By Barry Maher
We’re often reluctant to ask for what we want, particularly when we have to ask our superiors. Nobody likes to be turned down. Often we’d rather not ask then ask and be told, “No.” Perhaps the reasoning is, I may not have gotten what I want but at least I wasn’t rejected. At least my boss, co-worker, subordinate, rival, whatever, doesn’t know that I want it.
Better they should know. You may have heard something about squeaky wheels. “Around here,” they used to say at one high-turnover company, “the squeaky wheel gets greased.” Squeak too much or in too irritating or inconvenient a manner and that could happen. But a good employee who makes her desires clear and makes a strong case for those desires puts her boss under a burden, even if the boss has to deny that particular request at that time. A good boss will try to make it up to her and look for opportunities to do just that.
Don’t be afraid to ask: whether you’re dealing with bosses or co-workers or subordinates. Hinting around will get you nowhere. Hints are too easy to dodge; they make it too easy to avoid making a commitment.
Ask. And that means ask verbally. Think of how many times you’ve put off a salesperson by asking for their literature or their card and saying “I’ll call you.” Reports and proposals are often the leave-behind literature of the business world. And sometimes they get as much attention.
Vannevar Bush, the co-founder of Raytheon, was a longtime advisor to Franklin Roosevelt. He made it a point to present his proposals in person and always did his best to get an immediate decision. “I always tried to come out of the [Oval] Office still in possession of any paper or report I took in,” he wrote in his book, Pieces of the Action.
In his memoir, I’ll Always Have Paris, Art Buchwald related a supposedly true story. An American movie company contacted their manager in France. They told him a VIP TV station owner was coming to Paris by himself. The manager was to do everything possible to make the trip enjoyable.
The station owner arrived, and he had only had one request: “a female companion for dinner.” The manager made a few calls. Eventually he came up with a beautiful, high-class call girl. She wasn’t cheap but he agreed to pay her on a daily basis. And yes, he’d pay the full, all night rate. She wasn’t to ask the station owner for money.
That evening, the manager introduced the VIP to his “dinner companion.” The morning after, she came by his office to collect her cash. And the morning after that. This went on for five straight days. Eventually, the manager decided to call the station owner at his Paris hotel, hoping to find out how the hefty “PR expenditure” was working and how much longer it might continue.
They chatted pleasantly for a few minutes, then the manager tactfully asked, “So how are things going with the young lady?”
“Just great,” the station owner enthused. “I think tonight I’m going to get lucky.”
Tip: If you never ask, you never get.
Perhaps not a Motivational Speaker, But Certainly a Very Motivating Speaker.