There are literally hundreds of different ways you can shape the work deal you want. Remember Stephanie Hampton? She’s our public relations whiz at Marriott hotels. After years as a full-on workaholic, she’s now scaled back to a four-day week. Guess how she got her four-day week? She asked! It took her a ridiculously long time to do it though.

“I was on maternity leave with my son and I just knew I didn’t want to go back to work full time. I talked it over with my hus­band, and we agreed I’d ask for a four-day week. The only prob­lem was, I couldn’t summon up the courage to ask. Every day my friends and family said, ‘So have you asked yet?’ Eventually my mom came over and pushed me, and when I finally did, my boss was surprisingly accommodating.”

In fact Stephanie got her new deal fairly easily—once she ac­tually made the request. Her boss wasn’t freaked-out, didn’t fire her, demote her, or send her to “mommy track” purgatory. She is still a high-powered, well-valued, top-performing member of Marriott’s management team. Indeed Stephanie suspects he was expecting the call. But, wow, what a lot of stress to get there.

Do you know the number one reason women don’t get the New All they want at work? They don’t ask for it. One day we won’t have to make our individual pitches; the world really is changing, and before very long all companies will realize the benefits of flexibility. But until they do, you have to ask.

We don’t know a boss who will casually saunter up to your desk and suggest, “Clara, you seem a bit overstretched these days. I bet it’s tricky balancing all the different parts of your life. But we really want to keep you here and want to make you happy. Wouldn’t you feel saner if we just adjusted your schedule? Why don’t I just rely on you to get the work done and you can do it from wherever you like, whenever you like? How does that sound?”

Dream on. (OK, if anybody does know bosses like this out there, we want to track them down for our best-bosses listing. Send names to our Web site.)

Listen, we sympathize. We know it’s hard to confront your boss and ask for something “extra,” and it is somehow particu­larly hard for women. The thought of marching into the corner office and asking for a better schedule brings out a feeling of dread. Suddenly we’re ten years old, not thirty-five. The boss has morphed into our meanest teacher ever and we’re back in school – rules panic mode all over again. The knot in our stomach gets tighter, and we find excuses not to pick up the phone, request the meeting and make the case. But you’ve been through the Women­omics training circuit now and have banished all of those unconfident thoughts from your head, so you have no choice!

This is simply so important that you have to overcome your fear of confrontation and have that talk. The good news is we’ve got a plan that’s going to make this negotiating business a cinch—and the icing is that, as Stephanie found, you usually get what you want, even with the toughest-sell bosses.

Underpinning you entire negotiating strategy is a simple tactic—you have to sell this as a win/win. Your bosses will usu­ally only sign on if they believe it makes good business sense for them as much as it makes good lifestyle sense for you. Here’s how.