Harvard Business review

Ask for What You Need at Work

I was two years out of graduate school when I was offered my dream job. It had almost everything I wanted: work in a field I loved in a mission-driven organization, an impressive title, smart colleagues, global travel, professional development opportunities, and an easy commute from my home in New York City.

But it was missing two things I had hoped for in this next professional move: a third week of vacation and an additional $10,000 in salary.

I reached out to the hiring manager with my requests, and a few days later, she called me back: “I’ve been told that I can offer you one or the other — the vacation time or the salary bump. Which one is more important to you?”

And despite the fact that I really, truly wanted this job, I replied honestly. “They’re both equally important to me. I would like them both.”

I could tell that she was a bit taken aback, and that was not the answer she was expecting. Nevertheless, the next day she called me to offer me the job, with both the salary and vacation I had asked for.

Asking for what I needed had been a risk. Why? Because I didn’t have years of solid performance to leverage, or a good reputation to draw on, or even a relationship to lean into when making the ask. I admit that it felt a bit pushy. And yet, I also knew that asking for what I wanted and needed was a smart way to start a new job. It set the tone for future asks in this role, whether it was to work from home two days a week when my twins were born a year into my job, or requesting additional bereavement leave when my cousin died at age 29 of melanoma. By then, of course, I had a strong relationship with my manager and a solid work reputation. But if I hadn’t started by making honest asks early, I would have had a harder time making honest asks later.

As important and valuable as it is to build our internal and external networks, create goodwill with colleagues and managers, and be seen as credible, reliable, and a team-player, we need to start making requests in our careers earlier than we think. That means you might want to ask for a professional development budget while negotiating a new position, or ask someone to be your mentor whom you’ve only met a few times.

In any case, here are four strategies to get the most out of the early days of a new relationship.

Apply the “magic ratio” of healthy relationships.

According to relationship researcher John Gottman, healthy, stable relationships have a “magic ratio” of 5 to 1. This means that for every negative feeling or interaction between people in a relationship, there must be five positive feelings or interactions.

Rather than spending time ruminating over whether you should ask someone to do something for you when you don’t know them well enough, use that time to increase your positive interactions with them.

Here’s an example of what actions you could take to build up to five:

  1. Send them an article you think they might be interested in.
  2. On a Friday, ask them what they have planned for the weekend (and share your plans, too).
  3. Set their name and/or company name in a Google Alert, and let them know when they’re in the news.
  4. Invite them to an event you’re hosting or attending (live or virtual).
  5. Thank them for something they’ve done that you appreciated, and share the impact it had.

Then, make your ask! It will come in the context of positive interactions, and feel less like a withdrawal in your relationship bank account.

Make requests, not demands.

A demand is something to which the other person feels obligated to say yes, whereas a request is something to which the other person can say “yes,” “no,” or make a counter-offer. It allows for dialogue, flexibility, and compromise. It also shows consideration for the other person’s needs, values, and interests, and gives them an out.

This might sound like saying to your boss, “I would like to be able to take a four-day weekend next month. I have the vacation time, but I want to make sure that it works with the rest of the team’s schedule. What do you think?”

Or it could sound like asking someone in your network, “I know that you have a knack for making connections, and I would love to be introduced to someone in your LinkedIn network. Is that something you’d be comfortable doing? And if not, I understand.”

Be direct, be willing to ask more than once — and be able to move on if the answer is no.

Get curious about what “no” means so that you can get to a yes.

Remember that dream job that I got? It was training and coaching people on how to ask for philanthropic gifts for a mission they cared deeply about. An important part of that training was learning what “no” means — and doesn’t mean — when asking for money.

In asking for a charitable gift for, say, $5,000, a “no” could mean:

  • No, not now. (When would be a better time?)
  • No, not at that amount. (What amount would work?)
  • No, not to this cause. (What causes do you care about?)

It rarely meant “no, because I don’t like you.”

If you’re in a new professional relationship, you may take a “no” to your requests personally. You could imagine that it means your boss thinks you’re undeserving of an overseas client meeting, or that your colleague doesn’t think you could actually get the job for which you’ve asked them to review your cover letter.

But those are all a story you’re making up unless you’re willing to ask what “no” means. Get curious about why your boss decided to send your coworker on the trip, or what types of materials your colleague is willing to review for you. And then make a better ask next time.

Cultivate a positive affect.

Like most emotions, positivity is contagious. And who is more likely to give you their time, energy, attention, and resources: someone who is experiencing you as needy and negative, or someone who experiences you as upbeat and hopeful?

It is likely the latter.

According to psychologist Martin Seligman, who popularized the field of positive psychology, feelings of joy, comfort, and cheerfulness are a foundation to a satisfying life. When you approach others with visible joy (rather than frustration or anger), it is likely to catch on. When you make a request from a position of comfort (rather than a sense of desperation), you are more likely to make the other person feel comfortable, too. And when you are cheerful (rather than having a flat or neutral affect), you are more likely to brighten the other person’s day.

Worst case scenario? The person you’re reaching out to says they can’t help you, and you can leverage your positive attitude to bounce back.

And if you’re having a hard time finding the sunny spot in your work or life, Seligman suggests writing down three things that went well each day and why they went well. He found that people who do this for six months have less depression, less anxiety, and higher life satisfaction.

It can be hard to ask make “cold asks” early in our careers and relationships. But by applying the science of what makes relationships work, and combining it with the art of connecting, we can hopefully get all of what we need, and some of what we want.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.