How to Be Persuasive (and Save Gas)!
Want to work a four-day work week but don't know how to ask?
These days, my husband, Armando, seems to be obsessed with finding the best price for gasoline. Mostly because he's got a long commute and we're feeling the impact of the rising gas prices.
Everyone is feeling the crunch. Some people are buying hybrids, some are taking the bus, and in Washington, DC more people are using slugs (no, I'm not talking about slimy gastropods, slugging is a form of carpooling) What's my gas saving suggestion? Ask your boss to let you work from home one day a week.
I understand, depending on your job, working from home may be difficult, but for many positions, it might be a possibility. It seems though, that many are reluctant to ask, even somewhat afraid to ask, mostly because they are not sure how to ask. So although today's episode is specifically about how to ask your boss to work one day a week at home, more generally, it is a lesson to pump up your persuasive power.
It's about asking for what you want at work.
Plant Seeds and Manage Perceptions
At first, proceed slowly, deliberately, and discreetly. You'll want to casually bring up the topic just to gauge the initial reaction of your boss (or whomever you are trying to persuade.) You could say, "Gas prices are sure getting high, have you ever considered working from home?" Or if you already know he occasionally works at home, wait for one of those days, and then call and ask, "Hey, what's it like, working from home?"
The point is to get an idea of perceptions. Remember you are not asking for anything at this point. You are simply getting an idea of what benefits he believes in and what objections he might have. Once you've asked, move on to developing your reputation.
Begin arriving a few minutes early (if possible before your boss, but for sure, a few minutes before most of your colleagues arrive), and you might also consider staying a few minutes late. During work, stay focused. Don't sneak a peak at cnn.com or gossip with colleagues at the water cooler.
The idea is to show (and hopefully remind) your boss that you know how to use your time wisely. When you finally do ask, you want him to have recent memories of you as a dedicated, hard worker. It is very important not give your boss any reason to think you might goof off at home and not be able to get work done.
Do Your Homework
However, it's not your boss, who might be your biggest obstacle. It simply could be that your company may not have the technology infrastructure to support "at home" workers. A big question you'll need to address is whether your company has the technology to let you work from home. Will you be able to have your work phone forwarded? Will you be able to access e-mail, the corporate intranet, and software that you use on a daily basis? The best way to find out is to try it.
Find an extra project to work on at home. This has two advantages. First, you'll work out the technical hurdles and you're also demonstrating that you have the self-motivation needed to be able to accomplish work at home.
However be warned. For some people working at home is very difficult. They find themselves distracted by household tasks, by their kids...(Mommy, can you find my Island Princess Barbie? Honey, mommy's recording her podcast now, I'll help you when I'm done. Where was I? Oh, right...) You need to be sure that working from home is for you. Will you have an area that is distraction free? Do you really want to begin to blur the line between work and home? This extra project will help you decide.
OK, once you've determined that it's possible to work from home and that you really want to work from home, then the next step is develop your persuasive plan.
WIIFM - What's In It for Management!
Your plan needs to include at least three benefits that your manager cares about. I'll repeat this because it is important to think about anytime you want to persuade someone. Any persuasive plan needs to include at least three benefits that are important to the person you are trying to persuade. This is the time to think back to the response from your initial casual inquiry...did he mention he was more productive at home? Then use that. Did he mention he could work longer hours? Then mention that. Did he mention it was easier to work with international customers because he could call at more convenient hours for them? Then go for that angle. The idea is to use your stealth research to help you formulate the benefits.
Be careful, because this where many people get off-track. It is critical that the benefits you mention are benefits to the person you are trying to persuade -- in this case your boss. Maybe you'll say more work will get done because you'll use commute time to work, maybe you'll be more productive because you won't be constantly interrupted, or maybe it's important to your boss that your office or computer can be available for temps or new hires.
What you don't want to do is mention or concentrate on the benefits to YOU! Like, hey, I'll save money on gasoline, or I can do my laundry and do my work at the same time, or I can watch the kids and work at the same time. The idea is to be listening to WIIFM --what's in it for management.
The second part of good persuasive plan is to prepare your rebuttal. What's that? You'll need to be prepared to address what you suspect will be the main objection. Let's say you think he'll be concerned about how others in the office react, you should be ready with a response. Maybe you'll say, "I agree, that's why I am proposing just a five-week trial period to see how things go." Whatever you think the objections might be, you should have something planned to respond effectively. Once you have your persuasive plan in place, the next step is to ask.
[[AdMiddle]Asking for What You Want
Think about the best time to ask, is your boss a morning person? Also think about the best location. Usually when asking for something it is best to ask on neutral territory -- in a conference room, at lunch, or maybe when you are trapped in a car with your boss on the way to visit a client. Since this is a big request, I strongly suggest asking only for a trial period first. It is less difficult to say no to something that is temporary than to a permanent change.
Assuming your boss agreed to the trial, the next step is to ensure that this decision will become permanent. I suggest over-communicating during the trial period. During this period you should send more e-mail, check-in with your colleagues and boss more often, make sure that everyone knows what you are doing and that you are available should they need you. The goal in this phase is to manage and monitor perceptions and you need to ensure that you are not missing out on key interactions at work. At the end of trial period if things are looking good, only then is it time to ask to make the decision permanent.
So, let's review. When you want to persuade someone the first step is to plant the seed of the idea and get a pulse on the situation. Next you'll want to do a little homework to fully understand what you are asking for and you'll also want to ensure perceptions of you are favorable. Then you should develop a persuasive plan by determining which are the most compelling benefits for that person. That is, you need to give this particular person good reasons to say, yes. Finally, you need to actually ask for what you want, even if it means asking for only a small part first. Although this isn't a magic formula, these steps should help you make a compelling and successful argument!
This is, The Public Speaker, Lisa B. Marshall. Passionate about communication; your success is my business! (Now where did I see that Island Princess Barbie...)