How To Successfully Advocate For Yourself In The Workplace

If you've ever felt stuck in a thankless job, you've probably wished for more power to control your career. Whether it's a matter of excessive job duties, feeling passed over for advancement, or receiving a disappointing pay rate, many work frustrations may seem out of your hands. But what if you could take a more active role in defining your experience in the workplace?

Despite the seemingly rigid hierarchies that may exist at your job, there are ways to influence work decisions and your own day-to-day responsibilities by practicing self-advocacy. Put simply, self-advocacy just means speaking up for yourself in any area of your life (via BetterUp). At work, this might mean anything from pointing out big wins in your projects to asking for help when challenges arise.

In fact, taking care of your own interests may be the very best way to get ahead, since your supervisor probably has other priorities to juggle. "In an ideal world, we'd all have bosses who are personally invested in our career development, but the reality is that many managers don't have the resources or desire to do so," Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopResume, tells Monster. So, if your manager can't always go to bat for you, who else will? That's where self-advocacy comes in.

Why is self-advocacy important?

At first blush, self-advocacy may sound like it requires being pushy or self-centered to get what you want, but that's not what it's really about. Rather, self-advocacy is a way to communicate your needs and celebrate your accomplishments — not in an arrogant, entitled way, but in a manner that makes your work life both happier and more productive.

There are several reasons that self-advocacy in the workplace is useful. For one, being clear about your obstacles and job requirements helps the higher-ups understand your role better, and gives them the opportunity to address any chronic issues (via Masterclass). In a positive light, speaking up about successes can also put you on the radar for any promotions or raises.

And for those finding it hard to infuse optimism in the workplace or feeling trapped in high-stress environments, advocating for yourself can help ensure that you aren't being taken advantage of — intentionally or otherwise — by the corporate machine. After all, if you're struggling internally but not letting anyone know, how can you expect anything to change? Self-advocacy can help you take steps toward a healthier and happier work-life balance.

Ways to advocate for yourself at work

If you've always been a worker bee who keeps your head down and tries not to make waves, self-advocacy may feel intimidating. But there are ways to embrace this concept while remaining humble and professional. For example, one of the best ways to advocate for yourself and get ahead at work is to make sure your efforts are acknowledged (via LinkedIn), but this doesn't require boasting or exaggerating — it's about honesty. If your manager overlooked how your last project surpassed all expectations, let them know. A simple, non-braggy update to "keep them in the loop" can ensure that your work gets noticed and your manager has a great opinion of you when promotion time rolls around.

Another tenet of self-advocacy is setting boundaries. This may seem difficult in a job setting, but you can protect yourself by setting up reasonable expectations, even with your boss. If you are feeling overworked, you don't have to storm in shouting, "I'm burned out!" Instead, subtly and politely let your boss know that some triage is in order by outlining your to-do list and asking which tasks are top priority (via Forbes). This clues them in that you're overloaded and having to make tough decisions without coming across as complaining.

Similarly, don't hesitate to clarify what kind of support and resources you need to get your work done effectively. You may feel like these requests seem needy, but why wouldn't your employer want to set you up for success? Your achievements are also theirs. So, it's not selfish to ask for that software tool or process change — it's just the kind of self-advocacy you need to create a win-win situation for yourself and your job.