Negotiating a Work Situation That Meets Your Needs

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Q. Right after my boss began to consider me for a promotion, I discovered that I was pregnant with twins. Since I already have a child, my boss is concerned that I might not be able to handle the job. My husband works from home and is a very involved parent, but she still has doubts. Any advice?

A: In negotiations, it's natural to focus on what you want, but people can become so consumed with advocating their agenda that they become deaf to the other side. "Neither person hears the other, so there's a stalemate," Dr. Kolb says. If you want a true dialogue, you must be ready to listen.

Since the issue in this case is whether a mother of twins can handle a promotion (à la Jane Swift), you must find out exactly how your employer envisions the new job. Will it, for instance, require frequent travel? If so, your manager might be concerned that you won't be able to hop on a plane at the last minute. "Usually people have legitimate reasons for taking the positions they do," says Dr. Kolb. "They're not just being difficult."

And once the boss's concerns are on the table, you must treat them seriously. For example, instead of chastising your boss for her mistaken assumptions about your husband's role in the family, explain that he works from home, rarely travels, and has been the primary caregiver since your first child was born. "You want to state your case clearly, but you also want to demonstrate that you appreciate the other person's point of view," says Dr. Kolb. "It's about building trust so you can work out a solution together."

Once you and your boss have this dialogue, you may realize that this isn't the right time to take on a new job, says Dr. Kolb. But unlike Jane Swift, who probably wouldn't have another chance to be named governor had she turned down the job, you could pass on the promotion, confident that your positive negotiations have positioned you well for the next job.

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Copyright © 2001. Reprinted with permission from the September 2001 issue of Child magazine.

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