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, but my question to you as I begin relates to a possible resignation; I am prepared to resign my position if my managers (all men) turn down my proposal for a reduced workweek. What is your best advice regarding when I should reference this ultimatum? Should I include it in the proposal directly to place more weight on the request? Or wait until my proposal is possibly turned down to announce that I will be resigning as the alternative, and hoping that they reconsider? ~ Amber
Dear Amber: Approach your request strategically and the ultimatum will never have to rear its ugly head.
I strongly advise against putting your 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 your request is more likely to get you what you want. Negotiation research over the years confirms this. In fact, from what I’ve seen, presenting a professionally-crafted plan for job redesign in writing is enough to get agreement of a work-flex arrangement, at least for a trial period.
In your case, along with a solid proposal and plan, you have what’s called strong negotiating leverage. Your BATNA, that is, your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, means you have nothing to lose by asking (because you’ve already made the decision to leave if they say no) and your employer will lose (you) by not working out an agreement for reduced hours.
Here’s how I suggest you proceed: First define three part-time variations that would work for you: ideal, and 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.
So at the point of impasse you can 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. So important that I will need to resign my position if we’re not able to come to a mutual agreement about when and how my work gets done.”
Then pose a question to keep the conversation going: “Would you be willing to further discuss your main concerns so we can explore how to work this out?”
Then 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.