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How to Advocate for Yourself at Work


We all know that at times work can be full of challenges. Whether you’re struggling to get the promotion you’ve been working hard for or your manager seems to be in a bad mood all the time, we’ve all been through tough times at work.

Being a part of a union means that we’ve got your back, but it also means we’re here to teach you how to have your own back! You can also download this handy flyer, designed for administrative staff, which can help you understand how to care for yourself at work!


So, what is the best way for you to advocate for yourself at work?

1. Believe in yourself and what you need at work

It might seem simple to believe in yourself, for example when you think you’re not being paid as much as you should be. At times though, we can talk ourselves out of believing we’re worth it. If you want to advocate for yourself, you need to believe that you deserve it so you can put forward arguments as to why you deserve that promotion. And – don’t ask for less in order to ‘increase your chances’; know your worth and believe in it!

You might say something like, “I’ve been leading the team for the past three months by helping with rosters and providing good advice to my peers so now I think it’s time you consider me for the higher duties role”.


2. Be clear, succinct and know that nobody can read your mind

Does it sometimes feel like your manager or colleagues should be doing something differently and you just can’t understand why they’re not? Maybe your manager keeps forgetting to call you for extra shifts and instead calls your colleague Greg. Whilst it might feel like your manage favours Greg, there might be other issues at play - maybe your manager thinks you don’t want extra shifts? It’s best to ask to have a chat about these types of issues. Be clear about your perspective and keep emotions out of it! Offer to take notes so there’s a record of what is discussed and make sure that you both agree on the outcome or actions.

You can try saying, “Hi (insert Manager name). I’d like to have a chat about shift allocation when you have some spare time in the next week. I can take notes of our meeting to make sure we’re on the same page moving forward”.


3. Agree on timelines

Have you ever felt like you’ve agreed on something with your manager, only to feel like they’re dragging their feet to action it? Maybe your office needs a new microwave because the old one’s broken. The boss agreed with you that a new one is needed to ensure there is a safe and healthy workplace environment, but has yet to deliver.

In this situation, you can say, “Hey, so I know you said you’d organise a new microwave for the office – I’d really like if we could get that sorted in the next week. Is that something you think you can arrange for us?”


4. Use positive and respectful language and keep emotions out of it

Whenever you’re asking for something at work (or anywhere else!), it’s best to be respectful. Even when you feel like someone isn’t being respectful of you, keep calm and remember that their behaviour doesn’t excuse yours. Using positive language you help you to frame your situation from a solutions-focussed approach and means that it’s harder to say no to! We all get emotional at times, especially when we feel very strongly about an issue. If you struggle with keeping your emotions at bay, try a role-play with a trusted friend to help you keep calm!

Start with, “The way you’re talking to me makes me think there might be something wrong, and I’m here to chat about it so we can move things in a positive direction. How can I help us to address this issue?”.


5. If you’re still not getting anywhere, try to gain more skills

Maybe you feel like your manager is blowing you off or making excuses for why you don’t deserve the change you’re requesting. Here’s where you can empower yourself to bring the change! Maybe you need extra skills to get that promotion? Or you think a different way of doing things would be better. Do your research and bring it to your manager to ‘prove’ your point.

Then you can try, “I know you said I wasn’t qualified for the promotion, but I attended a full day of training in x,y & z, so now I’m ready to take on the extra responsibilities. How can we work together to move me in the right direction in my career now?”.


6. If it’s still not working – try getting advice!

Have you had calm, respectful conversations with your manager and laid out clearly your wishes for change with specific timeframes? Got the extra information and qualifications and still not getting any traction? It might be time to get some advice!

You can count on your HACSU Delegate to talk through any issues at work! Alternatively, you can contact HACSU Assist for any matters that you’re struggling with.

If you’re worried about getting into trouble at work and you want advice, you can always call us to discuss the best way to tackle these issues. Call HACSU Assist as soon as possible if you need advice on a tricky issue on 1300 651 931