The Power of Asking
We're catching up this week on news that has piqued our interest over the past week or so, now that the Christmas festivities are over and our house is once again inhabited only by our immediate family. One of these interesting tidbits is an entry by Sue Shellenbarger in the Wall Street Journal's The Juggle blog from 12/17, entitled "Be a Negotiator, Not a Victim: How to Get Parental Leave."
In this piece, Ms. Shellenbarger queries Harvard Law professor Robert Mnookin to find out if he thinks someone who works as an independent contractor could ever negotiate a few weeks of paid adoption leave from her employer. Dr. Mnookin suggests that this new mom-to-be approach her employer with ideas that represent the company's interests - not just her own wishes - and be flexible in her conversations with her boss. He then suggests some unconventional solutions, such as asking for advance pay as an interest-free loan to be repaid the following year from her fees, or in exchange for an explicit promise that for some period of time, she won’t raise her fees.
These strategies may not work, since it is pretty hard to expect paid leave when you're a contract employee. But one way to guarantee they won't work is to avoid asking.
There is amazing power in asking - especially with a spirit of cooperation, flexibility and no hint of trying to get something for nothing. Asking for what you want, and negotiating a fair solution that keeps your employer and you happy, is a good thing for all parties. It bodes well for your future too, if handled well, since you'll be seen as a straight-shooter who follows through.
So ask for what you need at work. Don't expect free handouts, but don't expect anyone to read your mind either.