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Negotiating a Flexible Schedule

Sep 01, 2021
Negotiation is such an important skill whether it’s part of your professional gig or not. It happens every single day in your life. And if you’re someone who likes getting things their way (and who doesn't?), then the better you are at negotiating, the more you are going to feel like you are totally winning at life. Right?
I have always been a negotiator, since childhood. I can totally remember negotiating with my parents to get more TV time or to get my curfew extended. I wasn’t always amazing at it, but I had a lot of drive, which turned into a lot of practice, which turned into some real refinement of my skillset. When I was in college, I will never forget a mind blowing exercise my business professor had us to about negotiating the price of a car. Never say the first number. It was a lesson I learned that stuck with me throughout life and has gotten me more money in many job offers than I would have asked for if I hadn’t followed my Organizational Development’s professor’s advice that day in that role play we participated in.
Now with regards to flexibility in schedule at work, many or should I say most of us can’t just decide to not work nine hours a day. We don't make those rules. It’s our job. It’s the expectation. There are policies. There’s an HR department enforcing the rules. And, also, in many cases, you likely need two salaries in your house because mortgages and kids and vacations and mani-pedis are expensive, so it may not necessarily be a viable option to just be like, “I’m out. I don’t like working nine hours a day.” This situation can totally feel like it’s out of your control, and that doesn’t feel good to time momagers, to moms who like having control over their time and schedule, to moms who have dreams and goals that seem super hard to fit into their daily schedule, to moms who are tired AF and just want a little more flexibility in their lives.
The key here is to ask yourself, “What do I have control over to make time, to make my schedule work for me?”
Can I ask for an earlier or later schedule, so I can spend more time with my kids when they’re awake?
Can I work from home one or more days a week to avoid commute times?
Can I ask for a 10/40 or a 9/80 schedule so I have an extra day off here and there?
Can I become a freelancer and make my own hours?
Can I become a mompreneur and turn my passion or another opportunity into income?
No idea is too far-fetched. Thinking outside the box when you’re trying to tame the time beast is the best way to get to the right end result. Don’t be afraid to get super creative here. I encourage you to brainstorm a list of anything and everything that you can think of that would help you get the flexible schedule you’re looking for. Write down whatever comes to mind, even if it seems unattainable right now. Because I want to tell you, almost every time I came up with a crazy idea-and I mean almost every single time, it ended up morphing into something executable, even in situations where I didn’t have control of my time. Proof right here, sister.
And here's the most important ingredient you need to add to your time control casserole—and this is all part of the negotiation piece. You need to be strategic. You need to plan. And you need to be organized. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Don’t make this about you, even though it is. You can’t walk into your boss’ office (no matter how great a relationship you think you have) with welled up, tearful eyes and say, “I'm a working mom, and this is too hard, and I need things to change around here because I’m falling apart.”
Don’t. Do. It.
So, to be the best negotiator here, you need to “sell’ your request to your boss in hopes that he or she will “buy” it. You need to ask yourself, “What’s in it for them? For the company? What is going to make them review this request and see the value, the benefit, the no brainer reason why they should approve it?
Being strategic here means thinking about what’s valuable to your boss. Think about what they care about. Think about things that make life easier for them, that make them look good to their boss, and that would give them what they need, not what you need (even though yes, this is ultimately about you). Look at the situation through this lense to get started.
Here’s how you might present this request:
Step 1
Make a list of all the pros—why this idea makes sense for the company and for your boss. Take yourself out of your head for a minute and put yourself in your boss’ shoes. Ask yourself, “What reasons can I give them that they can’t possibly turn down making this happen for me because those reasons are that good?”
For example:
Does it help with call volume or customer support in a different time zone?
Does it offer more support to colleagues in the office or remotely?
Does your role require more strategic thought and planning or creative tasks that are better done at home with fewer distractions?
Are you more productive during those earlier or later hours and your output will be better?
Can you manage something more easily from home that she would love to delegate?
And finally, does it mean better work/life balance for you as a valuable employee?
Make your last line item something that says this will help you too. You don’t want your request to appear unauthentic. So, if it does mean having a better work/life balance, say it. Just don’t make it the most important priority for making the request.
Step 2
Don’t forget the cons. It is crucial to show you have thought about this from all ends, not only the positive ones. So, add a list of cons. Again, be strategic about this. You need to list more pros than cons (obviously). You should also add a note of how you can fix the problem before it potentially even surfaces—or at least verbally present this part when you review with your boss.
For example:
Potential con #1: letting you work remotely more often might mean other people will request this as well and form a remote epidemic in your office.
Followed by your proposed fix:
“I’ve been with the company xx years and with tenure and seniority, maybe this is something that could be offered only to me for those reasons?”
“I totally get how that could impact other people; that’s fair. I’d be happy to come up with a remote working document that outlines the company’s expectations on this policy if this is something that will be offered across the board.”
Potential con #2: lack of support in the office if you’re working odd hours or from home.
Followed by your proposed fix:
“I know this is a big change and can understand not having my role physically here every day or during traditional hours will be different. So many companies are moving toward remote employees or so many companies are adopting a flexible schedule since the pandemic began, so they have a wider range of talent that isn’t necessarily local or available during traditional hours to tap into. I did some research on these products that would be great ways to maintain communication with my team throughout the work day so they still know I’m present and available for support (give examples of Skype, Slack, Zoom, etc.). I also recently read an article about how working at times when you have optimal brain power (not necessarily nine to five) makes you xx% more efficient and productive at work and wanted to share it with you.”
Step 3
Sell it. I’m going to tell you the most important thing I’ve learned when it comes to sales, and really, when it comes to life in general if you want anyone to listen to you. You need to communicate your message in the right way, and the right way isn’t always the same for every situation or every person. In fact, it can be very, very different.
There are four main types of communication styles, and we all have one category that we fit into best. This is the one that feels most comfortable, comes most naturally, and is most often the way we tend to communicate. It’s like our comfort zone, our security blanket. It’s my Long Island accent that comes out after a few drinks. It’s the way you tend to communicate when you’re not putting forth much effort or energy toward your audience because you’re just being you and keeping it real.
If you haven't taken my communication quiz yet, you can find it in this blog post. It's worth the 15 minute time warp back to Y2K to take this fun quiz, trust me.
But moving back to this and trying to wrap this up this negotiation strategy here, now that you’ve got your pros and cons outlined and organized, you need to obviously present this request in a way that is going to be received the way you want it to be, with a BIG FAT HELL YES.
So, keeping in mind who your audience is, you need to communicate your ask in a way that resonates with them, in a style that is similar to how they communicate, not how you communicate. For example, if you personally like things explained in a lot of detail, but your boss prefers a more direct route, pitch this more directly. Or if you tend to prefer a quicker path to the end, but your boss likes to hear every turn and step it takes to get there, then get ready to review this request with a fine tooth comb, and walk them through all the details of the trip.
Finally, plan a time to pitch your negotiation when you believe the idea will be best received. Don’t ask during a major crisis or pop in unexpectedly at 4:30 on a Friday. Set some time aside and perhaps give your boss a heads up that you’d like to discuss your schedule if that makes sense for the situation.
I have used this strategy to help moms negotiate remote work opportunities, flexible schedules, higher pay and even incredible added benefits to their salaries. If this is something you are looking to do and you want to schedule a free breakthrough call with me, I would love to chat with you. And if not, hopefully this post will better equip you for the negotiation of a lifetime, getting the dream schedule you deserve!

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