Negotiating a Work Situation That Meets Your Needs

Introduction

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Illustration by Nick Dewar

When Jane Swift, pregnant with twins, was named acting governor of Massachusetts in 2001, everything from the length of her maternity leave to whether she would work from home became national news. It's not surprising that her case struck a chord: With an estimated 70% of mothers now in the work force and a growing number of fathers determined to be more involved dads, many parents find themselves struggling to balance work and family.

While Swift's efforts drew widespread media coverage, average American parents often find their attempts to renegotiate their work schedules stymied -- blocked, ignored, or just outright dismissed by their bosses. The reason? They haven't mastered the art of negotiation, says Deborah Kolb, Ph.D., a professor at Simmons Graduate School of Management in Boston and senior fellow at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard University's Law School.

Dr. Kolb, who coauthored The Shadow Negotiation, spent six years interviewing some 300 professional women to uncover the secrets to successful negotiations. Her conclusion: Every negotiation is governed by hidden power plays that help determine whether people will agree to come to the bargaining table -- and how they'll act if they do.

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