Self-advocacy means speaking up for yourself and the things that are important to you. When you advocate for yourself, it means that you understand your responsibilities and rights, and you can express what you need or want effectively. Self-advocacy is the ability to assert your interests, rights, needs, and desires through effective communication with others.

In the workplace, self-advocacy is essential for a variety of reasons. You need to be able to stand up for yourself if you are being harassed in the workplace. You also need to advocate for yourself if you need to secure accommodations if you have become disabled or you are dealing with other issues in your personal life that could affect your work.

You also need to learn how to advocate for yourself when you are asking for a raise, reporting a workplace injury, or requesting an extension of a deadline for a large project. Learning how to advocate for yourself can give you the confidence you need to excel in your career.

Advocating for yourself in the workplace can be challenging. Fear of retaliation, being ignored, or being mocked for knowing when to advocate for yourself can make you think twice before speaking up. 

However, learning how to advocate for yourself at work can give you more opportunities. It can also give you a sense of accomplishment and confidence in your abilities and qualities. 

By taking the time to learn how to advocate for yourself at work, you have a better chance of being heard and having your views taken seriously. 

Trust Yourself

Learning how to advocate for yourself involves learning to trust yourself. Having confidence in your abilities and your beliefs is critical to learning how to advocate for yourself at work. Believe that what you are asking for is what you deserve. 

For example, if you do not believe that you deserve a raise, your supervisor is not likely to believe it either. Before you walk into the office, make a list of your accomplishments to support the fact that you are a valuable member of the team, and you deserve to be compensated for your contributions to the company.

Know Your Rights

You cannot advocate for yourself if you do not know your legal rights. Being familiar with legal protections as an employee and your rights under various laws gives you the information you need to stand up for yourself when those rights are being violated.

Some of the important rights we have as employees include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – Protects employees against discrimination and harassment based on sex, race, national origin, religion, and color.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act – Protects employees from discrimination based on an extensive list of impairments and protects the rights of an employee to seek reasonable accommodations for disabilities. 
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 – Protects workers who are 40 years or older from age-based employment discrimination. 
  • Fair Labor Standards Act – Sets standards for wages and overtime pay. 
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act – Regulates and monitors safety and health standards for workers in most private industries. 

Also, make sure that you take the time to learn about various agencies and government organizations that can help you advocate for yourself in the workplace. 

For example, if you are injured, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can be a valuable source for information and support for workplace safety. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces civil rights laws in the workplace. 

Communicate Directly

None of us are mind readers. Your co-workers and superiors cannot know what you think if you do not express your thoughts and feelings. Effective communication is the only way to get what you need or want.

To advocate for yourself in the workplace, you need to learn practical communication skills. Open, direct, and honest communication is the backbone of learning how to advocate for yourself at work. Developing these skills can help you stand up for yourself in a variety of situations.

Be Honest

Sometimes, being honest with others is very difficult. It means that you need to speak your mind, even though your opinions and thoughts might directly conflict with your co-workers and superiors. 

Learning how to advocate for yourself at work means you must learn how to be honest when you are asked for input and in all critical situations. Being honest about your opinion at work can help you showcase your abilities and skills. It allows your superiors to see how valuable you are to the team and the company.

Take Charge

Lastly, when you learn how to advocate for yourself, you are also learning how to take care of your needs. You need to take responsibility for taking the steps that place your best interests first, such as reporting sexual harassment, filing reports if you experience a workplace injury, and standing up for yourself whenever your best interests are threatened. 

You are the one who must advocate for yourself at work. Others may not be willing or able to look out for you in the workplace, and it is not any else’s responsibility to do so. That responsibility falls on you and no one else.

Learning how to advocate for yourself at work can take time. Speaking up for yourself can be intimidating in some situations. Remember, you are your best advocate and you have all the abilities necessary to take care of yourself at work and in all areas of your life.