Do you ever notice that some people seem to have no trouble getting what they want?  What is it about them?  Maybe they’re more confident.  Or smarter.  Or lucky.  Who knows?  While some of those things may be true, it might be simpler than that.  It could be that they spoke up.  Could it be that simple?  Would it work to speak up to get what you want?  It definitely can make a difference.

The Job I Didn’t Get

I got this lesson pretty early in my career.  In my first job out of college, I was on a technical help desk.  There were quite a few younger people.  It was a great place to get your foot in the door.

I did well.  Very well.  Not to toot my own horn, but I quickly became one of the model help desk agents. Other people sought me out for questions.  They’d ask technical questions or how to deal with customers.  It was a great feeling, especially for my first real job.

A few months in, an announcement came out that one of my colleagues had been made a team lead.  He was also in the group of people that were doing really well.  He definitely deserved it.  Still, I was a bit bummed.  After all, how did he get this advancement?

Well, it turns out, he spoke up!

After a few days of being a bit down, I went to the group manager.  I explained that while I was happy for my colleague, I was disappointed that I hadn’t been considered.

The manager looked at me and said that he didn’t know I was interested, because I’d never told him as much.

Right then and there, I told him that I was interested.  And you know what?  When the next team lead opportunity came up, guess who was given the opportunity?

That’s right, yours truly.

I learned the lesson that you have to ask for what you want.  You can’t just take for granted that someone knows what you want.

How else can this apply?  Let’s look at a few recent examples.

Missing Coupons

We do a lot of our grocery shopping at Meijer.  They have a rewards program where you clip coupons electronically,

image from Morguefile courtesy of WalterWhite

and then redeem them by entering your phone number at the register.  Every so often they give you personalized coupons, based on your shopping history.  These ‘just for you’ coupons are usually pretty good, since they’re based on items you frequently buy.

My wife got an e-mail with a few coupons, some of which of course were great for us.  But, when she logged in to her account, they weren’t there.  We waited a couple of days, but they never arrived.

Now, in cases like this, you can often forget about them, or just let it go.  That’s the easy thing to do.  But I wasn’t going to do that.  Nope, I decided to speak up.

I sent them an e-mail and explained the situation.  They wrote back and said that they were aware of a glitch in their most recent batch of e-mails, and said that in order to make it up, they’d added a flat $8 coupon to come off our next shopping trip.

This was awesome.  Looking at the coupons we got, we probably wouldn’t have used enough to get $8 in savings.  Plus, we can now save the money without having to buy the associated item.  We have more freedom and more money.  And, the only ones that got anything are the ones that decided to speak up.

That Time I Asked For A Raise

A few years ago, I’d had enough.  Our company made it through the recession without a lot of layoffs, but the tradeoff is that we went for quite a stretch without getting a raise.  I accepted this for awhile, but after a certain point, enough was enough.

I waited until I was in the middle of a key project, and then asked for a raise.  Without hesitation, they granted me the raise and gave me what I asked for.   Now, I know that a few others spoke up and also got a raise, but those who didn’t never got one.  At least not until the next wave of raises came out, but I got that too.

All because I wasn’t afraid to speak up.

Be Careful

You have to know when to draw the line.  You don’t want to speak up when the occasion isn’t appropriate.  For example, I knew that I could speak up about wanting the job because I was a solid performer.  I knew I could ask for the raise because I had gotten good reviews.  I also knew that the company was doing better and could afford the raise.  Faced with a situation when a job wasn’t going well, it’s best to stay quiet.

You have to take such things into consideration, or you’ll end up not getting what you want.  Plus, you could get the reputation of being outspoken, which might not be a good thing.  Still, if you learn to read the signs and the timing is right, speak up.  You’d be surprised at how often you’ll get what you want.

Readers, when have you spoken up and had something go your way?  Have you ever misread such a situation?