Rule One: Negotiate from a Position of Fact-Based Strength
You want to change your work schedule because the current hamster wheel is making your life intolerable. You may even be tempted to quit altogether but want to give your employers a shot at making it work. If so, you haven’t really got a huge amount to lose. And even if you aren’t ready to throw in the towel, or can’t afford to, remember, you are of great value to them.
Have a quick skim over chapter 1 again. Remind yourself of all that female power. Remember how valuable we are in the workplace right now. How expensive we are to replace and how desperately our employers want just our kind of female management talents. In fact you have a lot less at stake in asking for a changed schedule than your employers do.
There’s more to boost your confidence. Your boss’s number one concern will be that your productivity falls because you’re not sitting at your desk. He or she will panic that you are lazing around on the company’s paycheck with your head in the clouds and not in your work. It’s an understandable concern. After decades of having employees within view and easily monitored, where every minute is accounted for, you are asking them to cede control of your day and simply trust you. No wonder they’re apprehensive. But they don’t need to be.
Remember—flexible workers are happy workers are more productive workers. We gave you this data in chapter 2, but here’s one more stat: since Best Buy began its company-wide alternative work program—ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment)— productivity is up by an average of 41 percent, and in some departments, by 65 percent.
Best Buy bosses who were skeptical have become converts purely because the business results are so compelling. John “J. T.” Thompson, an old-school, watch-the-clock kind of guy and senior vice president of BestBuy. com was a huge skeptic. J. T. came of age believing anyone who didn’t live in her office wasn’t a team player. He loved nothing more than a Sunday afternoon at his desk. At first he pushed back against the architects of ROWE, Cali Ressler and her co-conspirator Jody Thompson (no relation to J. T.). He dismissed their revolutionary flexibility plan as nothing more than a New Age slackers club.
“I was not supportive,” says J. T. Thompson. In fact he wasn’t just “not supportive,” he was downright terrified about losing control. J. T. was convinced employees would use the program to draw a salary without doing the work. How are you going to measure productivity? he wanted to know.
But one of J. T.’s managers reassured him with a set of concrete performance metrics. They would be able to measure how many orders per hour the team was processing, no matter where they were. The manager promised J. T. he’d haul everyone back into the office if orders dipped for a second. Reluctantly, J. T. agreed to give it a shot.
Within a month the team’s productivity was up, and engagement scores (those job satisfaction and retention measures) were the highest in the history of the whole division. J. T. had always worried about engagement scores, and when he saw these numbers he was thrilled. He moved fast to implement the system in the entire online sales department. Voluntary turnover fell from over 16 percent to zero. “For years I had been focused on the wrong currency,” Thompson confesses. “I was always looking to see if people were here. I should have been looking at what they were getting done.”
J. T.’s experience is shared by everyone we have talked with who has embraced alternative work schedules.
At Capitol One, Senior Vice President Judy Pahren says it just makes sense. Simply being in the office doesn’t mean you’re being productive—far from it. “If an employee is in the office but is actually worried about their child getting off the bus OK and doing their homework properly,” says Pahren, “they’re not actually focusing on work because they’re distracted by their kid. It is much better for that person to leave early and catch up on e-mails and project work from home in the evening. That person will actually be more productive in that hour and a half than they would be if they had spent it here worrying about things going at home.”
And this dynamic is certainly not confined to parents. Pahren cites the example of an associate who uses her alternative work schedule to spend afternoons involved in community service. Being able to fulfill her charitable commitments makes the associate a happier, more satisfied person—which in turn makes her a more productive person in all areas of her life, including her work.
All of this, from women’s power in the marketplace to the increased productivity that flexible schedules can generate, will help you make an impressive case. And remember, you’ve probably spent huge chunks of your career persuading people to do what you want. You persuade the boss to pursue a client, a client to sign on their account, a colleague to join a project. You, in fact, are the expert at turning data and facts into a fluid, persuasive argument.
The fact is, you already have the power of professional persuasion in your back pocket. You just need to use it for yourself.