Why it's important to speak up for yourself


Navigating the world of business is sometimes tricky. There are so many gotchas to know that sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what the next best plan of action is. Despite the somewhat daunting task of figuring out the details of business we do have some tools in our arsenal that can help to guide us in the moments where we can often be indecisive.

One truth that I've found to be invaluable is that no one cares about you more than yourself.

Why is this seemingly narcissistic idea something important? The reason is revealed once you understand how business views the statement. You see "business" doesn't have feelings. It doesn't operate on warm fuzzies. It operates on cold, sometimes ruthless principles of growth and the bottom line. Sure there are nice mottos and good intentions but at it's core it is a machine. So when I say "no one cares about you more than you" what I'm really getting at is that in a business context, no one is looking out for your best interests more than yourself. The business doesn't "think" about you. People who may think about you have jobs too and in turn lots of other things to think about. In fact I bet if you were honest and asked yourself when was the last time I was really thinking hard about a co-workers job situation the answer would be almost never. The good part is that's totally OK. You see, YOU are the person in charge of thinking about yourself! You get yourself to work in the morning, do your job and (hopefully) do it well. You request vacation, you request sick leave and you get the paycheck when it's all said and done! You may have some great co-workers or bosses that genuinely do care for your well being or career, but at the end of the day it is your job to make sure that you are thinking about your job and where you're going.

Why is this important to understand? Because it helps create motivation for otherwise loathsome situations. An example: I recently went on parental leave for the birth of my daughter. No strange occurrence by any stretch of the imagination. My company happens to offer paid paternal leave for new fathers but it isn't terribly well documented and, more importantly, it isn't automatic. Through my own oversight I didn't realize that this paid leave was available so I used my vacation time instead... fast forward a few weeks and I (note, not anyone else, ME) found out about the leave and immediately took the necessary steps to correct the situation. The results of my actions were not only did I get the paid leave but I also got back the accrued vacation I had used.

The point of the story is that I had to take charge because no one cares more about me than me. No one at my business reached out and said, "Hey, I see you tried to use vacation for your parental leave. Did you know we actually offer the leave to you as part of your employment? How about we go ahead and use that so you can keep your vacation?!". The real kicker is that it actually took several weeks of talking to HR to get it straight. I sometimes found myself waiting for a return email from HR only to be reminded, "Oh yeah, they are busy and probably forgot. No one cares more about me than me...sends email to HR". It took some diligence and sometimes some prodding of the HR department but in the end it was made right and everyone is hunky dory.

The example above is just one of the many situations where you need to understand how business operates and then take action. You need to be your own mascot. Remember too that sometimes you may feel like you're being pushy. Truth of the matter is that maybe true BUT if that isn't your goal and if you remain patient and professional, it is totally appropriate to sometimes "poke" the people you need to get action out of. Keep in mind two things when you do that. 1) They are busy and so the "poke" is just a means of saying, "Hey there! Still waiting to hear from you!" and 2) you need to respect the answer given especially if the answer is, "I'm sorry but I can't help you right now" (or some variant thereof). The important bit is to take note of the right now portion or ask about it if they are unclear. If they aren't clear about when they can help you then ask when the next best time to get in touch would be. As long as their answer it is reasonable, be respectful of their time even if it means that you don't get results straight away. If that person seems unwilling to work with you, then perhaps it is time to seek out someone who will.

I hope this encourages you today to take action on something that would otherwise go unchanged. Be bold and use your understanding to change a situation in your favor.