When Sharlyn Lauby (a.k.a HRBartender.com) asked me to comment on “How to Handle Workplace Retaliation,” I presented my advice in the context of proposing a formal flex plan seeking to change how, when and/or where you work. A very common concern that keeps people from asking for formal flexibility is the fear of manager retaliation. This concern has grown since the start of the Recession.
You can go to the HRBartender post for more on workplace retaliation, but here are three ways to approach your formal flex plan to ensure it gets the most positive consideration and limits the chance of a negative reaction:
Step 1: Make sure your formal flex plan clearly considers the needs of the business (MOST PEOPLE DON’T DO THIS-Go to “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” to learn how). The quickest way to lose credibility with your manager and support for your plan is to ignore the day-to-day objectives of your job and the state of the business within which you work.
Present your plan as a proposal intended to initiate a conversation. That way you signal to your manager that you are open to his or her input and that your proposal isn’t set in stone. This gives the manager wiggle room. He or she doesn’t feel cornered which is especially important if you manager isn’t used to employees working flexibly.
Step 2: In many situations, if you are a solid performer, the answer will be “yes” to some version of a well-thought out plan for flexibility; however…
Step 3: What if the answer is “no” to your flex proposal? It’s okay to ask respectfully “why?” in order to determine if there’s a way to address the manager’s concerns. Perhaps a 60-day trial period would help?
But what if the answer is still no? You should prepare yourself in advance for what you will do if, even after your best effort to present a win-win plan, the outcome is not positive. Sadly, it happens. Most importantly, make sure you don’t let that disappointment affect your performance on the job.
Sometimes what is seen by the employee as retaliation on the part of the manager for presenting a proposal is really a valid response to a decline in job performance after hearing “no.” Go into the negotiation prepared to keep performing no matter what the outcome because your manager will be watching.
Especially if you are a solid, valued performer, your manager will know on some level that he or she should have found some way to make your well thoughtout plan work at least for a trial period. As much as you may want to, don’t bad mouth your manager to colleagues. There is a good possibility that he or she may come around with time and decide to give your plan a try; however, you don’t want to give them an excuse to question your commitment.
Even if you decide to look for another job that will give you more flexibility, don’t burn bridges with your manager. You will want their recommendation.
While there is never a guarantee you will hear “yes,” when you present a formal flex plan, there are steps you can take to ensure you get the most positive consideration. And, in case the answer is “no,” remain on good terms with your manager. Whether or not you decide to look for more flexible alternative employment, it pays to stay friends.