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How to ask for more responsibility at work

You’re keen to advance your skills, seize opportunities and show you’re a self-starter who takes career development seriously.

If you just sit back and wait to be given new responsibilities, however, you could be jeopardising your chances to learn and grow. After all, employers love employees with drive. It’s one of the top eight skills they look for.

But what’s the best way to ask for more responsibility at work? And what’s the best timing?

Follow these tips to kickstart the process.

Assess timing for your workplace

 Assess if the timing is right to approach your employer. Start by think about factors like whether:

  • your organisation is under pressure to finish a mega project
  • your boss is under the gun with a big initiative
  • it’s the busiest time for your workplace
  • your workplace is undergoing major and disruptive change.

While there might not be a perfect time to open the discussion, aim for a time when your boss can at least focus. Consider these types of logical times:

  • performance review meeting
  • scheduled one-on-one meeting
  • budget planning session
  • end of a major project.

Assess timing for yourself

 Ask if the timing is right for yourself. Think about these questions:

  • Do you already have too much on your plate?
  • Will your work quality suffer if you take on added responsibilities (no matter how badly you want them)?
  • Are you operating at the top of your game and are 100 per cent ready to seize new opportunities?

Also, factor in your personal life. Will taking on new responsibilities have a negative impact on your relationships and/or friendships?

Capitalise on workplace priorities and goals

Be clear about aligning your added responsibilities to your organisation’s goals. This will demonstrate you’ve thought about business priorities. It therefore helps to assess if your extra responsibilities will support:

  • launching a new initiative
  • implementing a change management plan
  • saving time or money
  • fast tracking an urgent priority
  • establishing fruitful relationships that can lead to new business.

Map your professional development

If you haven’t mapped your professional development, you might not be in the best position to ask for new responsibilities as a business proposition.

Here’s how to map your professional development.

Develop a proper pitch

Develop a proper pitch when asking for additional responsibilities. Focus messages on workplace benefits, not personal gain. When the success of the business is the centre of the conversation, the dialogue is about you adding value, which is a big win for employers.

To be crystal clear on your proposition, frame your case with carefully chosen words. Instead of “I need more responsibilities so I can get promoted.” try “The workplace will have less pressure if I do x, y and z.”

Also be precise about how your current role will be impacted and what solutions are at hand. Can you:

  • improve your productivity by streamlining processes?
  • delegate some work?
  • train a colleague to take over a chunk of your responsibilities to free you up?

Build new skills

Assess the skills you need to handle new responsibilities and arm yourself with these before expecting a win. There’s little point in asking for new opportunities if you don’t have the right skills.

You may think this is challenging because without added responsibilities you can’t gain skills. You can. Look for development opportunities, like online courses. Take training modules, read books and even think about pursuing more formal study.

Here are seven ways to upskill.


Be patient

Even though your initial discussion with your boss may result in a ‘no-go’, that doesn’t mean you should give up. Ask for a follow-up discussion, to keep the conversation going. Also ask your boss to outline any concerns about your ideas and then work on solutions.

Remember that taking on new responsibilities often results from ongoing dialogue so be patient. You’ve started the conversation and your motivation will be top of mind for your boss. The next time an opportunity arises, your boss will remember you’ve been proactive.

Avoid ultimatums

 Making ultimatums rarely works. If you threaten your boss by saying you’ll look for a job elsewhere if you don’t get assigned additional responsibilities, you’ll likely leave a very bad impression. And that won’t get you anywhere.

Want to learn more?

 How to move up the career ladder

2021: Take the bull by the horns

Time to dive into a career change?

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