Zip it emoticonIs there something, right now, that you’re not happy with?

You might know exactly what I mean. It might be that they insist on leaving clothes all over the bedroom floor or dishes in the sink rather than clearing up properly. At work maybe it’s that you always get told at the last possible moment or it’s just assumed that you’ll pick up the pieces without even being asked!

Are you taken for granted, dumped on or otherwise overlooked and, at one and the same time, it’s no big deal but it is!

In my head I can even hear myself saying it: “No, that’s fine, leave it to me.” and at the same time, my heart has been heavy with smouldering resentment.

It’s not that I can’t do the job, it’s not that I shouldn’t do the job. But why is it always assumed that I will do the job and, just because I do it with good grace that I want it or like it?!

To me, this is another example of the “Women don’t ask” syndrome. I grant you, it’s not only about women but, in general, we’re pretty good at not asking!

I see many examples of this both in work and out, I see it in myself and my colleagues.

We put up with things, big and small, for all sort of reasons and it rarely does us any good.

There’s a lovely piece of research conducted by Sara Laschever and colleagues which describes students being asked to participate in a research programme. At the outset they are told they will have to play four rounds of a dice game – it’s a solitary game of skill so no competition is involved and, at the end of the session they will be paid between $3 and $10 for their effort.

Both male and female participants complete four rounds of the game as agreed, the amount of time invested by each person is fairly similar and all participants rate their skill in playing the game about the same.

As each person leaves the room, the organiser offers them payment for their time “Here’s $3. Is $3  OK?”. As you can imagine, having been lured with the promise of between $3 and $10, most people are disappointed with the $3 payment and, male and female in equal number grumble about this.

On this occasion (as for so many other), grumbling gets them nowhere.

However, if they ask directly for the $10 payment the researcher, without further ado gives them the full $10. Quite literally, it’s there for the asking.

Can you guess how many people ask – and maybe more significantly, the gender distribution of those who ask directly?

As it turns out, 23%, nearly a quarter of male participants asked directly for their ten dollars and got it. And the women – less than 3% even bothered to ask.

The difference was that nine times as many men asked – and received – ten dollars, leaving the women to grumble unrewarded.

Why don’t women ask? Well, there’s a whole ‘nother blog post about why women don’t ask and yet another on how to ask more effectively. It’s certainly true that women need to place their requests differently than men on many occasions but, we first need to decide to make the request.

Maybe the take home message today is about asking. If we don’t ask directly we’re very unlikely to receive!

How has asking ever served – or failed – you?