Negotiating a Work Situation That Meets Your Needs

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Q. A client of ours has just instituted 7:30 a.m. meetings twice a week. As a result, I have to get my son up early so I can drop him off at a neighbor's house by 6:30 on those mornings, then have the neighbor drive him to school for me. How can I get the client to change the time without the company thinking I'm less serious about work?

A: "Nowadays, everybody is juggling, but people are silent about their work-family issues," says Dr. Kolb. "They see their issues as individual problems and feel that they'd be going out on a limb if they spoke up." But most so-called personal issues are group problems.

Take this 7:30 a.m. meeting. "The client assumes that this time works for everybody," notes Dr. Kolb. "But if you spoke to the other people going to this meeting, you'd probably discover that this is not the case at all. And there would be strength in numbers."

Dr. Kolb recommends asking each of your coworkers (including those without children) and even the client's employees if they find the time difficult. Then brainstorm with the group about how to raise the issue with the client. Should you suggest another time to meet? Or do you want to propose other, electronic ways to keep the project moving -- perhaps on a trial basis?

Keep in mind that the key is not to come up with a solution but to draft starting points for discussion with the client. "If you present an issue as a group concern, then put the focus on strategies to resolve this systemic problem, it makes it much harder for the other side to resist," says Dr. Kolb.

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