5 Things to Negotiate at Work

Beyond Salary: Other Benefits Worth Negotiating

Ah, the art of negotiation. Some of us are gifted with an unnatural ability to get anything and everything we want, and still somehow leave the other side happy and thinking it was all their idea. The majority of us, though, don't enjoy it and probably aren't much good at it.

Unfortunately, there comes a time in everyone's career when you have to do it. We tend to think only of salary negotiations, and even then we usually don't want to come across as too pushy or unyielding, saying something along the lines of “I'd expect to be paid within an acceptable range for someone with my education and experience”. You're not going to get much with that strategy

In fact, no matter what profession or industry you work in, there are a number of items worth negotiating for when the time comes. According to a recent article by Camille Pagan on Lifehacker, these five items should be on your “To Negotiate” list. Pagan suggests that all five are possible, so long as you know how to ask. I think she’s right...

1. Maternity or Paternity Leave

In a perfect world, new parents would have the option of staying home without risking their job or their full salary. And by “parent” I do mean mom or dad. We no longer live in a “Leave It To Beaver” world where father brings home the bacon, and mother cooks it. Bonding and caretaking between father and child is just as important as between mother and child, so paternity should be considered when possible.

At work, it’s not always offered, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely off the table. Your best bet involves not only requesting it, but providing details on how it can work. Just staying home for 60 days (or more, or less, depending on where you live) means upheaval and problems for your colleagues. Find ways to ease that, and your chances increase exponentially.

Try not to take it personally, and remember that you definitely won't get more time - or maybe any at all - if you don't ask.

2. Paid Vacation Time

This is the biggie. Next to salary, this is the one everyone most concerns themselves with, and for good reason. We all work hard, and we want to know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Time off for good behaviour. A chance to recharge our batteries...ideally soaking up the sun on a tropical beach. Unfortunately, the amount of time you get by default varies wildly depending on where you live. The USA has some of the lowest paid vacation time in the world. Scandinavia, by contrast, has some of the highest (so if all else fails, consider moving to Finland).

Again, the trick is knowing how and when to ask about it. Employees that work hard, show initiative, and perform their duties well can request more time. Similar to the conversation you’d have regarding maternity leave, explain exactly how you’ll make it easier for everyone else. Make it about them.

3. Promotions

Why are we usually so timid when it comes to asking for promotions? Human nature, I suppose, but the reality is that you should consider asking rather than waiting for it. If a position higher up the corporate ladder becomes available, seize the chance and make your desire known. Explain why you’d be perfect. Don’t wait for it to fall in your lap. 

4. What You Work On

If there is a big account or project that you want to be part of, ask. Pretty simple. Again, this assumes that you’ve worked hard and proven yourself a valuable commodity. If you have, there’s no shame in actively going after what you want. Too often we believe that passivity is unavoidable in our careers. We mistakenly think we must be “chosen”. We don’t. The answer might be “no” to any particular request, but asking can only generate positive fallout.

5. Flexible Schedule and Work Location

For some, this may be the most important on this list. For others, it may not even be on the radar.

Flex Time is a fairly new concept, but one that is gaining acceptance and credibility.

Very few companies are going to advertise their willingness. But if you can present a reasonable argument for it, many of them will certainly entertain the idea. If you want to work from home (either full-time, or certain days of the week), present it as a win for fewer employee eating the free snacks, or eating in the subsidized cafeteria, or using office supplies, or losing valuable time (that could be better spent working) commuting. Likewise if you want to work at the office, but on a slightly altered schedule...someone available to handle issues and problems “after” hours, fewer hours when the office is empty and in need of a security guard (saving the company money), and so on. Every office environment will be different, so the more specific to your company, the better.

The technology available to us makes physically being in the office not completely necessary all the time. Utilize that in your proposal.

Everything is a negotiation in life, in one way or another. Go after the things that are important to you. And that shouldn’t be just the money.


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