Amber is ready to walk if she doesn’t get the new schedule she wants. Is it wise for her to give a flexible work ultimatum to her managers? If so, when and how?
Dear Pat: I work full-time as an analyst for a tiny financial advisory firm in Houston. I just downloaded your part-time proposal template. It’s a great starting reference, yet there’s a twist in my proposed plan. I’m prepared to resign my position if my managers (all men) turn down my proposal for a reduced workweek.
Should I issue a flexible work ultimatum? If so, when?
And how? Should I include it in the proposal directly to place more weight on the request? Or wait until my proposal is turned down in hopes they’ll then reconsider? Your advice, please. ~ Amber
Dear Amber: If you approach your request strategically, the ultimatum will never have to rear its ugly head.
I strongly advise against putting an ultimatum in the written proposal. That upfront “or else” stance tends to put people on the defensive, turning the negotiations into a “me-vs-them” adversarial exchange.
In contrast, a collaborative, problem-solving approach to negotiating is more likely to get the outcome you want. Negotiation research backs this up.
From what I’ve seen over the years, presenting a professional proposal for job redesign in writing is enough to get agreement of a flexible work arrangement.
In your case, along with a solid plan, you have strong negotiating leverage. Your BATNA, that is, your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, means you have nothing to lose by asking. (As you’ve already made the decision to leave if they say no.)
In contrast, your employer will lose (you) by not working out an agreement for reduced hours.
My advice? Proceed as follows.
First, define three part-time variations that would work for you. For example, your ideal plus a couple of acceptable arrangements that don’t match your ideal but are workable for your work-life needs. Most negotiations involve give-and-take, so go to that level with your managers first.
If you and your employer cannot come to a negotiated outcome that you find acceptable, then you can verbally remark what your plans are.
How to Present Your Flexible Work Ultimatum
At the point of impasse you could say something like, “It’s only fair to let you know that a flexible work arrangement is extremely important to me for long-term job satisfaction and retention. It’s so important that I’ll need to resign my position if we don’t come to mutually-agreeable terms.”
Then pose a question to keep the conversation going:
“Would you be willing to discuss your main concerns further so we can explore how to work this out?”
Be quiet and let them respond.
Their response will be very telling about how much they value your contribution as an employee. Or it will reveal how short-sighted they are as an employer, letting experienced talent walk out the door instead of using flexible work strategies as a retention and job satisfaction tool.
If it comes to that, you might be interested in my tips for finding a flexible new job with a more enlightened employer. At the time of this writing, FlexJobs had literally dozens of positions posted in their Accounting and Finance category.
So while there are other job options out there, presenting your proposal for part-time in a problem-solving collaborative way is likely to get you the results you want. Without having to issue a flexible work ultimatum.
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