Negotiating a Work Situation That Meets Your Needs

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Child presented Dr. Kolb with five work-related scenarios frequently faced by new parents. Here, she explains smart strategies for making the most of a negotiation.

Q. Ever since my boss agreed to let me work three days a week (with a 40% pay cut), he and my coworkers have treated me as though I'd been demoted. People "forget" to tell me about decisions that were made, for example. I don't want to give up my part-time status, but I also don't want to wreck my career. Any suggestions?

A. As a consultant to Fortune 500 firms, Dr. Kolb says she often finds that employees are cut out of the loop once they work reduced schedules. "Usually, it's not that their colleagues are being malicious. People just tend to forget about you when you're not around," she says.

The problem for many parents is that they're so grateful for their part-time arrangements, they feel they must suffer in silence. "But the fact that a manager gave you a part-time job in the first place says that he values you and wants to keep you," Dr. Kolb points out. Even in an economic downturn, she notes, it's expensive to replace talented employees.

In this case, meet privately with your boss and tactfully describe what's happening. "I feel as though I'm being excluded," you could say. "Has something changed since we made this arrangement?" It's important not to be hostile or point fingers. Always treat the other person as if he is acting in good faith, Dr. Kolb says. Stress the impact the situation is having on the business so he'll be motivated to look for remedies. ("This is preventing me from getting my job done," you could say. "And it's slowing down the project.")

As for the solution, you and your boss might consider shifting your work duties so that you have assignments that require fewer meetings and enable you to work more independently. You might also propose periodic reviews of your arrangement so that you can resolve issues before problems escalate.

Also, take a proactive approach with colleagues, Dr. Kolb says. Find out if your absence is creating problems for them, and plan accordingly. If, for instance, meetings tend to be held on Fridays, a day that you're off, ask them -- before they schedule the next meeting -- if they wouldn't mind changing it to a day when you'll be there. The point is to speak up so you can create the conditions that will make your arrangement work for you -- and your office.

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