A lot of what our “Own Your Strong” mantra encompasses is confidence, in every area of your life. It’s one thing to be confident on the dance floor, in the gym, or in your hobbies, but many women struggle with confidence at work. Whether it’s something positive but risky like asking for a raise, or uncomfortable and scary like confronting a conflict, standing up for yourself at work takes a little extra dose of Strong.
Here, Bethany and Jackie share their tales of finding the confidence to do just that. We hope these inspire you to be Strong at work in whatever way you need to. Share your own stories in the comments!
I’m Worth It: How I Asked My Boss for a Raise
I’ve been at my job for almost six years. And during that time I’ve stepped up as a leader, brought value to the company, and demonstrated how dedicated I am time and time again. I increased my worth, but how do I bring that up to my boss? How do I politely tell him I feel underpaid and would like a raise?
I needed a strategy. Discussing money is not my strongest suit, but you know what is? Research, organization, and confidently talking about MYSELF!
That was going to be my plan of attack.
Since I wanted to talk numbers, I needed the data to be solid. Comparing salaries from sites such as PayScale, The Creative Group, Indeed, and AIGA gave me a foundation of research to fall back on. It also took away some of the awkwardness, since my argument wasn’t just “I want more money,” it was “This is what the competitive average salary is, and where I’d like to be.” (I also found guidance from an article on BuzzFeed: “15 Women Discuss How They Asked For A Raise At Work”.)
First things first, I needed to set up a meeting. My boss is great, and is always open to hear what I have to say. So when I mentioned wanting to discuss a few things, he took me seriously, and we scheduled a day to chat.
To respect his time, and keep the meeting concise, I organized all my research, thoughts, and talking points into a PowerPoint. That way I could show my fact-finding in person, have all sources ready, and present my ideas clearly.
This is also when I relied on my team. I trusted them to give constructive criticism, additional opinions, and help me practice my delivery. Not to mention providing that boost of encouragement when I started to get nervous. #werksquad
Talking Myself Up
Who knows me better than me? I know the work I do, I know what projects I’ve completed, and I know how much I love my job. I needed to give my boss every reason to justify a raise. Show him the value I bring to the company, the type of leader I am, and how I’ll continue to strive for my department’s success in the future.
Did it feel a little like bragging? Yes. Was I nervous? Absolutely. But MAN did it feel good to speak up for myself.
When we wrapped up our meeting, my boss indicated how much he appreciated all the time and effort I took to prepare. It demonstrated to him how serious I was, proved I’m thinking “big picture” with the company, and gave him clear topics to review.
I kept telling myself that even though asking for a raise is intimidating, the worst that can happen is I’m told “no”. That’s it. It was still an opportunity to establish my value, discuss my career, and express my opinions. As I replay the conversation in my mind though, I’m extremely proud of my actions. I took initiative, fought for what was important to me, and OWNED MY STRONG.
This Doesn’t Fly: Dealing With A Bad Boss (at a Job I Really Liked)
I got my foot in the door with a company that I had admired for years and was excited to potentially work my way up the ladder. The only problem? I didn’t think I could survive my boss, “Alex.” Sure, I’ve encountered my fair share of incompetent or arrogant bosses along the way, but Alex took the cake — think The Devil Wears Prada on steroids.
Within the first few day at the company, I seriously considered quitting. But not wanting to walk out on opportunity that could lead to other opportunities, I tried to find ways to cope with having a bad boss.
Give It Time
Before making a rash decision, I knew that I needed more time to learn the motivation behind my boss’s behavior. Was this normal behavior or was it triggered by stress or other factors?
Most of the staff working on this particular project, including myself, were new and had to be trained. Training new people while maintaining their own workload could be the reason why Alex seemed to be on edge. I waited a few weeks to see if things would improve once everyone settled into their respective roles and responsibilities. Unfortunately, the more I interacted with Alex the more I realized that things were just getting worse.
Be An Observer
Once I realized that my boss’s behavior was not going to change, I decided to do my own research. I wanted to see how Alex interacted with my co-workers, superiors and other employees.
I started to notice that the bad attitude, condescending tone and often cutting remarks were spread equally around the company. Alex would tone it down when the higher-ups were around, but not by much. It helped knowing that I was not alone and that other people probably felt the same way that I did.
I knew that if I quit because of my boss, I would regret it. Instead, I tried to think of ways to make my work situation easier. One of the ways I tried to minimize any unwanted negative attention was to up my A-Game.
I consider myself a hard worker, but in order to keep my sanity, I needed to be two steps ahead of Alex. I learned to anticipate tasks and complete projects before being asked. I also communicated with other departments to keep myself in the loop about future meetings or projects. I kept myself busy and focused on my work, hoping that would spare me from Alex’s wrath.
Find Support Outside of Work
I am lucky to have a partner that supported me and listened to me talk/vent about the situation. Sometimes just talking about it made me feel better and also gave me a fresh perspective about the situation.
I knew that talking about it was only one way to cope, so I focused on taking care of myself. Often times that meant taking another pole class to leave behind the frustrations or doing other activities I loved like hiking, reading or spending time with friends. It was a great reminder that outside of work life, I had a lot of positive things in my life.
Time to Take Action (and Get Some Help)
After trying several tactics and techniques to cope, it became evident that I needed help. I didn’t feel comfortable having a conversation with Alex and was afraid speaking up would make things worse. As someone who hates conflict and avoids it all costs, the thought of speaking up gave me anxiety. But, I knew that I needed to be my own advocate.
I decided to bypass Alex and go straight to a superior. Before requesting a meeting, I rehearsed what I wanted to say in my head and with my husband. I wanted to convey my feelings the right way and hopefully find a resolution. I framed the conversation as me seeking advice on how to handle the situation rather than complaining about Alex. I gave clear examples of my interactions and how I tried to improve the situation. I was relieved to learn the superior was aware of the situation because there had been other concerns raised by co-workers.
I am proud of myself for fighting through my anxiety and speaking up. I was a nervous wreck leading up to the conversation, but once it was over, I felt better. Walking out of that meeting, I knew that it was out of my hands and up to the superiors to manage the situation.
That same week, Alex was called into a meeting with three higher-ups. I’m not sure what happened in the meeting but there was a noticeable difference afterwards. I stopped receiving nasty emails and text messages. The management style stayed the same, but I focused on working hard and going the extra mile. When my contract was over, I was offered work on a new project with a different boss, which I happily accepted.