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How to ask your boss for more responsibility
Whether you’re chasing a salary increase, promotion, title change, or you’re proactively seeking opportunities to upskill, asking your boss for more job responsibilities can be a tricky task. On one hand, you want to prepare for the next stage of your career. On the other hand, you need to make sure you’re still meeting expectations within your current scope of work – the last thing you want to do is inadvertently increase your workload to a point where it’s no longer manageable.
Balancing more responsibility while managing your existing workload can be challenging, which is why it’s important to have a plan in mind to help you move forward. If you’re looking to step up in your career and increase your experience and skills, here are a few tips on how to ask for more responsibility at work – and be successful in getting a balanced outcome.
Be very clear on the responsibilities you want to take on
Before you speak to anyone in your organisation, you must be crystal clear on the skills you want to develop, or the areas where you’d like to gain more experience. Without this, you risk taking on tasks and investing time in projects that won’t help you reach your end goal.
If you’re looking to take on a new promotion, look at the skills and responsibilities of your co-workers who currently hold those roles. This will help you get an idea of what you’ll need to upskill in. From there, you can start to identify exactly where you should focus your extra time and effort to help you move up in your career.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a pay rise, you’ll need to identify where you can add value for the company to justify an increase in salary. Focus on projects or tasks that can help the business save on time or increase profitability.
Look for opportunities to make an impact
More responsibility can be a good thing but you need to demonstrate how your extra projects or tasks will add value for your company. Once you’ve listed out the responsibilities you potentially want to take on, go through and carefully evaluate these benefits for the business. Then, pick and choose the ones that you believe will deliver the most tangible impact. This will help you put together a strong business case for your manager.
If you’re working on a project, remember to come with a clear timeline, objectives, and KPIs so your manager is clear on the investment and the outcome. If it’s an ongoing role, try to evaluate how it can impact the business over time: for example, if it’s productivity-related, you could set an expected amount of hours saved per month.
Arm yourself with new skills
It’s a bit of a ‘chicken or egg’ scenario: do you take on more responsibilities to learn new skills, or do you take on more responsibilities because you’ve learnt new skills? Ideally, you will continually learn in your role, but it can never hurt to gain additional skills on the side and bolster your argument for taking on more advanced or complex tasks at work.
Look for development opportunities – online courses, books and training modules – that you can take advantage of, to ready yourself for when those new responsibilities come your way. And don’t forget to let your boss know about those newly-acquired skills when the time is right.
Come with a plan and options
Your boss’ KPIs are linked with yours, so be prepared for questions around how you will be able to manage your current workload and performance with added responsibilities. One of the best ways to get them onboard with the idea is to present a plan detailing how you will free up time to be able to take on more work – will you delegate some tasks to someone else? Or can you improve your productivity by streamlining processes?
By demonstrating that you have considered how to handle your existing scope along with extra projects, you’ll reassure your boss that your new tasks won’t impact your current role.
But be prepared for some pushback. If this is the case, listen to your manager’s concerns and note them down, then come back with solutions in a follow-up meeting.
Choose your timing and words wisely
If your boss is stressed out or you’re approaching a busy period at work, it could be more difficult for the company to consider letting you take on more responsibility. While there is never the “perfect time” to ask your manager for additional tasks, timing can play a big role in driving a successful outcome.
There are some great opportunities to discuss a step up in responsibilities: at your mid-year or end-of-year review, during less busier times in the year or ahead of a company restructure or staff leaving the business, for example. On top of this, how you talk to your boss can have a big impact: try to frame it as discussing ideas to improve your department, or taking some of the workload off your manager’s shoulders, rather than saying, “I want to gain more experience” or “I need this for a promotion”.
Find out where help is needed
Your boss likely has a lot on their plate and may not know where additional support is needed across the business. Although you should be prioritising your own workload, it can be helpful to look at other teams and departments to find out where there’s an opportunity for you to take on new or additional responsibilities.
With the right approach, branching out from your team can be an excellent networking opportunity and help you put your best foot forward for promotions in other areas of the business. Make sure this is all clearly discussed with your boss first, though, as you don’t want to be seen as neglecting your current responsibilities.
Remember, it’s a dialogue
No matter what the outcome is, asking for more responsibility demonstrates to your boss that you’re proactive, you take initiative, and that you’re willing to grow. While you may get a “no” to this specific pitch, don’t be discouraged – at least you’ve started the conversation.
If your manager is aware that you want to take on more, they may find new projects or more opportunities for you, or work with you to find an alternative solution. Don’t forget: teamwork makes the dream work, and by working together you can find the best outcome for everyone involved.