Writing to get what you want at work!

The festive time of year is often a trigger for people to start reflecting upon their working lives and how they’re working for their lives.  This doesn’t always mean looking for a new job, perhaps it's just about making an adjustment or two that would make life a bit easier to manage.  Fewer hours, for example, or – how about this for a crazy idea – a career break!

In my previous life as an HR Manager, I lost count of the number of times people would wander tentatively into my office, pull up a chair and ask if I thought it would be OK if they asked about working a day less per week, or work from home, or could they maybe start their day a bit earlier or later to help with their childcare or commute? 

(I bet you’re really envying my old job, aren’t you!)

More often than not, people were scared of making their voices heard; for simply coming out and asking for what they wanted.  Either they didn’t know how to do it, or they thought they might be seen as a bit…difficult.  So they’d talk themselves out of it, and off they’d shuffle again – not before asking me never to say a word to their manager.

If you’re in this position, consider that no reasonable employer would think less of you for putting forward an intelligent and thoughtfully written request that will benefit both you and their business.  Writing is an extremely powerful tool that you can definitely use to help get what you want, as long as you use it well. So here are a few tips on how to harness the power of words in the workplace:

Research Part One: check your company’s small print

You know those company handbooks and contracts you’re given when you start a new job, but you never get round to actually reading?  Well, dust them off and start from there.  Most companies will have a flexible working policy – while we’re on the subject, flexible working isn't just for parents – and some will even have a policy on career breaks or sabbaticals, if you check.  You can then reference the policy in your request.

If there are no policies, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask.  Instead, check what the law says.  Which brings me on to…

Research Part Two: check the legal small print

While there are no laws against asking for anything you might want at work, there are legal guidelines about how the requests should be made.  Start by defining your request to yourself, then check some useful websites (www.acas.org is a good place to start) to see how it should lawfully be made.  Flexible working requests, for example, need to be set out in a certain style and with full reference to how your proposed new way of working will benefit the business. 

Become your own spin-doctor

When making working requests, a lot of people focus on why their proposed change will be good for them, but neglect the company, making it far easier to end up with a refusal.  

Take some time to think about how, if your request was granted, it would benefit your team and the business as a whole.  For example, you’d feel happier and more motivated…so might that also be good for team morale?   If you worked one day less per week, could you use some of that time to upskill yourself so you perform even better in your role when you’re there?  If you’re changing hours, are you going to be able to get more done by coming in when it’s a bit quieter?  You need to reassure your company that granting your request isn’t going to cause them any issues; in fact, that they’d be mad not to grant it!

One of the most rewarding pieces of work I’ve done since becoming a writer is  helping a client succeed in getting a sabbatical from his employer.  He desperately needed some time out from his job to concentrate on a personal project, but didn’t have a clue to go about asking.  By following all the steps above, we came up with a compelling written case for his manager to consider…and he ended up getting that sabbatical! 

If you need any help with writing for work (or for that matter, anything else!) why not contact me?