The Negotiable Workplace

Employees often wish they could flex work hours, learn a new skill or stop performing a less desirable task. Yet few employees venture into the boss’s office to discuss such issues fearing a negative response or worse, imagining they will jeopardize their job by “rocking the boat.” Too often employees resign themselves to the status quo without considering the disservice made to themselves, their peers and even their employers.
The fact is most situations can be negotiated particularly when an idea benefits more than one person. What if flexing hours created more coverage on a specific task or arriving to work an hour earlier enabled a tedious job to get done without interruption? The entire organization might benefit if an employee volunteered to learn a new task. It may have never occurred to a supervisor that someone has different skills, interests or talents than those previously demonstrated. Suggesting staff switch roles can result in colleagues using their strongest, most enjoyed skill sets which often leads to improved productivity and staff morale.
  • While the impetus for change may develop out of one person’s need to improve his or her own situation, with some thoughtful consideration an employee may discover how others or the organization at large may also benefit from a shift. When communicating an idea to a superior it may be received more favorably when the following conditions are present:
  • An idea is presented as mutually beneficial-Suggestions that focus on a group or that solve an office-wide problem are far more creditable than those benefiting a single employee even when, in both instances, the suggestions are identical
  • The person making the suggestion is receptive to feedback-Instead of hearing “no” it is advantageous to learn “why” an employer may be reluctant to implement change. Staff may not be privy to complete information. Gaining such insight can strengthen an initial idea, create a collaborative role with a superior or at the very least, help one understand why an idea may not be viable
  • Homework is done prior to meeting with the boss-All facts and figures should be accurate and recommendations should be presented clearly and concisely in a businesslike manner. Avoid emotional pleas or personal reasons for advocating change
  • When it is done professionally, an employee always “wins”-While an idea may not always gain approval those who learn to approach employers in a positive, constructive manner are highly likely to gain respect, trust, and other favorable attention. Sometimes supervisors need time to think about a new idea, particularly when it comes from someone who has not spoken up in such a manner in the past. Interestingly, employers often dismiss or decline employee’s ideas, at least initially. When this occurs it is helpful for the employee to remain professional, stating appreciation for the opportunity to be heard. It is not unusual for an employer to come back days later stating that“with further thought, the idea has merit and should be tried.”
Even when an employer does not reconsider the idea, learning to self-advocate in a professional manner will improve one’s relationship with a superior, allows the employee to know where he or she stands with that employer and opens the door for less intimidating, more constructive collaborations with superiors in the future.
By Serena Santillanes
Serena Santillanes President