So, you want more flexibility at work but you’re avoiding the topic with your boss because you’re afraid they’ll say no. Or maybe you’re not afraid, you know they’ll say no, so why even waste your time? Well, I have news for you: sometimes hearing "yes" is more of how you say it than what you say.
If you find a way to frame your desire for more flexibility as a win-win for your boss, you might be surprised what you’re able to get a yes to.
So how do you successfully negotiate your needs for flexibility? Let’s break it down:
If you’re looking for flexibility, being rigid about what you want is counterproductive.
Define Your Needs
If you’re looking to hear yes from your boss, it’s important to know what it is you want. Flexibility looks different from person to person --and that includes your boss, too. Don’t assume their definition of flexibility is the same as yours or that they know the type of flexibility you’re looking for. Make sure you know what you’re looking for so you can communicate what you're looking for in detail.
If you’re fuzzy on what you’re needing, how can you expect your boss to deliver on those needs? It is much easier for someone to agree to actionable items vs. a vague concept.
Put Yourself in Your Boss’ Shoes
Just like how every person has a different idea of flexibility, every boss is different and has their own communication style. While some supervisors love to be involved in finding the outcome of a dilemma (I’m struggling with X. Can we work on finding a solution?), some simply want you to pitch your solutions to them (I think X would be beneficial to you, me, and the company at large. Here’s why).
This is why it’s so crucial to understand the personality sitting across that desk (or computer screen) from you when making your pitch. If you’re able to “speak their language” they’re more likely to respond positively to what you have to say.
Come with Solutions, not Problems
Furthermore, your boss has a lot on their plate. In addition to managing a team, they have their own goals to meet and tasks they need to do. If your goal is to hear a yes to your flexibility needs, think about how you can make the conversation as easy as possible to have. If you can, use meeting time to review solutions rather than brainstorm them.
When you are providing solutions, make sure you explain why and how this will make your supervisor’s life easier. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be, “My solution for flexibility will take work off your plate.” It could be something like, “I’ve noticed since the pandemic, our customer service rating on calls has declined from 4.2 to 3.8 stars. However, my customer service satisfaction rate has gone up from 4.5 stars to 4.9 stars during this time. My work quality increases when I am in a home environment. By allowing me to have flexible work hours, you should see an overall increase of call center service quality increase by 5%.”
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Do Your Research
Another important part of negotiation beyond getting the buy-in of what is getting the buy-in on how. If flextime or hybrid working hours is something your company has never tried, it’s understandable why your boss would be a bit apprehensive to try it. This is where research comes in.
Research companies similar to yours that have successfully executed on providing the flexibility you’re seeking. Adding in the sentence, “Similar Company Inc, went fully remote in April, and since then, the average customer support rating has risen from 3.8 to 4.5. Since we’re a similar company in size and industry, this work model might work for us too.
Not only does identifying a problem that directly impacts your supervisor help your boss see the value in your proposal, but as a bonus, when framing the conversation in this way, you can steer your supervisor to the outcomes you want.
Don’t Make Demands. Have a Conversation.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to have a conversation about your needs, (If they’re your needs, what is there to discuss?) having an open dialogue can help find a solution that works best for you and your supervisor.
Be mindful that there are certain things your company will not be able to deliver on and that’s okay. Talk about these things and provide thoughtful answers as to why a solution would or wouldn’t work. Don’t be afraid to compromise and try to find a middle ground. Perhaps a trial period is in order.
If you’re looking for flexibility, presenting your needs as rigid, non-negotiables is counterproductive. If you go in guns blazing, you might overwhelm your boss with your needs –risking a negotiation shut down before it even begins.
If you Want Flexibility, You Need to be Flexible
The main thing to remember when asking for flexibility is to go in prepared and with an open mind. In many ways, the mindset is similar to job interviewing: preparation is key, come with examples, and be transparent about where you are and what you’re looking for.
If you’re able to keep an open mind and work with your boss to find a solution that works best for you, that’s what creating a win-win situation is all about.