Negotiate flexibility like a pro and pay the change forward

If you want careers and workplaces to change, make it happen. You can achieve the flexibility you desire in your life with these simple tactics...

Passionate about changing the way careers work and the corporate world, I have attended many events, read many articles and listened to many seminars about the plight of women in today’s workforce. The stats from the Diversity Council Australia we shared with you in the last newsletter were sadly, not surprising.

I am keen to hear something new, I am keen to hear that things are changing.

As Abraham Lincoln said “To predict the future, you have to create it”, so maybe instead of listening, and reading what everyone else thinks, I can do more to create change for myself and follow Lincoln’s wise words. If you want careers and workplaces to change, make it happen. You can achieve the flexibility you desire in your life with these simple tactics:

Think about flexibility from your boss’s perspective

You are exceptional at your job. You know that, they know that and you would love a little bit more flexibility but in truth, are afraid to ask. Why? What is the worst thing that could happen if you do ask? They say no, and you are no worse off.

Or, are you afraid that even having the conversation sows a seed?

Don’t be. Use the powers of persuasion you use at home in this conversation.

What do we mean by that? To be persuasive you have to position your case in a way that has real value to the recipient. It’s no different if in a conversation with your boss about flexibility.

Saying you need it because it’s too hard trying to juggle is not enough. Stand in their shoes for a moment and think, what do you need to hear in order to make it an attractive proposition.

1. Start by working out what it is you want.

  • Write out what you need to have, like to have and would love to have positions are.
  • Then write out what you believe your boss would write as their equivalent. What do you observe?
  • Assess if there is a position you could get to where you are not too far away? If so, great.

2. Take 10 minutes of your time to prepare for what could be a life-changing conversation.

  • Write a list of benefits to your boss that he/she will get with you working flexibly. Consider how you can save them money, make them money, save time, make them look good. Think about what motivates them or what they value.
  • (Here’s the tipping point) To make a strong case, provide evidence to substantiate the benefit you have identified. For example, if you said you could save them time, what maths or findings have you got that can prove that. If you identified it will make them look good, what initiative around flexibility is the business promoting that you could link it to?

Within minutes and with three simple phrases you have structured a persuasive conversation to have with your boss. How do you feel when you are more prepared for work situations? Most people I coach tell me that the prep just makes them feel more confident going in and that is a great outcome.

This is a great process to apply for any discussion where you need to persuade someone to think or act differently. It also makes it a more objective and outcomes driven conversation which is appealing to most bosses.

Next, how do you frame this conversation up?

Be prepared and draw your boss into the conversation

Most people appreciate being asked for advice or counsel so rather than tell your boss this is what you are seeking, consider framing the conversation differently and say something like…. I would love your advice on an initiative I would like to try….

or, ….I would like your counsel on an idea I have….

Spend 5-10 minutes practicing articulating it out aloud. Record yourself on your phone. How do you sound?

And if your boss is still wavering at the end of your conversation and hasn’t committed why not offer to do it as a 3 month trial to see how it works out for both parties? That then becomes a low risk option for your boss and a great opportunity for you to show how it can work.

And if they still need time to think it over, that’s okay, just make sure you lock in a time to pick up the conversation with a diarised date and time so that it signals your real intent to your boss to deal with this, and it speaks of commitment on both sides. It is much easier to organise this during the conversation as leaving it vague provides a cop out on both sides and makes it harder to pick it up in as an action to progress later.

After embracing the following steps, you should be enjoying the flexible work arrangement you were after. If not, try this more inclusive approach to helping yourself and others:

Trial flexibility

Is flexibility not even on your company’s radar yet? That’s okay, take the initiative and demonstrate to them how it could work to the benefit of the business with a trial period and celebration of embracing change. Most companies are proud of their ability to embrace change, in fact change management and transformational change are buzz words in business at the moment so leverage it.

Create a safe, low-risk change management exercise for your business to trial flexibility over an agreed and nominated period, such as one month.

With approval from your bosses, make it easy for them to give it a go by taking on the execution of the initiative yourself. For example, could you promote it in the business and put posters up? Could you interview the testers and their Managers and share the findings with the broader business?

If flexibility is important to you, you will find a way to achieve the desired outcome for yourself and your employer. Know what you want, position this with the upsides to the business and give it a go, even if it is just for a trial period. It could be the start of the future you are seeking to create.


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