Convincing Your Boss to Offer More Responsibility

Don’t expect your boss to voluntarily increase your responsibilities once you’ve mastered your current duties. If you want to lead a project team, spearhead a new initiative or take on a stretch assignment, you’ll need to present a compelling case to your manager.

“I’ll never know that you’re interested in working on a particular project unless you talk to me about it,” said Brenda Cooper, CIO of Kirkland, Wash., a city of about 85,000 residents located just east of Seattle. “Even though I can’t always make promises, it’s an important discussion to have.”

However, raising your hand may not be enough. Convincing your boss to let you take on greater responsibilities requires a strategic plan, persistence and the execution of important communication fundamentals.

See the Bigger Picture

The more your pitch supports the company’s business plan or the needs of end users, the better it will resonate. Remember, you’re not entitled to anything, and managers can’t justify personnel moves or technology investments that aren’t mutually beneficial. From your manager’s perspective, there’s no compelling reason to act on an idea that carries excessive risk or costs too much money.

“Explain how moving into a new role or adding a new tool or program will benefit the organization,” said Kelly Walsh, CIO at The College of Westchester in White Plains, N.Y. “Demonstrating your knowledge of the organization and IT’s mission boosts your credibility.”

Be Persistent

Unless your proposal solves an urgent talent shortage or rescues a troubled project, your boss probably won’t grant your request right away. It usually takes time to build the necessary alliances and support for the adoption of new technology or cutting-edge projects.

For instance, the GIS group in Kirkland proposed a series of smart city initiatives. But in government circles, leaders usually take their time when considering major technology changes. So the group continued to ply Cooper with facts and information to keep their idea alive.

“Email links to news articles and research reports to demonstrate the trend, the benefits and why your idea can work,” Cooper suggested.

Being persistent demonstrates your sincere interest in an expanded role or project and helps to educate your management team and other stakeholders on the potential benefits and ROI. The key is thinking about how you can carefully usher your idea through the approval process by winning critical endorsements. Tailor your approach toward the politics, policies and culture of your boss and the organization, and don’t get discouraged.

Have the Right Attitude

How you communicate your ideas is just as important as what you communicate. For instance, it’s not a good idea to cite boredom or dissatisfaction with your current role as the reason for your request. Instead, nestle your ideas inside a positive framework by being enthusiastic and talking about your desire to learn new things and grow.

“Whining won’t get you anywhere,” Cooper noted. “Don’t tell me that you’re bored with running reports because every job has some busywork or tasks you’d rather not do. That’s not a valid reason to expand someone’s responsibilities.”

Anticipate and Answer Your Boss’s Concerns

Anticipating and handling objections is the trademark of successful sales people. For instance, who will take your place if you transition to another project? How much will your initiative cost and will it take resources away from other projects? Managers naturally fear changes that upset the balance of power or disrupt the status quo. How you respond to your boss’s questions and concerns will play a large role in your success or failure.

“Invest some of your own time learning a new tool or researching the impact of a project before you approach your boss,” Walsh advised. “If there are staff or budget constraints, volunteer to take it on as a side project or ask if you can work on it part-time while you establish proof-of-concept.”

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