Have you ever had this happen to you—you fantasize about asking for something (raise, promotion, going on a date, etc.) and when you get it you realize that you are receiving more than you expected? Before asking for what I want, I build a fantasy about what it will be like to get it. As an employee, I would dream about a flexible schedule, new office space, more income, how I would supervise staff, or how I would design a program. Before children I pictured myself volunteering, chaperoning and baking. I would become giddy with the possibilities of what might be. Unfortunately, fantasy and reality do not always align.
Something that I learned the hard way is that getting what you want is not always what it is cracked up to be and that sometimes there are unexpected consequences. For instance, when I became a supervisor for the first time I imagined that my team and I would work like a well-oiled machine and that it would be smooth sailing. HAH! My ideas did not take into consideration personalities, deadlines, or group dynamics. I had a huge learning curve on team building and individual preferences.
Or, when we had our first child, in my mind I skipped the first 5 years and only ran scenarios that would involve school, play dates and coordinating birthdays. I considered what I would control and I did not realize the impact she, and eventually her brother, would have on my life as an individual, as a parent and on my career on a daily basis.
Often we focus so much on getting what we want that we don’t consider what might actually happen, besides the obvious. Or, we don’t proceed with caution. We are quick to move forward, concentrate on the positives and we don’t pause to examine the potential risks.
Many people want a promotion. They desire a higher income bracket, a title change, more responsibilities, and/or the opportunity to supervise (more) individuals. When they get it they are excited for all of these reasons and more.
However, earning a promotion is more than just these obvious things. It involves a shift in attitude, producing more and increasing your emotional intelligence. It may require you to project yourself as a leader and to push yourself to develop professionally. You will have to invest in yourself.
Depending on the promotion, your former peers and friends may end up reporting to you, shifting the power dynamic in the relationship. This may include losing some friends while gaining new ones. Your peer group changes and that may require you starting off as the new kid on the block and spending time and energy building bridges.
What this also does is give you access to information once shielded from you. Ignorance is bliss and often being privy to behind closed-door conversations may result in you becoming more jaded about the organization, its willingness to change or the impact that you can have.
Your quality of life may be impacted. You may find yourself modifying your schedule to deliver a product or meet a deadline and have less free time for loved ones. Or, you may not have a chance to enjoy the additional vacation days you are entitled to because of work travel, etc. A promotion may result in you being more stressed and taking it out on friends and family.
As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. As you consider your next promotion, raise, life change, personal relationship, etc. it’s important to recognize what you are asking for will involve more than you expect. Understanding this will help you better negotiate your request, set more realistic expectations, prioritize items, or identify concessions you are willing to make. When you do get it you will be better prepared to deal with the unexpected and can spend more time on enjoying the experience.
The next time you get ready to make a request or negotiate, keep the following things in mind:
- Ask questions—Don't be afraid to talk to others or to ask the questions that you have. Don't assume that others will give you the information you need.
- Be clear on what you want and be flexible on how it can be met—Know what it is that you really want and be open to how the organization, supervisor, or other can provide it to you. If you are rigid about how it is achieved you will limit your likelihood of success. I have had more success when I have stayed focus on the outcome that I desire and not worried about the process.
- Make time to identify the long-term implications of what you desire—To better negotiate, think past the short-term gratification to determine what is it that you may expect and what else do you need to ask for. Picture yourself in a week’s time, three months into the future, a year or further down the line. Ask yourself how will you be different.
- Build on your past experiences—How many times have you said to yourself, I wish I would have known X or if I had only thought about Y. These are nuggets of information. Think about your successes and failures. My experience differed slightly each time I was promoted because I did things a little different in each position. What do you want to build on? What do you want to make sure you don’t lose sight of? What is important for you to negotiate?
- Stretch outside of your comfort zone—Yes, you may not have signed up for all that you are receiving and be open to how the opportunity may help you grow in other areas of your life.
- Prepare to receive—Consider what is it that you need to do to get ready to receive what you want. What attitudes or beliefs do you need to shift? What skills will you have to be ready to develop or learn? What boundaries do you have to put in place personally or professionally?
Your turn: In the comment section below, share an unexpected consequence of getting what you wanted and how you dealt with it.
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