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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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