two male white collar professionals talking at work

With many employees undergoing or about to prepare for their mid-year reviews or appraisals, it’s an opportune time to review your career progression and implement actions that set you up for success.

One strategy that can be highly beneficial is increasing or expanding your scope when it comes to duties, tasks, accountabilities, and even the role. But whether you’re chasing a salary increase, promotion, title change, or you’re proactively seeking opportunities to upskill, asking your boss for more job responsibilities can be a tricky task.

On the one hand, you want to prepare for the next stage of your career. But, on the other hand, you need to make sure you are still meeting expectations within your current scope of work, as the last thing you want to do is inadvertently increase your workload to a point where it’s no longer manageable.

Related: 5 steps to creating your career plan

Balancing more responsibility while managing your existing workload can be challenging, which is why it’s crucial to have a plan in mind to help you move forward. If you’re looking to step up in your career and increase your experience and skills, here are a few tips on how to ask for more responsibility at work – and be successful in getting a balanced outcome.

Be very clear on the responsibilities you want to take on

Before you speak to anyone in your organisation, you must be crystal clear on the skills you want to develop or the areas where you’d like to gain more experience. Without this, you risk taking on tasks and investing time in projects that won’t help you reach your end goal.

If you’re looking to take on a new promotion, look at the skills and responsibilities of your co-workers who currently hold those roles. This will help you get an idea of what you’ll need to upskill in. From there, you can start to identify exactly where you should focus your extra time and effort to help you move up in your career.

Alternatively, suppose you’re looking for a pay rise. In that case, you’ll need to identify where you can add value for the company to justify a salary increase. Again, focus on projects or tasks that can help the business save on time or increase profitability.

Related: #BecomingTechies: how I became a pioneer cybersecurity strategist in Asia

Look for opportunities to make an impact

More responsibility can be a good thing, but you need to demonstrate how your extra projects or tasks will add value to your company. Once you’ve listed out the responsibilities you potentially want to take on, go through and carefully evaluate these benefits for the business. Then, pick and choose the ones that you believe will deliver the most tangible impact.

This will help you put together a strong business case for your manager. If you’re working on a project, remember to come with a clear timeline, objectives, and KPIs, so your manager is clear on the investment and the outcome.

If it’s an ongoing role, try to evaluate how it can impact the business over time. For example, if it’s productivity-related, you could set an expected amount of hours saved per month.

Arm yourself with new skills

It is a bit of a ‘chicken or egg’ scenario. Do you take on more responsibilities to learn new skills, or do you take on more responsibilities because you’ve learnt new skills? Ideally, you will continually learn in your role. However, it can never hurt to gain additional skills on the side and bolster your argument for taking on more advanced or complex tasks at work.

Look for development opportunities – online courses, books and training modules – that you can take advantage of to ready yourself for when those new responsibilities come your way. And don’t forget to let your boss know about those newly acquired skills when the time is right.

Related: 6 performance and career progression secrets they don’t teach you at school

Come with a plan and options

Your boss’ KPIs are linked with yours, so be prepared for questions around how you will be able to manage your current workload and performance with added responsibilities.

One of the best ways to get them on board with the idea is to present a plan detailing how you will free up time to take on more work – will you delegate some tasks to someone else? Or can you improve your productivity by streamlining processes?

By demonstrating that you have considered handling your existing scope and extra projects, you will reassure your boss that your new tasks won’t impact your current role.

But be prepared for some pushback. If this is the case, listen to your manager’s concerns and note them down, then come back with solutions in a follow-up meeting.

Choose your timing and words wisely

Suppose your boss is stressed out or you’re approaching a busy period at work. In that case, it could be more difficult for the company to consider letting you take on more responsibility. While there is never the “perfect time” to ask your manager for additional tasks, timing can significantly influence a successful outcome.

There are some great opportunities to discuss a step up in responsibilities. For example, at your mid-year or end-of-year review, during less busy times in the year or ahead of a company restructure or staff leaving the business.

On top of this, how you talk to your boss can have a significant impact: try to frame it as discussing ideas to improve your department, or taking some of the workloads off your manager’s shoulders, rather than saying, “I want to gain more experience” or “I need this for a promotion”.

Related: 7 crucial skills to adapt to the new future of work

Find out where help is needed

Your boss likely has a lot on their plate and may not know where additional support is needed across the business. Although you should be prioritising your workload, it can be helpful to look at other teams and departments to find out where there’s an opportunity for you to take on new or additional responsibilities. 

With the right approach, branching out from your team can be an excellent networking opportunity and help you put your best foot forward for promotions in other areas of the business. Ensure all is discussed with your boss first, though, as you don’t want to be seen as neglecting your current responsibilities.

Remember, it’s a dialogue

No matter what the outcome is, asking for more responsibility demonstrates to your boss that you’re proactive, you take the initiative, and that you’re willing to grow. So while you may get a “no” to this specific pitch, don’t be discouraged – at least you’ve started the conversation.

If your manager is aware that you want to take on more, they may find new projects or more opportunities or work with you to find an alternative solution. Don’t forget: teamwork makes the dream work, and by working together, you can find the best outcome for everyone involved.

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