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6 Ways to Get What You Want at Work, Without Looking Like a Jerk

It can be hard to ask for what you want at work, especially when you're anticipating a lot of push-back. But, when it comes to important things like salary or work-life balance or working conditions, it's essential not to give up. Here are a few tips for getting what you want at work, without alienating your co-workers, clients, or boss.

It can be hard to ask for what you want at work, especially when you’re anticipating a lot of push-back. But, when it comes to important things like salary or work-life balance or working conditions, it’s essential not to give up. Here are a few tips for getting what you want at work, without alienating your co-workers, clients, or boss.

jerkface cat

(Photo Credit: Felinest/Flickr)

1. Do your homework to get the paycheck you deserve.

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Any difficult conversation is better attempted after thorough preparation. This is especially true when it comes to salary negotiations. Do your homework in advance so that you know what you’re worth and have the data to back it up. Develop strategies for the negotiation itself, and head to the meeting feeling super prepared. Use PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide to help you. It has everything you need to research, strategize, and finally, negotiate. You’ll come off as prepared and professional – nothing more and nothing less.

2. Listen as well (and as much) as you talk.

Being a good listener is more important than is immediately obvious. It improves your communications, and thus, your relationships. In addition, good listening skills help others trust and respect you, and listening is a favor that people want to return. If you’ve been there for others, they’ll be there for you. Work on becoming a better listener, and the next time you have something you need to talk about, it’ll be a lot easier to get the assistance you’re looking for.

3. Say “yes” to what you can in order to hold on to the “no” that you need.

When you’re asked to do something in business, it’s super tough to say no without looking like a jerk. Instead of downright refusing the task, try saying yes to the aspects of the request that you can handle. Make a point to be helpful, and then explain why you think you might not be the best person to help with other aspects of the request. It can be extra tough to say no to your boss, but if you keep your response short and simple, and if you show you’re willing to help, you won’t come off looking like a jerk for drawing a line.

4. Don’t hang with jerks.

If you don’t want to be seen as a jerk, avoid folks who have already gained this reputation around the office. Who you spend time with says a lot about you. If someone is known to be moody, angry, bitter, negative, etc., it’s best to not spend too much time around them. First of all, the negativity could rub off on you, and secondly, people could get the wrong impression of you if they draw conclusions based on how you’re choosing to spend your time.

5. Even when you know you’re right, embrace humility, and be willing to compromise.

It can be easy to get super fired up when you know you’re right about something and desperately want others to see the situation the way that you do. But, be very careful to not come off as arrogant when asking for what you need. Instead, try a humble approach, and demonstrate that you are willing to compromise. Just be sure to go into the conversation or the negotiation knowing where you’re able to bend, and where you can’t. Then, do some bending. It will help others give a little on their end too.

6. Explain how it’s not about what’s best for you…

When asking for what you want at work, try to use the word “I” as little as possible. Talk about “we” and stay focused on the company. You’re looking out for everyone here, not just yourself. Show your boss, or whoever it is you need to talk with about your request, that you aren’t being selfish here – you’d really like to do what’s best for the entire organization.

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How do you get what you want at work without looking like a jerk? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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10 Comments on "6 Ways to Get What You Want at Work, Without Looking Like a Jerk"

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the employment Lady

Nice Job as always, Gina. I enjoy reading your posts because they always bring in components of something for everyone. My grandmother said . . . ‘eat the fish and spit out the bones’. That was her wise way of saying take in what you chose to eat and throw out what you don’t. Learning and growing is a choice not a requirement.



Thank you for taking the time to write this article. Was it useful to me? Not really – I am a senior worker and I have absolutely NO HOPE of negotiating anything. It is my belief that most “corporate-ised” companies these days put profits first, then younger employees. Senior employees don’t get a look in as they are seen as dinosaurs. My company pays less than average for my current role. I am paid about 1/2 the rate of the previous employee that did this job, and he retired (early). I guess it’s my company’s view that I should retire… Read more »

Excellent article, there are many of us who eagerly read these weekly tips, who don’t take the time to post regularly. Postive feedback from positive readers will help drown out the negative?
Thank you.

What goes around, comes around
What goes around, comes around
nened stjepanovic – not getting much out of an article, in today’s world of overload of information – I understand. However, there is a person that put their time, thoughts and effort into this article for those who see fit, to read it. I truly believe that this world has forgotten about the human side; it’s too easy to get our Superman cape on from behind a keyboard. Calling this article high school and stating that I hope you don’t get paid for such advice…….really???? I hope you don’t get paid for spelling…Mr Ineviatble (take another look at your comment… Read more »

Actually, very good advice. Many of our younger employees (and a few of the old ones) would benefit by taking these basic principals to heart!

Glen Roden
you know what works for me doesn’t always work for another, advice, unless from a Godly person, even then I really evaluate, but for instance psychs, tell you whats wrong with you, your behavior, personality traits, etc, they are only human too, and 20 years ago, advice was for a mindset of working class individuals, now we have the entitlement class, so tell me psychs of 20 yrs in your trade, do you change all your philosophy now for your specific age group?, if so, then one of the philosophys were wrong. and advice for a 20 yr old wont… Read more »
For example: Hi (Boss), Is there any rhyme or reason behind why I was selected for so much (fill in the blank) time next week? Is it because I’m not trained, therefore, I can’t do such and such? Since I’m being trained on …today, will that be taken into consideration when … selects who is are going to process… and which … are going to …? If … needs the help next week, and also so I won’t “forget” what I’m taught today, can you maybe re-evaluate my … time next week and maybe put me on … instead, or… Read more »

Think that’s a bit harsh Nenad, I found the article to be helpful and although stripping back to basic business communication skills,sometimes it’s good to be reminded of them :-). Keep on writing!

nenad stjepanovic

This is a fantasy writing for high school students. I hope you do not make money making such advices to professionals. I never experience any growth a good deal of confrontation. In todays’s world of values and relations it is ineviatble

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