Ask for What You Need at Work
Don’t laugh, but for a long time I thought that if people had climbed the corporate ladder to become managers or executives, they must know way more than I do about pretty much everything and be able to always foresee problems before they happened. You’re laughing aren’t you? Well, I guess it’s OK since that is pretty unrealistic. See, you have to understand: I’m the oldest child, so I have this thing with automatically giving power to people just because they’re authority figures. But I digress…
However laughably unrealistic that is, I really did used to think it—until I became a manager myself. Now I know from experience how unrealistic that belief is. While, as a manager, it’s important to be a resource for the people who report to you and to be able to foresee problems in order to lead well, it’s impossible to know everything—no matter how experienced and/or qualified you are Managers are only human. We’re not mind readers, and we can’t know everything or see everything coming down the line. I can’t speak for all managers, but I do the best I can, and that’s really all I can do.
Well, as unrealistic as my expectations were, there’s a similar one that I often see women in the workplace suffer from: expecting their managers to be able to know what they need without asking for it. Perhaps it stems from the experience of being women, for our sex does have natural talents towards tending to others, reading body language and subtle cues, and even anticipating needs. So we hope our managers—especially our female ones—will be able to do that for us at work as well. Maybe it’s because we’re socialized as women to try to promote harmony, and asking for what we need from our managers feels like rocking the boat. I’m not sure. But whatever the reason, this unrealistic expectation can lead to a lot of frustration and even resentment and hostility—not to mention less productivity—in the workplace.
Do you have this expectation? If so, I urge you to let it go this week and ask for what you need to do your job well. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a very perceptive manager, you know better than anyone else what helps you be more productive, so ask for it. Your manager actually needs your input to to be able to provide you with the resources, training, and coaching you need to be the most productive team member you can be, and as long as you ask respectfully, it’ll help you both in the end to do so. Your manager will be glad to be aware of your needs, and you’ll feel better for having spoken up.
I know it can be scary to ask for what you need. If you have low trust with your manager, it can be even more scary. Start with something small and go from there. I share a few tips to start conversations like this with your manager in this post. Make sure to share your experience with a comment so we can all learn and grow together.