Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 28 – the jobs and careers context 27

This is my 28th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-27.)

I began addressing a list of issues in Part 25 of this, that can and do arise at least occasionally during longer employment tenures, that I repeat here as a whole for purposes of smoother continuity of narrative in what is to follow. And I begin this posting by noting that I have already at least preliminarily addressed the first two of the topics points of this list (as noted parenthetically here) and the first half of Part 3 as well:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there (see Part 25 and Part 26),
2. Salary and overall compensation changes (see Part 27),
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable your reaching your goals there (with discussion of this begun in earlier installments in this progression of them),
4. Promotions and lateral moves,
5. Dealing with difficult people,
6. And negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them. I add this example last on this list because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and execution too, as touched upon in Part 23.

My goal for this posting is to further address the above stated Point 3 and its issues, focusing here on constraints box considerations and further expanding out the range of employee needs and options for addressing them, that can effectively be brought to the table in the types of work position and overall compensation negotiations that I have been discussing here.

Note: the issues that I discuss here can rise to critical importance because an employee’s work responsibilities have expanded out beyond any realistic interpretations of the official job description in place for work actually performed, and on an ongoing basis. That is the basic underlying reason that I have discussed up to here in these postings, for seeking opportunity to negotiate, or renegotiate terms of employment at a business. But this can also become important and even crucially so as a consequence of non-work, life issues and when an employee needs to find a better way to juggle the needs of their overall life with those of their job too. So I write here about expanding the range of options and option types that might be negotiated over, but I also write here from a wider perspective as to why these negotiations might even be needed in the first place. Remember in that context, that some of the possibilities that an employee might want and even need to gain approval for, would essentially only arise as issues for them when they have to address demands and pressures that arise outside of work. So this wider negotiating context is particularly important here in this posting.

With that noted, let’s start this line of discussion from the already at least partly addressed context of changes in job responsibilities held, and similar workplace reasons for seeking out change. And to set the stage for discussion to follow here, I explicitly note that I am not writing about special circumstance, limited duration changes in the work load expected of an employee or manager under consideration here, and certainly where everyone working at a business is facing what are essentially the same type of “crunch time” work load increases for some period of time, for what they would be expected to do. To take that out of the abstract, consider large retail businesses with their seasonally expected large and even tremendously so, increases in sales and sales-supportive business activity going into their year-end holiday sales seasons. My focus here is on fundamental, long-term and essentially permanent shifts in what at least some employees and managers are expected to do as their new upgraded but not necessarily automatically rewarded standard, expected work flow. The types of employee recognition and overall compensation changes that I address here, as negotiating goals are all long-term in nature. So are the shifts in employment context and in job requirements that I address here too. And that point is crucial to all that I have been discussing in this and the immediately preceding four installments to this series. And this understanding is equally important when thinking through and acting upon the issues that I will be addressing here as I continue addressing the rest of the topics issues of the above-repeated list.

• Effective negotiations are built around what at least hopefully can become a shared effort to find commensurate, equitable resolutions in what is to happen moving forward, that would match the changes that have led to those negotiations in the first place.
• And the key words there are “commensurate” and “equitable,” as in fair and balanced, and with a goal of arriving at agreement as to what those words mean as a practical matter, in the situation under discussion.

I cited one reference in the above topics list, for constraints box and what that term means as a key jobs and careers consideration. And I begin to more fully address that larger range of possible commensurate and equitable resolution, bargaining points here by offering two more relevant reference links too:

Globalization and Your Constraints Box.
Working In-House, Working as a Consultant and Your Constraints Box.

The basic idea of a constraints box is very simple. Start out by listing all of the needs, desires and wishes that you can think of that if at least individually met, might at least incrementally positively impact upon and reshape your work life and your life as a whole from that. In effect, toss these wish list possibilities as a loose and unorganized, unprioritized collection into a box. And after you have built up your collection there for a while, open the box and begin looking for patterns in what you have put in there, and for duplications too. What have you added several times, perhaps with slightly different wording but with a same basic need or desire coming to the fore, for you repeatedly? Which of your constraints box items fit together in patterns and what do those emerging patterns have to say as to what is and is not really important for you? Which of them are outliers, but ones that are still very important to you? Which of your entries here are more whim in nature and discardable, and which are more centrally important to you?

Collectively, these listed items can help you map out the points that you would want to raise and discuss in any jobs or careers discussion, where the terms of your employment and the workplace conditions that you and an employer would come to agreement with become important. To take that out of the abstract with a specific wish list item, is flex-time work scheduling important to you so you can more easily meet pressing family obligations? And to add in a second possibility here, would you see the possibility of being able to work from home at least part time, of real value and meaning to you? Does your employer support these options or ones like them, and if so would your immediate supervisor there be supportive of this, in your case? Now, how would you best approach this type of workplace issue if you wanted to try to negotiate a deal with your direct supervisor that would allow you’re achieving one of these constraints box goals?

• Know yourself and your needs, and know your own priorities for all of this.
• Know your workplace, and from a corporate culture and business practice perspective, and from the perspective of how your supervisor more individually views the issues that you might raise here.
• Think through how best to frame and present your constraints box goals here, and with some raised for discussion as throw-away negotiating points where that might help to advance your cause, but with that option only resorted to with care.
• Think through what you might be willing to give on, in exchange for a more valuable to you concession. And think longer-term here and not just in terms of your immediate short-term needs – unless that is, you are explicitly seeking a short-term accommodation, in which case you are probably looking for accommodations that would not go into your longer-term constraints box lists in the first place.
• Know what is short-term and what is long-term there and think in terms of how you would best present them as such.
• And listen for possible flexibility in the feedback you receive in these discussions, where rephrasing and fine tuning a requested accommodation might make it more acceptable. This point cuts to the heart of what your actual constraints box entries actually are and to the heart of what their actual priorities are for you. Don’t be surprised if discussing them in this type of setting brings you to reconsider your constraints box goals here, and what really defines them for you.
• And if you seek change in the terms under which you work at a business, and certainly where that would involve changes in when, where or how you perform your work, present your case in terms of smooth continuity, or even as a potential source for you’re being able to achieve real work performance improvement – if you can make the changes that you seek, with approval from your supervisor and from your employer as a whole.
• This means thinking through how you can make the goal of that last point both true and realistic sounding, where appearance is in fact an entirely separate if equally important matter here.
• And this means thinking through how your employer reaching agreement with you on accommodations here, need not appear as you’re being allowed a special exception that would not be offered to your peer level colleagues there too.
• And throughout this process think in terms of best alternatives to negotiated agreement if you cannot secure the accommodations that would really matter to you here. What is your Plan B? Think this through before you sit down to start these negotiations, and have an idea as to how you might proceed under this set of circumstances.

As a final point here, it is important to remember that your constraints box needs will change with time. Constraints box goals and requirements that hold importance when a professional still has young children, might no longer apply as those children grow up and become more independent and as they move away from home as a part of that. Constraints box needs can and do change as jobs change too, where for example commutes become shorter, or significantly longer from working with a new employer. As such, it is important to update your constraints box periodically, and certainly when approaching the types of work and life negotiations under discussion here.

I always recommend that you start your constraints box list assembly from scratch, and without reviewing your older lists first when you revisit this exercise. The idea there is to capture your new needs and priorities as they are now, and without you’re adding in older entries simply because they made sense before. Then after you have assembled your new list, compare it to your old one and think through the differences: the changes that have entered into your thinking and your prioritization. The insight that this type of comparison can offer can help you to more effectively order and prioritize what you have in your constraints box now, and it can help you to better understand the short and longer term significance that your current list entries hold for you too. Hint: if you forgot to add in something from your old list in your new one, it probably is low or even very low in priority now at most, and even if it was high priority at some earlier date.

• The idea here is to be up to date on what you see as your needs and priorities in this, and that you approach the types of negotiations discussed here as fully prepared for them as possible, for laying out your current negotiating points and for arguing their case.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to consider Point 4 of the above list: promotions and lateral moves. After that, I will address the remaining entries offered there. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

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