Author Topic: Negotiating at work  (Read 8887 times)

AnnaD

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Negotiating at work
« on: January 01, 2013, 03:04:15 PM »
I work for a mid-side company that is trying to expand. With expansion there has been turbulence along the way and we are certainly not finished with this process yet. However, my company has suffered its worst years financially these past 2 years. Still they have been smart ensuring savings, not filling vacant positions, etc.  I have a feeling with this combination of hard years plus the expansion process we will not receive raises with our annual reviews.
I would like to negotiate a work from home/telecommute deal, but have some obstacles. Obstacle 1) I am a poor negotiator. Obstacle 2) My direct supervisor is a poor advocate for his staff 3) Some years ago when our company was smaller many of the staff did work from home but that was nixed.
Let's start with obstacle #2 - My boss doesn't really have the authority to authorize any type of regular telecommuting so he will be forced to OK this with HR or someone in the upper management team. As I mentioned he tends to be a poor advocate for his office staff so even negotiating with him successfully doesn't mean he'll sincerely attempt this on my behalf. Yet, I don't even know where to start with him.
Obstacle 3 ties in with #2 because of aforementioned reasons with my boss. However, the historical reasons for requiring all staff to work from the office has been because upper management, who by the way does mostly work from home, felt it was better customer service to have workers in the office.

As I mentioned I'm poor at this partly because it makes me anxious. I have no idea why. I can anticipate some counters to my proposal right away and I don't know how to reply.
"This would be unfair to other staff who can't work from home" or "If you're allowed to do this others will want to and this might cause problems such as x, y, z" or "Upper management doesn't allow working from home"

What I would like to propose is working from home 1/week with the goal of getting 2/month. Obviously, if I am required to be in the office I would be there without question. I would work my normal hours with the same flexibility I always have.

Do you guys have any advice or suggestions to aid me in attaining this goal?

DoubleDown

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Re: Negotiating at work
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2013, 09:31:38 AM »
I think the answer to obstacles (1) and (3), and part of (2) is reading the short book titled, "Getting to Yes" by Fisher and Ury. It is the "bible" of negotiation and conflict resolution.

Learning the easy skills in this book will pay dividends for the rest of your life, not just in this situation. It teaches you how to negotiate based on merits and shared interests or principles, not staked out positions like "we don't allow telecommuting." I have employed the techniques from this book hundreds or even thousands of times in my life, it is very effective.

I think you can make a compelling case irrespective of all the anticipated objections, don't sell yourself short. And the fact that you've already had the foresight to predict some of those potential objections says to me you're already on the right path.

Find and present to your employer the ways you think they will  benefit from the arrangement. Then listen to them and any objections. Deal with the objections by appealing to their interests. Tell them, "I've heard your objection <X>, it makes sense to me. What solution could we find to effectively deal with that?"

It doesn't have to be done all at once, it can be a work in progress. You might say, "I've heard some of the problems you foresee with telecommuting; I'd like to take some time to think about them and come back later with some possible ideas, would that work for you?" In short, keep them engaged in the process, enlisting them as a mutual problem solver.

AnnaD

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Re: Negotiating at work
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2013, 02:21:36 PM »
I had that book as a supplement text for a class I took in undergrad!  Sadly, I've since sold the book, but I'm sure I can find it at the library.

Thanks for the advice, DoubleDOwn :)

Mola

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Re: Negotiating at work
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2013, 10:18:03 PM »
I have been on both sides of this in the past, the worker wanting to telecommute and the manager who is approached by an individual who wants to telecommute.  You have gotten some good advice on negotiating.  However, from what you describe I think you're going to have a hard time talking your way to what you want.  When managers are worried about the fairness aspect to other employees there is no real response you as the worker can give, because its up to the manager to adopt a policy that is fair to all the employees.  You can't do it.  And it doesn't sound like your manager is the type that would want to bother.

So I'll suggest something different that has worked for me in the past.  Negotiate over time through actions more than words.  Take the opportunity of a doctor's appointment or something to ask if you can just work from home for that day.  Since its a one off thing it doesnt spark a big conversation about corporate policy.  And then be extremely conspicuous in how engaged and productive you are when your working from home that day.  Play that trick a few times to build the precedent and the reputation for being equally or more productive while at home.

With some precedent and credibility then go to the manager and ask if you can work from home one day a week because of some legitimate work-life balance issue.  With your foot in that door you can then try to expand it out through conversation over time.

AnnaD

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Re: Negotiating at work
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2013, 12:28:05 AM »
So I'll suggest something different that has worked for me in the past.  Negotiate over time through actions more than words.  Take the opportunity of a doctor's appointment or something to ask if you can just work from home for that day.  Since its a one off thing it doesnt spark a big conversation about corporate policy.  And then be extremely conspicuous in how engaged and productive you are when your working from home that day.  Play that trick a few times to build the precedent and the reputation for being equally or more productive while at home.

Unfortunately, Mola I've tried this in the past before partly because I legitimately had work that needed to be done and I needed to take half a day for a medical appointment.  My boss seems somewhat savvy to this idea that a precedent might be set and insisted that I take the PTO and just enjoy the rest of my day off.  The only times I've been granted some small work from home ability was during a project that required very unusual hours. 

I would start by doing three things:

1)  Figure out which management staff do actually work remotely on a regular basis, and try to figure out a way to enlist them as allies in your cause.  If you have direct access, you might start by asking one or more of them to mentor you.  One of the things you can discuss with them is how working remotely allows them to be more efficient/effective, as well as what the challenges of that are.  As you come to understand their position and build a relationship with them, hopefully you can get them to advocate for a return to the remote working policy for non-management employees. 

Unfortunately, the management staff who work remotely are the same ones who made this policy decision.  Notably, we have recently added 2 new executives and 1 of them might be a good alley to enlist since they were not party to instituting this policy. 

 

2)  Figure out who else in your organization is itching for a remote working arrangement. Building alliances with co-workers and jointly figuring out strategies that will work across different divisions/job responsibilities is important groundwork.  Depending on how things go with the management mentoring angle, eventually you could perhaps suggest a task force to develop a trial plan -- you've already done the networking, so your task force is pretty much pre-assembled and already has a good foundation.
This is a great idea.  I'll have to work on an excuse to talk to personnel from other offices.  All of the office managers have a great deal of contact with weekly meetings, round tables, etc, but there is hardly any inter-office communication with regular staff. 

3)  Adjust your expectations.  Based on my experience, I am going to hazard a guess that your organization is going to be VERY unlikely to accept proposals that include people being out of the office for entire weeks at a time (wasn't clear from your original post what you meant by 1/week and 2/month).  Do some research to find out which companies (in your sector, if possible -- shows you know what others offer) have distance working policies and what effects that has had on their bottom line and overall performance/standing in the sector.  Consider modeling your remote work policy/framework on one of these successful examples. 

My apologies on the confusion 1/week = 1 day per week and 2/month = 2 days per month.  Entire weeks wouldn't be feasible at all. 
 I will definitely have to do some research as you suggest. 

Richard3

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Re: Negotiating at work
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2013, 12:54:48 PM »
The four hour workweek also has a couple very good chapters on how to convince your bosses of letting you work remotely.