how to convince your boss to give you more responsibility

If you’d like to take on more responsibility – a new project, more senior-level work, or perhaps a leadership role – how can you convince your boss to give you a shot?

1. Be really great at what you’re already doing. This is easily the most important item on this list. Your manager is far, far more likely to give you more responsibility or more challenging work if you’re doing a great job with what you already have. Show that you can be counted to stay on top of what comes your way and that you approach whatever you’re assigned with excellence, and you’ll have already done a lot of the groundwork in showing your boss that you’re a smart risk for bigger assignments.

2. Have a plan to keep your existing work covered. Your boss might be perfectly willing – in theory – to let you work on that new high-profile project or to let you take on a whole new area of responsibility, but her bigger priority is probably ensuring that none of your existing work slips. Give some thought to how you can take on the new stretch assignment without giving short shrift to the rest of your work, and be ready with a plan that will set your boss’s mind at ease. (Of course, in some cases, the new work might be important enough that the plan might include delegating some of your existing projects to others, but make sure you’ve thought through the options and have a realistic proposal ready to go.)

3. Suggest something low-stakes. If your boss isn’t as enthused as you are about you branching into a new area, suggest something low-stakes at first so that if it doesn’t work out, the impact will be contained. For instance, if you’d like to get more management experience, you might propose managing the department’s interns before you take on managing full-time staff. Or if your goal is to eventually run important client meetings, you might propose just filling in for your boss when she can’t attend.

4. If all else fails, ask what you’d need to do to get a “yes” in the future. If you try all the above and don’t get results, ask your manager what you should work on in order to get a different answer down the road. A good manager should be able to give you candid feedback about what skills you need to develop in order to take on more responsibility in the future.

I originally published this at Intuit Quickbase.

{ 15 comments… read them below }

  1. Swarley*

    Great article! I especially like #2 on the list. On the flip side, it’s nice when your manager acknowledges your workload when he/she comes to you with a new project. I’m much more enthusiastic about taking on additional responsibility that’s assigned to me when there’s a discussion about what current work should be shifted, delegated out, etc.

    1. Hephinstine*

      Gosh yes. I asked my boss(es) for more responsibility, they ended up giving me a project that’s actually it’s own job in itself, while still expecting me to not shift any of my current responsibilities. Now I’m going to have to go back to them to have the conversation about “I wanted responsibility, but I’m not superman.”

  2. JAL*

    In my current position, I let my productivity numbers do the talking for me. My manager has totally recognized my hard work and asked me if I wanted more responsibility so now I split my time between production and training people in my department. I was floored she asked me so soon after starting my job.

  3. FX-ensis*

    first step in convincing is to be an excellent worker. Do his or her work above standard, be proactive, and always look for opportunities to advance yourself professionally.

    A good manager will notice this, and reward you appropriately. This happened to me, as I had become the assistant to a manager doing a lot of high-level stuff. This didn’t work out ultimately, not because I did badly (not to boast but the contrary…) but he turned out to be scummy and he got chucked out in the end. However, the first step is to get noticed. I’d say this is true in ANY avenue of life, in which one wants to progress.

    1. FX-ensis*

      And to add, my manager noticed the work I was doing, and asked me accordingly. However, if your manager is different, then compile a list of all the work you’ve done and ask. Depending on his or her answer you can proceed. If you’ve asked continually, but have not got much response, either seek a higher position in the company or leave for another organisation.

      Don’t ever get angry with him or her, if s/he says no. Should you leave, you’d need him or her for a reference.

  4. Not So NewReader*

    Don’t be afraid of problems. Use the problems as a tool to talk with others, ask the boss questions and grow yourself. This kind of comes under volunteering for tasks. But it is also a chance to the boss something about yourself. I have had times where I have gotten more responsibility simply because of my willingness to work through a few smaller problems. It’s not unrelated.

  5. L*

    Have you ever written on the reverse? What you can do when your boss wants you to take on more responsibility that involves working longer hours with no extra pay and you really don’t want to?

  6. JC*

    Alison, I just want to say that I love that you write articles like this even though they don’t get the same comment traffic as other posts. This site has a really awesome balance of great advice and crazy, entertaining stories!

  7. Iulia Iantoc*

    That’s excellent advice! As long as you’re already doing a great job, there’s no risk in gradually increasing your responsibilities. My experience has taught me that, as long as I show enthusiasm, my work will be appreciated. However, it is very important to convince your boss that new responsibilities are best taken on in baby steps; otherwise, you risk work overload, which is equivalent with less productivity.

  8. Kevin*

    First of all the reason most companies have terrible staff are people in “HR” just like this. HR or I fall on the floor laughing when they call themselves “recruiters” don’t have the slightest eye for talent if it hit them in the face. They are simply a conduit of information. And normally they fail miserably at that. They are against hard work or effort other than “postings”. Don’t call because I might have to answer a phone. Show up in person? That makes me get up off my rotund chair. Oh I love your long stupid article about someone showing up unannounced! How dare they walk through the door while I’m in a meeting with hiring managers telling people I cant find anyone else but all my friends to hire (or their kids). Showing up shows initiative. It shows drive. It shows determination. It’s gotten me more jobs than anything else. That is if I’m dealing with men. Women are more concerned about the feeling and how they felt instead of what is on the resume. Modern day HR is nothing more than Facebook, Pineterest, Gossip Hounds, with Quasi authority wasting everyone’s time when hiring managers can do your job without you being in the middle. Take my advice people on this board. Don’t listen to this woman. Ever wonder why she has the time to write this blog in the first place? You guessed it! She’s not doing hers!

    1. rogue33*

      Tend to agree with you about the HR thing, but you sound overly p.o.’d at women in the field. Maybe this is why you are unemployed.

  9. Asfra Muzaffar*

    I have received generous pay rise but My boss not considering me for promotion. She cleared to me that how long I stay it won’t be possible. She has made some new appointments and dissolving my signing authority. I am quite and calm and do not want to look for another job as my last Assistant Manager did after watching entire non-professional attitudes of her. I have decided to stay as long I could stay with brief patience and smile. Moreover, I have now a chance to pay thanks to M.D as I got high pay rise but I want to know that How can I write to him decently that I want some more work to do to improve my performance and learning and make me more authorized. Thank you

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