. The more you do this, the more you can develop your confidence and feel prepared to advocate for your needs.

Jeff Campbell