An Open Invitation

An Open Invitation

How the change and upheaval of the pandemic is also an open invitation to negotiate for a better work life

A Clean(ish) Slate

Have you ever hesitated to negotiate a change for yourself at work? Stopped short outside your boss’ office thinking: “I can’t just walk in there and start to negotiate! I wasn’t even invited for a meeting…”? If so, you are not alone. One of the most common obstacles to negotiating for yourself is the belief that you need an invitation to negotiate, especially if it’s about your work and compensation. So here’s the good news: the upheaval and changes in the way we work that follow in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic make for one giant invitation to negotiate your terms and conditions at work! In fact, it is a great opportunity for all of us, employees and managers alike, to shake things up and reorganize the way we do our jobs, when, with whom and how.

 

“…it is a great opportunity for all of us, employees and managers alike”

 

Facilitate the Conversation

This type of conversation could be hugely satisfying for everyone involved, if it means actually looking at what we are good at, who we work well with and how each and everyone gets a say about how. It could also be a daunting task, particularly for management, as they might imagine a flood of impossible demands and an overwhelming amount of personalized deals hammered out in exhausting meetings. Fair enough. It does mean that being a manager or leader will mean taking charge and steering everyone through the process, but with a keen eye to how you facilitate the process, it has the potential to be both creative and a general boost to everyone – and consequently even to the organization itself.

 

“…it has the potential to be both creative and a general boost to everyone”

 

Much the Wiser

Before making a lot of changes to the way we organize our work, it is extremely important to investigate what it is we actually want to change – and what we need to ask for. I call this ‘negotiating with yourself’ because it is a conversation full of different needs and thoughts, some of which might be pulling in opposite directions. Sitting down to find out, what you would like to change for the better is a serious task, and not always an easy one. Again we are helped along by all the experiments the pandemic has put us through – we have actually tried different ways of working and have a lot more practical experience to throw into the conversation with ourselves. We might otherwise have had a rather rosy idea of how wonderful it would be to skip the commute, to have the peace and quiet to really focus when working alone at home – but reality is much more nuanced than this for most people.

“…we have actually tried different ways of working”

 

To Keep or Not to Keep

“I miss my colleagues!” and “I love my kids but….” are just some of the comments we have probably all heard over the past months, and I’m quite sure that most of us have learnt something new about ourselves as working human beings. We all have different opinions about what to keep and what to lose of all the new formats and frameworks, but having a deep think about what you personally would like to continue exploring and what you have realized you no longer want to do, is a necessary preparation for negotiating this with your boss. Make lists and priorities and most importantly; think as creatively as you can when designing your new and improved work life. One thing we have learnt from the pandemic is, that nothing is written in stone and that the possibilities are endless for doing our work in new and exciting and much more relevant ways.

 

“…think as creatively as you can when designing your new and improved work life”

 

A Better Balance

The experiences we have had during the pandemic are also deeply interesting because we can no longer ignore how much our private lives affect how we work. Many people have discovered how working from home is a great relief in terms of getting practicalities out of the way in a much more efficient way than before. But it might also have become painfully obvious who pulls the heavier load at home and this in itself might need re-negotiating. So everything is on the table. How you want to spend the hours of your day, what type of work you most enjoy doing and with whom but also what your dreams for your career are and how they match your current set-up at home. Just as you need to frame the negotiations with your boss in a positive light, you also need to let those at home understand, that this is not a zero-sum game but rather a creative task to find a new balance.

“…everything is on the table”

 

 

Designing for the Future

If you are still worried that your boss might not want to negotiate anything with you, remember that they have been through great changes themselves, and that the organization as such has discovered how flexible terms and conditions for employees are not always bad. So don’t wait to be asked. Jump right in and take the initiative to negotiate the new and improved version of how you will do your job. Frame it as a creative task, where both you and your boss bring both many new and some old elements to the table and then the design-work can begin. Hold back on the heavy argumentation and the long lists of pro’s and con’s. Instead, explore opportunities by being curious and creative and then see, if you can make an agreement that fits both by matching all the new and exciting ingredients you have on the table.

 

“Frame it as a creative task”

 

So, lots of negotiating to do in the months to come. With yourself. With your family. And with your place of work. The invitations are all there, all you need to do is knock on that door and have some creative fun before we all slide back into the bad habits of the ‘good old days’.

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