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Whether you’re being shortchanged at your job, chasing a pay raise (we’ve got a comprehensive list of dos-and-don’ts for that), or seeking recognition for the work that you do, there’s one very simple thing that gets us exactly what we’d like: Speaking up.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who shuddered at those two words.

We’ll admit that it can be daunting to voice out our opinions at work, especially when it goes against the grain. After all, we’re often taught to listen more than we speak and, look, we’re Singaporeans. We prefer keeping under the radar, complaining while casting a careful eye around the office.

Now don’t get us wrong: There is merit in letting your work speak for itself, and being too noticeable may bring a different set of problems, but it’s often the ones who are willing to stand up who get things done (their way).

But how do you get ahead without stepping on toes? You follow our guide, of course! Wink.


1. Get it out of the way


Picture this: You’re deep in a meeting and you don’t quite agree with your higher up’s proposed plan of action. You’d like to point out the crucial caveat they’ve forgotten but, well, you haven’t said anything so far and to cut in now might be too awkward. Plus that’s your boss.

Does that struggle feel all too familiar? Then here’s what we propose: Take part in the pre-meeting small talk. You know, the conversation that happens in dribs while people arrive in drabs.

Beyond helping you to establish your presence amongst the rest of the attendees, it’ll also serve as your very own ice breaker. Since you’ve already carved yourself out as an active participant, you won’t feel that unnecessary stress when the time comes for you to speak up.

Added bonus: You establish a rapport with your coworkers, extra points if it’s with your upper management!


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2. Who are you talking to?



As always, you need to know your audience. How you might deal with your annoying colleagues is not the same way you’d want to address your boss for that promotion.

Hold that scoff, we know you’d naturally talk differently to the CEO as you would your work wife (what would we do without them?) but that’s not what we’re getting at here.

Beyond simply changing your vocabulary and tone, you also have to remember that the key to getting what you want is in addressing your audience’s concerns i.e., assuring them that what you want will benefit them.

You getting that promotion, for example, will result in better management of the team since you already understand its dynamics. Which brings us to our final point:


3. Ooze confidence



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How you say it makes a difference. Your manager (or the resident complain-queen) is far more likely to respond to someone who sounds like they mean, and know, business.

Instead of prefacing your opinion with those ‘sorry, but’s or the ‘I’m not sure if this is right’, go ahead and say it with authority.

But politely, please. Being assertive at work doesn’t equate to being rude! Say ‘I think’ instead of beating around the bush; your opinions are no less valid than anyone else’s, although we’d recommend you not to offer baseless or ineffectual suggestions.

And as always, do your research and plan ahead. Sounding like you know your stuff is a lot easier when you actually do. It also primes you to react and counter a rejection – super handy when you’re trying to get your bonus!