Advocating at Work

What would you change at work and how would you do it? As young professionals in a very hostile job market it can be difficult to face work environments that don’t give us everything our generation expects. We’ve got a laundry list of things we want and probably should have:

  • Good benefits
  • Decent salary that keeps up with cost of living 
  • Flexible work hours 
  • Telecommuting opportunities 
  • Lots more! 
But we’re like houses in the current housing market – there are lots of us, meaning oodles of choices and good deals for the buyers (or employers in this case). 
But once you have a job and you’re settled into work you have a new opportunity to advocate for the things you want. Only, the gutsyness we were raised with seems to be steadily fading away. If you take an issue or suggestion to your employer and their response is ‘you’re lucky to be employed’, this isn’t very encouraging, and you might be unlikely to try again in the near future. 
Junior staff at an organization one of my peers works for gathered a list of issues, suggestions, and questions for HR and the higher-ups to address. I think coming together as a collective is a great way to approach this, especially for less experienced workers. But the staff didn’t want to turn in this document before reviews because they were afraid it would affect any potential raises. So when is a good time to advocate for yourself and your benefits? It seems like the logical time would be around reviews but young workers seem to be scared that speaking up will end up hurting rather than helping in the long run. And maybe it will be more harmful – There seem to be organizations that are mistrusting of young staff – higher-ups see them as flighty, uncommitted, and too expensive as it is. But the truth is, young professionals might stick around longer if they were better taken care of. Unfortunately, the current model in many non-profits seems to be: get out to move up. So how can we become loyal employees who are taken seriously when we’re not likely to get ahead in our organization? It’s a bad cycle. 
I think that there are office cultures out there that embrace the better model: If you take care of your employees, they will take care of you. But I really want to know the best way to advocate for yourself in an organization that doesn’t function this way. 
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