Stop Asking for Things

“Know your worth.” How many times have you heard that phrase? It’s probably one of the most commonly uttered pieces of career advice. Somehow, that very broad statement has come to mean asking for something. That “something” is usually a raise, promotion or perq. And, generally, it’s good advice. There’s nothing wrong with knowing your value and asking for it. But, when should you stop asking?

Mad MenI’m a huge fan of the series “Mad Men.” In that series, the main character, Don Draper, is an unlikely source for all kinds of career and life wisdom. In one famous episode, he has an exchange with Peggy Olson, his protégé. It’s the late ‘50’s, and women are not treated well in Corporate America. Peggy’s no exception. But, when she asks Don for her next bump up the ladder, for which she’s not ready, he rightfully says, “You’re good. Get better. Stop asking for things.” That quote has been emblazoned on my brain ever since because I’ve wanted to say it so many times in the course of my career.

In my experience, the employees who ask are often the people who don’t deserve it. They’re heavy on courage and light on self-awareness. In my last blog, I talked about ‘A players.’ A players rarely have to ask for things. They distinguish themselves with hard and smart work. They produce and managers notice. It’s really that simple.

In my 22-year career, I’ve never once asked for a raise. Anyone who knows me would tell you that I don’t lack in the courage department nor do I tend to undervalue myself. But, I am usually very focused on the task at hand…A.K.A. my job. My approach has been to focus on excellence in performance and the rest will follow. And, it has. In one of my previous roles, I took on two new departments. My first thought was not, “I need to get paid for the new workload.” Instead, I thought, “How can I turn these two departments into bottom line contributors?” Within two months, my boss saw momentum in my new organization and gave me a significant raise out of the blue.

Feel like you’re always asking for things? Consider a few things:

  1. Your boss is smart and decent. He/she likely understands the business and your contribution. It’s rare that true ‘A players’ get overlooked. Superstars make life easier for managers. They reduce worry and workload.
  2. Pay attention to feedback. If your manager consistently points out areas for improvement, believe them and address them. Come up with a meaningful plan for improvement and make your boss part of that plan. People want to help those who help themselves.
  3. Stop looking at what other people have. I’ve found that envy often drives people to ask for things. I can’t tell you how many times employees have asked me for promotions and raises based on merely seeing other people move up the ladder. It’s petty, and most managers see through it. Focus on yourself, and the rest will fall into place.
  4. Believe in yourself. The world is full of opportunity. If you feel like you’re always (legitimately) asking and not receiving, maybe it’s time to move on. Over the weekend, I was reading about the new head coach of the San Francisco 49’ers, Jim Tomsula. Tomsula has a fascinating background. He started his coaching career at his high school alma mater and eventually became the 19th head coach of the storied 49’ers franchise. There were some notable and unusual detours along the way, including two stints in sales roles outside of football to support his family. Through it all, one thing remained constant: his belief in himself and his desire to coach in the NFL. We can all learn something from that.




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