Advocating for Yourself in the Office

I have recently found myself in a unique situation where for one reason or another, I will be on my fourth supervisor in a little under a year and a half. That’s a lot of change for one person, even when this one person can work fairly well in a lot of ambiguity. Despite my ability to be a pretty good one-man team, no one likes to feel like they’re being pushed around from person to person and inconsistency in who to report to can just create a muddled mess on certain projects. All in all, it just makes work a little bit more difficult to navigate.

Thankfully, my social work skills have adequately kicked in. I’ve decided to actively advocate for myself in the office. This was terrifying at first. I told my husband multiple times I wasn’t going to say anything and I was just going to see what happened. Then, I’d change my mind and say I couldn’t deal with it anymore. In the end, with support from a colleague, I approached the head supervisor and openly discussed my wants and concerns about receiving a new supervisor (sometimes I’m really a very good social worker without even trying!). While I haven’t been assigned to anyone new yet, I’m confident that my plea was heard loud and clear. It also provided me with relief knowing that I stood up for what I want and need to be an effective employee.

Sometimes it can be scary, but get up the courage to discuss what you need to be a successful employee!

Sometimes it can be scary, but get up the courage to discuss what you need to be a successful employee!

So, are you in a tough situation where a little bit of self advocacy could help you out? Here are a few tips to help you gain some courage and get your voice heard.

Set up a meeting. First things first, set up a meeting with the head supervisor (or whoever you need to speak to). By setting up a formal meeting you give yourself time to get yourself together and prepare your argument. You also make it clear that this is very important to you and not something you could discuss over the water cooler.

Have your facts (and opinions) ready. Come to the meeting fully prepared with everything you want to discuss. Make sure to write down notes and facts to keep yourself on track. Chances are you’ll also be asked lots of questions so make sure you have a clear idea in advance of what you’re advocating for and what solutions you already have in mind.

Be honest, but polite. Tact is key in situations like this. You want to make sure your voice is heard, but you also don’t want to come across as rude or arrogant. For example, when I was advocating for a new supervisor for myself I made sure to highlight the strengths of my current supervision, but also state how I thought I could benefit from a different supervisory style. It’s all about presenting your argument in a respectful and honest manner.

Revisit the matter in the future if you need to. Sometimes even though you are polite, honest, and have a really good case for your advocacy, you won’t have a solution right away. It’s been over a month since I first advocated for myself without a clear resolution. Because of that, I recently briefly brought the topic back up just to clarify that my thoughts were heard. Sometimes you must be respectfully persisent when advocating for yourself. Don’t give up if changes don’t occur right away. You have to stay focused, confident, and revisit the topic when appropriate.

Now, it’s your turn! Have you ever been in a situation where you had to advocate for yourself? How did you get your voice heard? 

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