The lazy, hazy days of summer are upon us here. And, once again, I’m yearning for less time with my computer screen and more time doused in sunscreen.
But that really can’t happen with my current schedule.
So, for the last week or so, I’ve become obsessed with cleaning up my calendar to create pockets of time to enjoy an impromptu afternoon my girls or sneak in a lunch break to read in the park.
The effort has been pretty futile.
The days where I was able to reconfigure my schedule, I found it was swallowed up by other things. The afternoon I freed up from work so I could take my girls out for an afternoon ice cream, for example, was actually spent tidying up the trail of toys, crafts, dirty dishes, water bottles and clothes that led through every room of the house.
It was at this point that I realized that if I truly wanted more time for the life portion of the proverbial work-life balance equation, I was going to need to negotiate. Negotiate terms at work with my clients and at home with my family.
Negotiating isn’t easy, and as I’ve told myself countless times, I’m not very good at it.
It’s not that I’ve never negotiated terms before. I have and I can point to several instances where I did it rather successfully. The problem, at least for me, comes down to mustering up the courage to do it in the first place, managing my anxieties when actually negotiating, and then holding firm to the new commitment so I don’t fully sacrifice the deal I just worked hard to make.
I’ve already had several conversations. I started with my easiest negotiating partner – Frank. I then worked out a few deals with my daughters. At 7 and 5 years old, they are finally at a stage where they can take on some responsibilities at home. And, I’ve set up calls for the remainder of the week to discuss things on the work front.
If you’re looking for more balance, like me, consider these negotiating tactics to help you prepare for and make a solid deal that will work for you and everyone else.
Before we get into it: no matter what you may want – more balance, more flexibility, days where you can work from home or even more help around the house – these tactics can help you get them.
You need to get crystal clear on what it is that you want or may need. Without a destination in mind, how will you be able to map out a route that works? So, what do you want? Is it a raise, a shift in your schedule, a few days telecommuting from home, more help around the house? Once you figure out what it is that you want, you then have to prioritize what you are willing to give up to make it happen.
I knew I wanted more time with my family, but I also can’t fully give up on the projects and clients I’m working on right now. But I am willing to give up on a number of things I usually do for my girls around the house (ahem… like wasting an afternoon picking up their mess). I’m also willing to give up my evening TV sessions so I can pick up work after the girls go to sleep.
Benchmark your possibilities
Once you’ve set your vision, you then have to see if it’s at all possible. What are your company’s policies and how does HR interpret those policies. It’s also a very good idea to check in with others on your team, in your department or in your company who have negotiated terms similar to what you may want. Find out what the terms of their deals were, ask them for tips in negotiating and if they have any words of advice before you put in your ask.
I suggest you repeat this process with friends or former colleagues who work for other companies. Just because it’s not already happening at your company doesn’t meant it can’t happen.
By gathering this information, you can workout what you’ll ask for and even what you’ll counter offer should you get pushback during your conversation. What’s more, knowing what others have asked for and gotten will go a long way in building your confidence going into negotiations. Sure, you don’t want to go in demanding too much, but you also don’t want to go in asking for too little.
Come with solutions
Every negotiation begins with an offer. The key for you is to make the first one. To do that, you’ll need to come up with a solution that will meet your vision while also working for your company. But, the offer also needs to work for your boss. So be sure you consider what is important to her and what she needs to make sure her job or her goals are met.
For example, I’m working on a project that has some firm deadlines and I know my client is very concerned about meeting them. If I want to spend more time with my girls in the afternoons, my solution needs to address how I’m still going to meet the deadlines even though I won’t work traditional hours over the next few months.
One solution is definitely not enough, so be sure you come up with a few offers to present, starting with the one that has the highest demands and working your way down.
Position your request
Understanding your boss’ perspective is necessary to develop a fair solution. It’s equally critical to determining how you’ll approach and frame your ask. If you are aware of issues that have come up in the past or you know the one or two things that are most important to his, you can address them head on to open up the conversation. This will show you’ve considered his position and appreciate the concern, which will be more likely to lead to a more fruitful negotiation.
Watch your language
And by this I mean both your verbal and physical language. Words always matter and that’s especially true during negotiations. If you begin a negotiation focusing on you and what you want (i.e., “I need this situation to change”), you likely will shut down the negotiation rather quickly. Instead, focus on the collective. The word “we” works beautifully – “Can we find a solution?”
It’s not only words that matter – how you say things and how you use your body are just as important. Speak positively and be sure to face and look at your negotiating partner. If you sound and look like you’re willing to work with them, it’s more likely they will be willing to work with you, too.
Practice makes perfect
Yes, by all means practice your pitch. Make a date with your mirror or ask a friend to role play with you, considering the different ways the conversation can progress so you can be prepared for any scenario. However, the best way to build your negotiating skills is to actually negotiate for real things in real life. Use these tactics the next time you’re negotiating bedtime with your little ones or perhaps to work out who’s on tap for laundry or try it out on a colleague as you try to figure out who should be on tap for the team task.
Once you’ve been able to negotiate new terms at work or even at home that work for everyone, the key will be to stick to the deal. From your end that will mean keeping your side of the bargain. If you’ve negotiated to leave work earlier than the rest of the team with the promise to work a few extra hours after bedtime, then be sure to do so. At the same time, be sure your manager or employer is also sticking to their end. If you’ve negotiated to work 4 days a week instead of the usual 5 be clear that you can’t join the conference call on your day off.
These 7 tactics will go a long way in getting you ready to successfully negotiate at work or at home. Good luck, and hey, be sure to let me know if any one tactic worked well for you.