image Avatar photo

The Power of Self-Advocacy in the Workplace and In Life

Sometimes work can be overwhelming and lead to not so subtle drops in your performance. But when this goes on too long you are headed toward  mental exhaustion, or the self-awareness that you’ve been saying working weekends non-stop for a few weeks. It’s times like this when you need to be an advocate for yourself to tell your supervisor that something needs to give.

Yet as an employee in a non-management role it can feel odd asking for the power to essentially say you are not available to do a certain task because you quite frankly need to rest. It can be strange because we aren’t always sure if we have a manager who even recognizes how much of our time they rely on to get jobs done.  

So it can be surprising, especially if you are new to the workforce when you finally muster up the courage to ask to not do a job over the weekend, change your physical location in the office because your colleague’s annoying habit of eating smelly food during lunch, or whatever the challenge happens to be for you and they agree to your terms.

This is the definition of self-advocacy. The power to take initiative to communicate what you need others to do for you in a manner they understand in an effort to support your overall well-being, according to the University of California Santa Cruz. This is a foundational skill to learn early on in your career and indeed something to practice to gain more comfortable invoking personal and professional requests. We’ve all heard some form of the advice that, “no one else is going to fight for you,” so you have to be an advocate for your own well-being and that sometimes communicating this not only to colleagues but supervisors. That isn’t to say “ask and thee shall receive,” will always yield the result you were after but it’s in the practice of asking that is important.

Practicing self-advocacy helps raise awareness to colleagues, your manager or anyone else in your organization to your challenges which enables them the opportunity to help if and wherever they can.

  • Helps raise awareness to colleagues, your manager or anyone else in your organization to your challenges which enables them the opportunity to help if and wherever they can.
  • Boosts your career by letting others know inside and outside your organization that you are ready to take the next step and advance professionally and personally.
  • Helps establish your own limits which you can then use to formulate  boundaries with others so as a whole: work, information, task, time, etc can be properly allocated.
  • Ultimately the power of self-advocacy is the power to establish a good work-life balance resulting in greater overall satisfaction.

Self-advocacy can serve as a valuable tool for leadership and the entire organization, as it has the potential to empower employees, enhance self-awareness and sensitivity towards the needs of others, foster teamwork and collaboration, and facilitate effective communication, idea generation, inclusivity, and problem-solving.

 When employees feel acknowledged and their needs are met, they are more likely to be invested in their work and contribute to the success of the organization. It is not uncommon for employees to be advised to avoid making waves and to focus solely on their work. However, it is important to recognize that self-advocacy should not be equated with complaining about one’s responsibilities or expressing concerns about one’s ability to handle them. Rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity to demonstrate confidence and the ability to assert oneself.

Here are six tips you can use to help with the what, how and when to use this skill that anyone can learn to achieve.

  1. Evaluate your needs and objectives. Determine your career aspirations, accomplishments, and requirements to achieve them. Gaining clarity can assist you in advocating for yourself more effectively.
  2. Maintain a professional demeanor. Plan your communication carefully. If the matter is upsetting or frustrating, take some time to gather your thoughts before advocating to ensure that you focus on the facts.
  3. Assert your value. Whether you seek a promotion, salary increase, or additional responsibilities, it is beneficial to understand your unique contributions to the organization. Provide examples of your achievements, skills, and experiences, and use data to support your claims. Do not hesitate to highlight your contributions.
  4. Do not be anxious. Self-advocacy may come naturally to some, while others may find it challenging. However, it becomes easier with practice. If you do not speak up, you may feel worse.
  5. Emphasize your accomplishments. Do not assume that others are aware of your achievements. They may not be aware of the extent of your capabilities. Regularly share your successes with others by being specific and explicit about what you have accomplished and what you can achieve in the future.
  6. Put yourself in their shoes. Consider why you may receive a negative response. Then, think of potential solutions that you can suggest. Ensure that the outcome benefits everyone involved.

Avoid Imposter Syndrome With Self-Advocacy

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon characterized by self-doubt regarding one’s skills, talents, and accomplishments, despite achieving success. Cuesta notes that individuals experiencing imposter syndrome may fear being perceived as fraudulent or underachieving, leading to feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and negative self-talk. This condition is prevalent among many individuals, particularly women. However, Cuesta suggests that one can either succumb to imposter syndrome or reframe their thoughts and mindset to combat it. One effective strategy to overcome imposter syndrome is through self-advocacy.

To begin, it is essential to define what success means to oneself and take proactive steps to achieve personal goals. It is crucial to acknowledge one’s strengths and reflect on how to leverage them effectively. Additionally, it is beneficial to connect one’s contributions at work to business outcomes and the organization’s objectives. Comparing oneself to others should be avoided, and failures should not be attributed to imposter syndrome. Instead, individuals should adopt a growth mindset and view failures as opportunities for learning and growth.

It is important to recognize that everyone experiences failure at some point. The key is to be resilient, bounce back, and view setbacks as learning opportunities. By shifting from a negative narrative to a positive one, individuals can become their best advocates and overcome imposter syndrome.

leave your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *