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When Life is All Work and No Play, It’s Time to Negotiate

vacation-cc0-public-domainMany employers offer a full range of benefits to their employees. However, many people find paid/unpaid personal time off (PTO) or vacation time as invaluable to meet their personal or family needs. Many times, employers do not provide adequate or sufficient time off for the varying needs of employees. For many of us, vacation time is essential to both rejuvenation and well-being. So, how do we address upfront and ask for what we need?  An often missed opportunity for many employees is to negotiate the terms of time off when they enter a new job.  In the Harvard Business Review article entitled “How to Negotiate for Vacation Time”, Deborah M. Kolb and Sharon. M Brady opens with 3 scenarios and then discuss 5 negotiation principles to use when bargaining for vacation time especially after long, intense hours of work.  To effectively negotiate, the authors suggest making decisions early about your own needs, learning about what is normal in the workplace culture, and showing empathy for your boss’s and other employee’s needs .

But what if you are already working at your job? Life is not all about work and no play. How do you negotiate extra time off, time off for special occasions, or even time off during very competitive holiday schedules?

Here are some recommendations for how you might approach a negotiation with your supervisor about time off from work.

  • Know your company’s policy about vacation and personal time off (PTO) as well as the available time you have accrued.
  • Think about how your request might impact your boss and co-workers. Consider what your boss and co-workers’ needs might be in anticipation of your time off and be prepared with alternative suggestions for your request.
  • Provide specific information about the reason for your request to help your supervisor understand its importance. For example, you might say “Our family is planning a very special trip with our grandmother. We expect this will be the last opportunity for all of us to get together and share a lifetime dream with her and to create lasting memories. I am asking to take 3 weeks off in the summer of 2017. I have more than enough time accrued and there is nothing in the company policy that restricts this request. I do have to ask permission and would appreciate your consideration.”
  • Listen carefully to your boss’s concerns and clarify needs by asking questions.
  • Respond first by acknowledging your supervisor’s concerns and then providing an alternative solution. Remember, you need your boss to grant you permission in order to get what you need. Using the above example, you might respond with “I understand that you are most concerned with covering schedules during from Memorial Day weekend through 4th of July. I would like to propose that I schedule our special vacation from the end of July to late August and be back in time for the hectic Labor Day weekend. This would be during our lower peak time.”

It is important to be prepared with an alternative. We often will not get what we want, but we can often get what we need. To do this, we have to know what that need is. And, it is also key that the boss hears you are working to meet his needs. He will be more open to negotiating with you. Finally, if you find yourself getting upset as you discuss the issue of time off with your boss or you sense his resistance to the request, take a break and take a breath. Keeping your cool is also a skilled practice when negotiating for what you need.

It is my hope that these tips are helpful and that you have a great upcoming week!

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

Negotiations and Conflict Management M.S. Program

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Back to School and Back to the Rules: Setting Boundaries with Technology

cc0publicdomainstudentsonphonesThe months of August and September bring many changes to the lives of students. As summer winds down and a schedule is back in order, students of all ages are challenged with the task to set boundaries for themselves, especially with technology. While young children have to have boundaries set forth by them for parents, those in middle school, high school, and college students, also have troubles battling with the distractions of computers, phones, I-pods, and other technical devices. This can become a serious issue as many students, including myself, begin to feel a constant need to look at their devices, due to the compelling desire to stay plugged in with the rest of the world. Sometimes this world can be a place of learning and outlet, and other times, it can be a real addiction, that again, causes serious issues. As Andrew Hough from the Telegraph reports in his online article: Student ‘addiction’ to technology ‘similar to drug cravings’, study finds, there are many symptoms of this addiction that are truly evident in students’ lives. As he again notes in his article, a study of 1,000 students from several countries, such as America, Britain, and China, showed that many students experienced cravings like that of a drug addict while abandoning technology for just one day. He refers to a secondary article to discuss the actual results of the mentioned study, entitled: Facebook Generation Suffers Information Withdrawal Symptoms, in which science correspondent Richard Gray discusses the exact work of the researchers in this endeavor. Richard Gray refers to the work of Dr. Roman Gerondimos, a communication lecturer from the UK, who saw both psychological and physical symptoms in his UK participants during an experiment. The experiment was called “Unplugged”, and was conducted by University of Maryland’s International Centre for Media and the Public Agenda, and the results can be found here.  The article again discusses that Dr. Gerondimos believes that this addiction, faced by individuals, is real and pervasive and must be both acknowledged and addressed for the future.

I personally have been prone to addiction with technology, which is why I want to address the importance of setting boundaries for oneself, one’s children and for students in general, since this addiction to technology can really get in the way of your studies. It can definitely impact both the quality of education and life for students. More recently, I have tried to go without constantly checking my phone, email, and social media, and I start getting really antsy and nervous. This is not how I want to live my life forever, so I have been doing some self-reflection on what can be done in order to better my life. So, I would like to offer some tips to students, parents, and teachers in order to curb the addiction to technology and set real boundaries to address this phenomenon:

  • Set a real and strategic time limit for young children using technology when they are first exposed. In this strategy, it sets them up for a routine and teaches discipline in their technology usage. Explain why it is important for them to have a time limit, also, so that they can reason why they have to stop at a specific time.
  • Define your technology expectations with pre-teen and teenage students in a very clear and succinct manner. It’s important to help them understand thoroughly what you want them to do or not do on a regular basis. Some teenagers may be more autonomous with their technology usage than the younger kids and so this may involve more in-depth explanations of what is expected and the possible consequences if they don’t respect the needs.
  • Keep a journal of the time you spend using technology, such as your phone, internet, TV, Apps, games, etc. If you are a college or a university student, maintaining boundaries is generally important to give space for other leisure-related, work-related, and school-related activities. With the journal, you can re-evaluate how much time is wasted online, and decide where you can cut back and what you would gain if you had that extra time to spend on friends, family or school activities.

Again, I know how hard it is to break away from the tech world and our addiction to it. However, it becomes necessary to preserve our sense of who we are and to guard our precious time. It is my hope that these tips have helped readers to ponder the importance of setting technology boundaries.

Enjoy your additional time now!

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

Negotiations and Conflict Management M.S. Program

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Back To School or Back to the Broom Closet?

CC0 public domain no attribution required cleaningManaging life, in general, can be tough for some people. Living by oneself can produce a mile long list of things to do… cleaning, cooking, decorating, shopping, or even enjoying activities. As the new school year approaches, many of you will leave home, enter college and live with strangers, your new college roommates. Some of you will remain home and live with family as you attend classes.  Frankly, there will be very different explanations, opinions and even arguments about how these tasks should happen,  who is responsible, if responsibilities should be delegated, or if one person is expected to  be primarily responsible for everything.

Are you the responsible one feeling the burden for delegating or picking up after everyone? Of maybe, you relied on your parents to pick up and clean after you having never learned this responsibility of sharing household chores. As you transition into your college years whether you live in a dorm or an apartment with roommates, or live at home, be aware of this possible imbalance and view that everyone shares the same standard of cleanliness you grew up with at home. This assumption about your roommate or family member can lead to conflict over responsibilities especially of mutually shared spaces such as the bathroom, living room or kitchen.

While I have not lived with college roommates, I have dealt with my family, who more often than not, leave everything to me to clean up. For me, it has been quite a challenge to live with this lifestyle, and to accept this environment. If you are like me, the one who needs clutter free and a clean home environment, you may have to learn to walk away even when you feel the need to clean up after your roommates, so you don’t lose time or energy better devoted to your studies.  This struggle with chores causes a lot of tension between me and adult family members taking away valuable time from my academic focus.  So, I have had to make concessions and figure out how to best navigate these situations, and these strategies may be helpful to you as you get ready for living the college life.   I have several suggestions regarding managing expectations of chores and preventing conflict in these types of situations, especially within college dorm settings or other similar settings:

  • The moment you begin living with college roommates or other folks (or before if you can) define how each of you would like for your home to look and determine how willing each of you are to respect the other’s wishes. If you discover your roommate does not share the same standard of cleanliness, then you can either give it some time to see how things really present itself, or you may have to eventually reconsider your choice of roommates and move to another place.
  • Together, create a list of items to do and place this on the shared refrigerator. If it works that people can follow the chores list, this will prove helpful. If not, use this list as a means to enter into another conversation.
  • If both of these tips fail and you find yourself doing the bulk of the chores with anger and resentment you can either 1) resign to cleaning (after all, it is your standard, not theirs, you are trying to maintain), or 2) not do anything in the joint space. This takes a great deal of patience and letting go of standards. Sometimes, if the shared space stays dirty and unsightly long enough, you might find they can’t stand it themselves either and they will pick up. This may seem like reverse psychology, however, sometimes it motivates people to move towards betterment without fighting or being up in arms. The key here is if your roommate does finally clean up DO acknowledge their effort and DON’T be sarcastic. You want to reward good behavior.

Finally, life should not be just about the chores. For me, it is not fair for one person to do everything. So, if you’re starting to feel like a maid/butler, then it’s time to set boundaries and tell your roommates or family members how you feel. Life obviously isn’t perfect.  However, it is important to communicate your need for a basic standard of living and encourage a mutually shared space that promotes well-being and uplifting circumstances.

Have a good week,

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

Negotiations and Conflict Management M.S. Program

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The Battle with the In-Laws: When the Holidays Aren’t So Jolly

 

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The holidays, whether they are birthday celebrations, the 4th of July or religious events, are a tough time for many people in biologically related families, let alone adding in-laws and extended family members into the mix. For most of our holidays, my husband and I spend time with our families separately, and then, my husband comes back home to spend time with myself and my dad and brother. Why? The reason I do not go over to my in-laws’ home is due to ongoing conflicts between myself and his parents.  This dynamic is not ideal. As newlyweds, this is not the way it is supposed to be. My assumption after we got married is my husband, and I would spend time together creating happy memories, enjoying special traditions, and spending time with those we love and who love us. However, my husband is very close to his family and in the past, he has wanted to spend most or all of his holiday time with them. Our time apart caused many issues in our new marriage.  Recently, he has chosen to balance his time during holiday gatherings as he realized that this was hurting our relationship.

Another issue that places a hardship on our situation is the time it takes to travel to the in-laws home and the cost of traveling there. Although I have spent much time there while my husband and I were dating, I feel we have established our home and feel it is unfair to continue to be expected to make all the sacrifices…expenses, travel time, missed time with my family, and to top it off, to experience the stress of the ongoing conflict. It is to the point where I cannot just hold my tongue and pretend this is not a problem in our relationship. I cannot continue to avoid conflict or communicating my needs or how this makes me feel quite sad. When I avoid communicating my concerns and needs, it has only led to poor relationships and misunderstandings.

So, what do you do when you find yourself in this situation especially when you are not off on the right foot with your in-laws after marriage? Do you just suck it up and continue to pretend it doesn’t bother you? NO! For me, this only built anger, resentment, hurt feelings and escalating conflict distancing myself further from my in-laws and damaging my relationship with my husband. In thinking through and weighing various options, you have to be cognizant of everyone’s needs. What are they? Knowing this will greatly assist in how you can negotiate what might work moving forward. For example, I know my in-laws have eight children to consider. They would consider it a burden to leave their home just to visit us when they have other children to consider. My husband’s need is to be with his family and continue to honor the family’s special holiday traditions. And of course, if/when we do decide to have children, we will have much more than just their needs to consider for our situation. But it varies situationally, and so thus, there are many considerations regarding needs and concerns of the entire family.

Once you have identified the major needs of all involved, then consider these additional recommendations to reduce or manage conflict at holiday or special events between your spouse and in-laws.

  • Discuss expectations with your new spouse (before marriage if you can). Holiday family traditions and how to spend time with the two separate families is often a concern for many newlyweds. Will you be okay with how your spouse chooses to spend his/her time? If not, then you need to communicate an honest view of your expectations. 
  • Make a plan with your spouse to have a challenging conversation with the in-laws. You and your spouse need to decide if both of you or your spouse alone will communicate the concerns and your needs for a respectful engagement. This conversation needs to be done well before the holidays or special event.
  • Create a backup plan with clear boundaries. You can do all of the planning ahead of time, but what if this doesn’t work? You can’t change anyone. They very well might continue to criticize, pass judgment, and make hurtful or embarrassing remarks. You have to decide what are the boundaries, and how will you respond when they do. For me, I might say “I can no longer be a part of this conversation.” and then, walk away. Later, convey in a respectful manner that the remarks hurt you. For example, “I had to walk away because I felt hurt and embarrassed.
  • Ask your spouse what role he/she will maintain during conflicts with his/her family towards you. Will they be a mediator, an avoider, a fighter, or a peace-keeper? This role is important to determine as you do not want to pursue an uphill battle alone. You also want to know how you should approach the conflict since this is not your family of origin, and you may be unfamiliar with their communication style.

Try to enjoy the holidays as best as you can while showing your in-laws that both sets of feelings do matter. For tips on how to manage conflict like this without avoiding it all together, listen to the Texas Conflict Coach® ‘s radio program episode Repairing the Damage of Conflict Avoidance with Pattie Porter and Stephen Kotev!

 

Have a Great Day!

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

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