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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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What if the customer is not always right? – Strategies for Businesses in Dealing with Troublesome Customers


We have all heard the phrase, “the customer is always right”, it has been an expression used since the early 20th century in businesses across America. The concept behind the phrase was to give customers the feeling that their needs and desires come first and foremost. But is this the right way to do business? What if the client is, in fact, wrong?

I have worked as a waitress in the food industry, and I can say from experience that there are many situations when the customer is not right. The client’s satisfaction is important, especially for a waitress working for tips. These incidents can be difficult especially if the customer requests to speak to a manager. But what should employers do in these situations? Do they back their employees? Or do they side with their clients?

According to a blog article on Huff Post Business, Gordan Bethune the former CEO of Continental Airlines believes having your employee’s back is more important than the customers. Bethune explains, “You can’t treat your employees like serfs. You have to value them…If they think that you won’t support them when a customer is out of line, even the smallest problem can cause resentment”. Resentment in the workplace is problematic for business. Employees, who do not trust their employers, will not work hard for them.

When conflicts arise between customers and employees, employers may find it difficult to navigate because while standing behind their employee is important, customer satisfaction is necessary for a business to grow. There are several general tools that the employee and employer can use when working with troublesome customers to move from conflict to resolution.

Lee Jay Berman founder of the American Institute of Mediation (AIM) suggests that the essential first step to resolving any conflict is to keep your cool. The moment people get angry they are no longer listening or hearing what is being said to them. If the customer is dissatisfied with the product or service they may get angry, it is important not to react in the same fashion, or the capacity to move forward will be lost.

The second step towards resolution suggested by Mind Tools is to listen actively to what the other person is saying. To actively listen means that one person is listening to what the other is saying, rather than thinking about what they will say next. When dealing with dissatisfied customers, it is important that they feel that their grievance is being heard. If they do not feel this way, they may become angrier.

The next step to solve the issue, apologize. Even if the customer is in the wrong, apologize for the inconvenience, the mistake, etc. Just acknowledging their grievance with an apology can assist in cooling tensions.The final step towards resolution is figuring out a solution. The employer must find a solution that satisfies the customer, but also preserves their establishment’s integrity.

While these are general tools that can be used to resolve a conflict between an employer/employee and a client, not every situation warrants a resolution. The phrase “the customer is always right”, implies to the customer that even if they are wrong, they are still right, which is not the case in every situation. Employers need to recognize that the quality of the customer is better than the quantity. As Alexander Kjerulf explains in the Huff Blog Business, “Most businesses think that “the more customers the better.” But some customers are just bad for business.” It is important that the employer can recognize the difference between the customer worth saving, and the customer worth letting go.

While the customers are what make the business prosperous, some customers can cause more problems. In situations where the customer is not right, employers must support their employees in order for them to feel valued. It is essential that employees know how to handle conflicts with dissatisfied customers efficiently, so that they can resolve and move forward. But, it is also essential for employers to know when a customer is more harm than good for their business.


Abigail Clark

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore –

Negotiation and Conflict Management Program



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