How to ask your boss for more meaningful work

While a paycheck is important, many people question trading their time for money. According to a McKinsey survey, 70% of US-based employees say their work defines their purpose, and nearly half are reconsidering the type of work they do due to a shift in priorities during the pandemic.

However, rather than leaving your current employer to find a more fulfilling job, it’s possible to find a greater sense of purpose, says Soon Yu, author of Friction: Creating value by having people work for it.

One of the greatest perks of work is that it gives meaning to effort. It can be to learn something, to teach something, or to get better at something and demonstrate mastery. A big part of the rewards of a hard day’s work is knowing who you’ve helped, how you’ve grown the business, or what you’ve proven to yourself today. Often these times are based on times when you faced adversity and overcame it.

While organizations recognize the need to provide opportunities for professional development, mentoring and career advancement, employees can and should ask for them. However, how you approach your request will likely affect your success.

How to style the question

Don’t leave the request in their laps, says Ken Coleman, author of From Paycheck to Purpose: The Clear Path to the Work You Love. “You might create a bit of unnecessary tension even if you end up helping your boss,” he says. “Instead, you can be like an attorney in a courtroom and lead them down the path to what you’re actually asking.”

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Do this by casting a vision. Coleman recommends showing hunger cloaked in humility. For example: “I am grateful for this company and the job I have. I want to grow professionally and I’ve looked in my heart and examined my talents, what I enjoy doing and what results are important to me.”

“I call it talent, passion and mission,” says Coleman. “Talent is what I’m good at. Passion is what I like to do. And my mission speaks to the values ​​and results I want to create with my work.”

Next, ask what you need to get there, e.g. B. additional training, new tasks or additional responsibilities. Make sure you relate the effort to the expected results and show your boss what to expect from you in the future.

“Give your boss a picture of what it’s going to be like if you use the specific talents,” says Coleman. “They want to create more value for the company. That kind of specificity and vision casting will win them over as participants and help gain their endorsement.”

For example, you could say, “Do you think there’s an opportunity to make a small adjustment to my current job? I spend half of my day doing the work I love and I would like to increase that to 80%. I believe that the extra time I devote to this type of work will bring some benefit [this benefit].”

Yu agrees that it’s important that your request demonstrates the value you will bring to the company. Another good way to phrase the question is to say, “I’d like to get better at what I do, but I need help. I’m willing to put in the extra time and effort if you’re willing to help me. I would really like to take a course related to this project I am working on. I look forward to sharing what I have learned with the team.”

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“Your boss would have to be an asshole to say ‘no,’ especially when you come in with some specific things that would help your mastery and autonomy,” says Yu. “If it’s within your authority, the boss will probably take you to court.”

But don’t ask if you’re not willing to put in the extra time and effort. “If you fall flat on your face, you might not be as likely to get the second favor,” says Yu.

Meaningful work also makes sense for your boss

Leading employees who excel in their roles and add value to the company will reflect well on bosses. “Now you’re her protégé,” says Yu. “If it’s in their power or if they campaign for it or can campaign for it, they will try to give you an opportunity to do it [put] meaningful work into practice.”

“There is humility [in] say, ‘I want to bring more to the table,'” adds Coleman. “It’s usually very attractive. What happens with that kind of attitude is you bring your manager into the equation and not just say, ‘Hey, I want this.'”

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