How to get what you want: Advocating for yourself at work

Self-advocacy is a very important skill, and one that could help you progress far at work. It means representing yourself, your views or interests. This might mean communicating your needs, standing up for yourself, or doing what is required to make sure your needs are met. 

Most of us will have to advocate for ourselves in the workplace at some point in our lives. For apprentices, some examples include: 

  • Asking to work from home or to work flexible hours.
  • Requesting a reasonable adjustment for a disability or condition.
  • Asking for a pay rise. 

The best way to advocate for yourself is usually, first and foremost, to have a conversation with your employer. 

Be clear on what you want to achieve and your reasons 

Go into the conversation with an open mind. Your aim is to inform the other person, and convey to them your request and the reasons behind it. 

Plan ahead what you will say and be clear on your reasons. Remember these reasons need to appeal to your employer too. For example: 

  • You may be requesting a pay rise because your work responsibilities have increased.
  • You may need a reasonable adjustment to perform your job properly and make sure your employer is complying with disability legislation.
  • You may want to work flexibly as it will increase your productivity and wellbeing.

You may wish to prepare information to bring into the discussion – such as average apprenticeship salaries for your role, the legislation that employers must comply with, or stats showing how flexible working can reduce stress and aid productivity. 

Consider your language 

It might be tempting to be defensive, particularly if you expect rejection, so try not to let this thought guide you. Think of the conversation as an opportunity and not an argument you are trying to win. Framing your request as something that will benefit both you and your employer could go a long way. 

Be confident and assertive 

Knowing your own worth can be a great strength. Employers want employees and apprentices who are motivated, engaged, and hard working. If you show these strengths, they can be a great tool to support your negotiation. 

Incorporate some of your past achievements into the conversation – don’t assume your manager knows or sees everything you do. Sometimes a big part of self-advocacy is being able to communicate what you bring to the company or team. 

Consider the outcome 

The answer to your request might be yes, no, or somewhere in between. There may even be options you haven’t thought of. Keep an open mind, and remember that getting what you ask for isn’t the only positive outcome. Even if your manager rejects your request, you’re likely in a better position as you have brought the matter to their attention. They may have to consider factors you don’t know about. 

Even if they have to reject your request, hopefully your manager will explain the reasons why. If they can’t, try not to be too disheartened. It might be worth asking if the decision can be reconsidered at a later time – perhaps at a performance review, when you meet set targets, or when you complete your apprenticeship. 

Sometimes at work – and in life – you will receive a rejection and not hear the reasons why. Try not to feel discouraged or let your emotions get the better of you. You’ve done what you can, and you’ve practiced the skill of advocating for yourself. 

Know who to contact for support 

If you need to advocate for a legal right and you don’t get far with your employer, there are charities and support groups who can help you. See our Helplines and Resources article for further information and contact details.

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