Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vegan or Not: How to Ask For What You Want at Work

Asking for what you want at work can be difficult. From a raise to a Meatless Monday pilot program to suggesting lunch with a Senior Vice President - being prepared to start a conversation about what you want can help you present your request or idea in an intelligent and strategic way.

First and most importantly: Don’t ever present a problem in which you haven’t already thought about the solution.

Nobody likes a complainer. Complainers kill office morale. Present a solution, however, and your positivity and thoughtfulness will be appreciated. It may not be the right solution; it may not have all the factors presented in neatly fit excel sheet rows. But if you go to senior management with a problem, the first thing they're going to ask you is "How do you think we should fix it?"

I recommend identifying the opportunity or issue and communicating what you want effectively. Easier said than done sometimes, right? Before you make any recommendations or contact people within your company, analyze what information you have at hand. This can help you build a final conclusion. Here are some categories and questions to think about:

  1. Identify the Issue & Solution: What is the actual problem at hand? What is causing this issue? Is this a real or perceived issue? What would be a potential solution? How would the solution affect other employees?
  1. Clarify What You Want: What exactly am I asking for? How can I make it more specific? Am I asking for time? Am I  asking for more options? Am I just asking for acknowledgement or for action? 
  1. Logistics & Environment: Consider the size of the company? How many employees do they have? How many people are in your department? Who makes the decisions? How is the structure of the company set-up? How hard would it be to make that change? What would the cost analysis of this solution vs. the problem be?  How much did your company make in revenue last year? Can they afford to make this change? Are there any future external implications that would deter this decision?
  1. Presentation is Important: How do I present this in a way that my business partner will understand? Does that involve email, a phone call, a PowerPoint? How do people most likely receive requests in my organization?

Example: Meatless Mondays

Issue A: 
The company I work for right now does not offer strictly vegetarian or vegan dining days. My goal is to have our food vendor pilot a Meatless Monday event for 6 months.

  1. Identify the Issue & Solution: The opportunity is that there is a potential to create a Meatless Monday pilot program that offers vegetarian and vegan food to employees. The change would affect all employees that eat at the cafeteria on the Mondays during the pilot. It could also be an opportunity for employees to learn more about the health benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet. To bring this idea into fruition I would need to contact the head of food services and detail my request.
  2. Clarify What You Want: I am asking for all meat options to be taken from the food stations every Monday for 6 months. This includes all breakfast, lunch and snack options that have meat.
  3. Logistics & Environment: We are a company of about 10,000 employees in multiple locations. The main campus that I work at has about 3,000 employees. There are two cafeterias and our food vendor is the sole vendor for the campus. Our company was reported to be in good-standing at the end of 2010 with over $10 billion in revenue last year. I don't know if the food services vendor can offer a Meatless Monday option without incurring a loss of revenue and or services. The stations are already in place, so an inventory of the menu and new vegetarian or vegan food ideas would need to be created.
  1. Presentation is Important: An e-mail to the head of food services would be my best option, with a potential follow-up phone call. Although this seems more like a suggestion box type request, I would probably run it by my manager or VP as an FYI if needed. I would also never use the suggestion box if there is one. (The suggestion box is the place where good ideas go to get lost, forever.)

Sample E-mail:

Dear Katie [Insert Name],

My name is Danielle and I work in the Advertising Department. I have been an employee at WorkIsGrand Company for almost 4 years and have noticed that vegan and vegetarian whole food options in the cafeteria can be limited at times. As an employee that is committed to a cruelty free lifestyle, I was hoping you might consider adopting Meatless Monday events as a pilot program for a designated 6 months.

Veganism and vegetarianism offer great health benefits. Also, other major food services vendors have adopted Meatless Mondays as a way to bring awareness to the topic and promote health and wellness.

Below are three helpful links for your review:
  1. Sodexo News Release, Meatless Mondays:
  2. Meatless Mondays Website:
  3. Vegetarian and Vegan Food Pyramid:

I would like to discuss this further if possible. Please let me know when you are available and I would be happy to find time on your calendar.

Thank you for your consideration.


Follow-Up Meeting: 
If the contact, Katie in this case, does schedule a time to discuss Meatless Monday, make sure you have the e-mail above in front of you and can work from the already established communication. I would also recommend having a series of questions ready. Remember, while you may be the vegan or vegetarian asking for a change, they are the food expert for the company. They know how to work the system, understand pricing and approvals. They may be the decision maker or need approval from another person. The best thing you can do is state your case in a friendly, informative manner.

Remember, you never know if you don't try. So ask a Director, AVP or VP to grab a sandwich or a coffee at some point, just be prepared with questions. If you can build a case for it, ask for the raise you want in a professional manner. Nobody is going to ask for a raise for you and I assure you nobody will think about asking for a Meatless Monday pilot program either. Plus, the worst thing that can happen in any of these situations is that whomever it is that you're asking is going to say "No". So, analyze the situation, make your case and smile while you're doing it. A positive informative presentation may go further than you think. 


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