Communicate your needs & career goals openly with boss

There’s too much mental telepathy at work these days.

Imagine how much easier it would be if everyone simply stated what they wanted. Rather than doing a slow burn or making grand assumptions about other people’s motives, we might actually start getting our needs met.


Take, for example, a friend of mine, who announced to her boss years ago, that once she had established herself, she wanted to work on a specific project. Years later, she is still managing that account and has been satisfied on the job. If her manager hadn’t known what she wanted, he wouldn’t have been able to steer her development in that direction.


Or, consider the case of the job candidate who would rather have more time off than an extra $3,000 dollars. If she had stated that up front, her employer would have been more than happy to grant her request. Instead, she ends up taking too much sick time, which irritates her boss and makes her feel guilty.


Another case is the woman who really just wants to be appreciated by her manager for all the hard work and extra hours she puts in. Rather than tell her boss what she wants, which she feels would sound too needy, she complains to her friends, who tell her to look for a different job. In the meantime, her manager is reluctant to tell her how much he appreciates her, for fear she’ll ask for more money.


So much is left unsaid at work; it begins to feel like a game of charades. “Two syllables…sounds like…” (Boss, can’t you see that I’m bored to death?)


At work, just as in life, the people who know how to ask for things seem to get ahead faster than the people who hope others can read their minds. What do you really want? Here are some ways to ask for it:


Do you want more money?

If you like your job, or at least want to stay with your employer, go to your manager and say, “I’d like to expand my responsibilities.  Would you be willing to work with me to do that? Eventually, I’d like to earn more money and I’m willing to work hard to be worth it.” Be ready to talk about your career goals and your interests. You may have some ideas about which areas you would like to expand into. You may need to go back to school or even transfer out of the department to grow your responsibilities but you won’t make more money until you are worth more and can add more value. Expecting to be paid more because you’ve been there a long time won’t cut it.


Do you want to move up?

Talk to your manager—and others-- about what you will need to do. Schedule lunches or informal meetings with people in your organization, who have moved up. Ask them to tell their stories about how they did it and what it takes. Make your intentions known to the Human Resources department. Raise your hand for committee work and cross-functional assignments. Most important, look for opportunities to act in a leadership role by spearheading new projects or offering to fill in when the boss is gone.


Do you want more free time or flexible hours?

If you are a great performer, you will have a much better chance to write your ticket to more freedom. Before you approach your manager, think through his or her potential concerns. How will the work get done? Will other people want the same thing? What about coverage? Then be specific with your request. For example, perhaps you can work four longer days and leave work at noon on Fridays. Maybe you could cover for a colleague, who does a similar arrangement but takes Monday mornings off. Or, perhaps you want to be home to greet your children after school. Perhaps you could come in early and do some extra tasks that would make it easier for your colleagues when they arrive.


Do you want more feedback?

It always surprises me how many managers fail to give their employees even a basic amount of feedback and guidance. Approach your manager and say, “From time to time I’d like to stop in to get some feedback from you on how I’m doing. Would that be okay with you? Occasionally, I’d also like to get some advice on how to approach projects or clients. Would you like to set these sessions up as meetings or should I just stop in?” This should be a wake up call to your manager that he or she isn’t giving you enough one-on-one time.


Don’t spend another day in quiet desperation. Ask for what you want and if they can’t or won’t give it to you, at least you know it’s time to find someone who will.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
About Joan Lloyd
Joan Lloyd & Associates provide
FREE subscription to receive Joan's article by email

Email Joan to submit your question for consideration for publication, request permission to reprint an article for distribution, or for information about carrying Joan Lloyd's weekly column in your publication, or on your Internet or Intranet site. Visit to search an archive of more than 1700 of Joan's articles.
© Joan Lloyd & Associates, Inc.