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Ask For What You Want

By Marty Nemko

Many people are afraid to ask for what they want. They’re afraid of being rejected. They’re afraid they’re asking for too much. They’re afraid they’ll suffer reprisals. They’re afraid it’s wrong to ask. And they’re routinely deprived of what they’re reasonably entitled to. I hope this column is a kick in your butt.

Many of us have been taught to wait for good things. Ideally, that would be wonderful. You sit there and because, for example, your boss loves you , he offers you a $30,000 raise. Alas, such gentilities are ever rarer. We generally must ask for what we want.

To help you get started, here’s a master list of goodies you might want on your job. Pick the one or two that would most make your heart sing yet be realistic:


Limiting your workweek to __ hours.


Who you sit next to

A window

A quieter work location

Who you report to

Less supervision

More supervision

More meaningful work

More challenging work

Easier work

More work

Less work

The right to do your work the way you want as long as you produce the results.

Reduced reporting requirements as long as your productivity is good.

The right to go to the bathroom as often as necessary. (Don’t laugh. Alas, some employees do not have this right.)

A special project you’d be passionate about or which would use your best skill.

A more ergonomic workstation

More frequent, if shorter, breaks.

Getting rid of a supervisee you can’t deal with.

A new supervisee

A new boss

A new peer

A new employee to help you out

The right to not do something unethical

The right to call attention to unethical practices

A piece of equipment (for example, a laptop computer)

A piece of software

Training (That conference in Hawaii?)

A pay increase

Less salary, more benefits

More salary, less benefits

Less salary, more commission with the possibility of higher overall income

More praise

Less criticism

The right to do volunteer work on company time

A co-worker not using perfume that makes you sick

Asking For What You Want

If you’re like most people, you’re afraid you’ll blow your request. You’ll stammer and stutter and may not even end up making your request. This may help.

Step 1: Write down what you want to say. For example, “I’d love to telecommute two days a week. I waste two hours a day in commute traffic. I’ll be more effective at home. If you feel my productivity is down or that I’m needed at the office, I’ll gladly come back. But could we give it a try?”

Step 2: Rehearse by reading your script into a tape recorder. Do you like the way it sounds?

Step 3: Practice with a trusted friend. After you feel comfortable, toss the script and ad lib it. Get feedback from your friend.

Step 4: Go for it. Ask for what you want.

A Final Tip

Sometimes, it’s wiser to do what you want without first asking your boss. After it’s a fait accompli, the boss may see the wisdom of what you’ve done, or at least not care enough to make a fuss over it.

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