You’ll Never Know Unless You Ask (Your Boss)



For as long as I can remember, I’ve always asked questions. I was lucky to have a parent that indulged and encouraged my curiosity and always treated me as an equal part of every equation. My thoughts and opinions mattered in our house. We lived by the saying “you’ll never know unless…you ask for it or you try it.” However, there came a point when I stopped believing “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” I believe this happens to many of us.

For me, this concept really hit around age 16 when my mom started refusing to do things for me: “It’s your car. If you need to get it fixed, you can call and make your own appointment.” At the time, we argued. She claimed I would need to learn to handle things on my own in the future and that I wouldn’t learn or grow without asking for the things I wanted. But I was still a kid, and she was the adult who knew how to do and handle all things “adult” like calling to make appointments. It seems silly now how terrified I was to make a phone call for something I needed.

At some point in our lives we lose our innocence and naivety. We become afraid of being judged. We allow this fear to take over, which results in missed opportunities. In my scenario, I lacked the courage to ask. I thought I was going to be judged negatively for how I made the call, for not understanding the appropriate lingo and for needing a repair in the first place. In reality, the local repair shop owner wasn’t going to judge me for setting up an oil change appointment; he wanted my business!

All I had to do was change my perspective by putting myself in the other person’s shoes. Your perspective defines how you see the world and how you view any situation you enter. Evaluating your perspective can help calm your fears of judgment, but it also can help you objectively play out scenarios that could happen. Every time you plan to make a request, there are variables you should take into consideration, such as financials, moods, long and short-term value, and workload.

These variables are important to evaluate when making a request of your company. In most cases, an employee is asking for some sort of professional development, but these variables can be applied to any request. The first request I ever made in my professional life was to ask if my company would pay for my Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification. Before asking my supervisor, I gauged the variables. My company was in a good financial place, and my supervisor had mentioned to me that she budgeted for certifications. Growth is a part of my company’s culture, so getting a certificate to show higher standards of practice was good for both long and short-term return value. Though we were in a growth period which usually includes increases in labor hours, the workload to complete the certification exam would require only my time and commitment. I completed all studying on my own time and built up the vacation pay to use when I sat for the exam. Since that first request, I have attended two national SHRM conferences, maintained my SHRM membership for four years, recertified for both my PHR and SHRM-CP credentials and completed my MBA with company support.

I don’t let fear stop me from asking. I simply look at the worst-case scenario. What can possibly happen if I ask this question? Most of the time that answer is that the company says “no.” “No” might mean “not right now” or “never”. Depending on your boss’s response, that “No” brings you back to the drawing board on your options to get what you want. You can decide to ask again later with more data to back up your request, give up the thought and stay as you are, or you can find a way to get what you want on your own.

But you’ll never know unless you ask.

Kayla Despres is a member of the 2018 SHRM Young Professional Council.



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