Empowering Success: The Art of Self-Advocacy in the Workplace
Empowering Success: The Art of Self-Advocacy in the Workplace

Empowering Success: The Art of Self-Advocacy in the Workplace

Emotional Intelligence, Company Culture, Employee Well-being   — 3 MIN


Have you experienced telling someone at work what your needs were—and they agreed? Perhaps you told your manager you couldn’t work next weekend because you need a chance to recharge, or you needed to move desks because your colleague’s loud music disturbs your focus. You might’ve agonized over saying anything, worried your manager would dismiss your request. Instead, they agreed, making you feel proud for speaking up. Self-advocacy means taking the initiative to communicate your needs and wants to others so they can understand how to support your overall well-being, according to the University of California Santa Cruz. It’s a critical personal and professional skill. After all, who better speak up for you than the person who knows you best? Self-advocacy and resiliency go together. There may be times when you advocate but don’t get the results you seek. In that case, you’ll need the ability to bounce back and thrive.

Inspired by Indeed, the benefits of self-advocacy include:

  • Raising awareness: Without speaking up, the other person- whether a colleague or a manager, may not realize your challenges.
  • Boosting career development: The job market is competitive. By advocating for yourself, you can succeed in your career by letting others know you want to grow and advance.
  • Setting boundaries: Advocating can help you recognize your limitations and set boundaries with others to help you succeed.
  • Improving work-life balance: The pathways you find to succeed through self-advocacy can help balance the scale between your work and personal lives and result in greater overall satisfaction.

For leadership and the entire organization, self-advocacy can help empower employees, improve self-awareness and cognizance of the needs of others, strengthen teamwork and collaboration, and enhance communication, ideas, inclusivity, and problem-solving. When employees feel seen and their needs met, they are more engaged in their work and organizational success. Many employees have heard do not make waves—keep your head down and work. Do not think of self-advocacy as complaining about your responsibilities or worrying that you will appear unable to handle those responsibilities. Instead, see it as an opportunity to show your confidence and ability to speak up.

The good news is it’s a skill anyone can master with practice. Here are six tips to help, courtesy of Indeed and the Forbes Human Resources Council:

  1. Assess your needs and goals. What do you want in your career? What do you want to achieve? What do you need to make it happen? Getting clarity may help you better advocate for yourself.
  2. Stay professional. Plan out what you want to say. If the issue upsets or frustrates you, it’s best to give it some time before advocating so you can focus on the facts.
  3. Affirm your value. Whether you want a promotion, raise, or more responsibility, it helps to know what you bring to the company, your accomplishments, skills, and experiences that make you unique. Be sure to give examples of your wins, and data always helps. Don’t be shy about your contributions!
  4. Nervous? It’s okay. For some, self-advocacy is a breeze. For others, it can be challenging. But don’t worry; it gets easier. If you don’t speak up, you may feel even worse.
  5. Highlight your work. Don’t assume others will notice your great work. They may not be aware of the depth and breadth of your capabilities. Regularly share successes with others by being specific and explicit about what you’ve done—and can accomplish in the future.
  6. Put yourself in their shoes. Think of reasons why you may hear a no. Now think of potential solutions you could suggest. You want to make sure it’s a winner for all involved.

Unmask imposter syndrome

As she surveyed the room, Kelly Cuesta realized she was the youngest attendee and the only woman. She needed to lead a workshop on imposter syndrome. Kelly was well-versed in this. After all, she’d led countless discussions about it before. Deep down, she knew she was qualified to be there, but imposter syndrome was trying to take control.

As Cuesta writes for Medium, “I fought against that feeling for some time until I realized it is not about fitting in. It is about bringing yourself to work. Embrace what makes you different and unique and advocate for yourself.”

Imposter syndrome is a psychological occurrence where you doubt your skills, talents, and accomplishments regardless of your success. Cuesta writes that you may fear being a fraud or underachiever. It can cause nervousness, anxiety, and negative self-talk. Many people, especially women, suffer from imposter syndrome. As Cuesta discovered, you can let it engulf you or reframe your thoughts and mindset to act and fight it. One way to battle imposter syndrome? Self-advocacy.

First, define what success means to you and then put yourself out there to get what you want and reach your goals. Claim your strengths and reflect on how you can leverage your assets. Try to tie your contributions at work to business results and what’s vital to the organization. It also helps to be kind to yourself by not comparing yourself to others. Don’t attribute any failures to being an imposter. Instead, reframe your thoughts towards a growth mindset. By embracing failures instead of conflating them as character flaws, you can help prepare yourself to do something differently next time. 

Everyone fails at some point. The key is to be resilient, bounce back, and consider it a learning opportunity. A simple shift from a negative narrative into a positive one will help you be your best advocate and keep the imposter thoughts at bay.