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Rachel Solar

Rachel Solar

June 25, 2015

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Gain More Responsibility

There are a million songs, fairy tales, and platitudes about wanting more. And a few about getting more and then being unable to handle it. (Actually, as I’m sitting here writing this, I’m beginning to see that the eighth piece of apple cake probably wasn’t my brightest idea ever. Thank God for drawstring pajamas. But I digress.) Here’s the thing: More responsibility at work is a great thing. You can stretch, learn a new skill, and prove yourself worthy of a higher salary. But too much responsibility is not so great. And if you find yourself overly sated, loosening the drawstring can be a tricky thing. Here’s how to ask for more—and prepare to get it.

Ask the big question. Nothing pleases a higher-up more than a hungry worker. We’re used to pushing for more effort from staff: coaching and cajoling, wanting team members to ask more questions and think beyond their everyday routine to the bigger picture. When you ask for more work, it’ll show your boss that you’ve got initiative. And chances are, she won’t want to discourage you, so if you approach it right, you’ll get at least some of what you’re asking for.

Take note. You know how dieters are supposed to put everything they eat in a “food journal”? Why not keep a work journal? Use it to make notes about the projects you like and don’t like. Think about what responsibilities, clients, and tasks you enjoy. One of the easiest ways to transition to more responsibility is to do more of what you already like for different clients or accounts. It’s easy to make this case to your boss. Start by saying, “I’m noticing that I love [meeting vendors/prepping talking points/coordinating interviews]. I’d love to take on more of that.” You should also start thinking about what tasks someone else handles that you could do too. Asking for that can be a little trickier, because you haven’t proven yourself. Try something like, “I’d love a chance to try my hand at [whatever]. I’m already very up to speed because I did all the support work. What do you think about my writing a first draft of the memo?” Provide a reason why it makes sense to give you a try, and also proactively suggest a way to make it work.

Be ready to handle the work you asked for. Before you ask for more, be realistic. Notice how crunched you are for time. Ask someone who already performs this function how much of her day it takes. If you have any doubt, wait. Because once you ask and gain the added responsibility, you also get some elevated expectations. If you drop the ball, your boss will probably question why you asked for more than you could handle. She may think you’re overloaded and hesitate to give you more responsibility or a promotion down the road. Like champagne, sushi, or apple cake, responsibility is a great thing—but it’s best savored slowly.