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HOW TO BUILD CASE FOR CHANGE

Q I've made it through the recession, including the workloads that go with downsizing, and now I'm thinking that I'd like to adjust my schedule to a 30-hour workweek to have more balance in my life. How can I persuade my boss that she should let me make this change?

A: Your boss will need to know that this will not harm the team or the company, or that there could even be benefits.

Before you make a case to your boss, be sure that you're solid on your own motivations.

What's your goal for your work life? Envision it in terms of what you're doing, the amount of pressure that seems appropriate, and the level of responsibility you want.

Now, set aside the workload factor. How well does your current job stack up? If you love everything about your job but just want to spend less time at it, then making a case for reduced hours makes sense. However, you may also find through this exercise that you're ready for a change in other ways as well.

Finally, study your organization. Look for precedents, especially in management levels, where there are successful part-time leaders. If this is a new concept, consider the company's openness to new approaches, and analyze your boss' style so that you put your pitch in terms that'll resonate with her.

There are a couple of options for the content of your discussion with your boss, though the process will remain the same.

Option 1: You've realized that rather than fewer hours, you'd rather have a bigger change in what you're doing. Think about the specific job characteristics that appeal to you and map them against possible jobs. For example, if you'd prefer to have less responsibility, you may want to move from management into a project management or analysis role.

Option 2: Your job is a great fit for your skills and interests; however, you feel that you'd be happier and more productive if you had a shortened workweek.

The first thing to remember is that the company's well-being, not your personal happiness, will be your boss' primary focus. So, list all of the benefits for her. Consider retention of a valued employee, trimming costs while maintaining expertise, your availability to fill a needed role, etc. Have a plan for how some of your current responsibilities could shift so that you're not dropping a problem in her lap. Note that this could even provide development opportunities with a built-in mentor for less experienced employees.

Then, make your case. Present the situation - you're looking for a change but ideally within the context of your current team. Suggest your idea, whether it's a new role or reduced hours. Present the benefits, and outline potential challenges along with proposed solution. If she's dubious, propose a six-month trial period.

Finally, be ready to assess your options if you're turned down. You may decide to accept it, or you may choose to look for options in other companies.

Clarifying your hopes and making a solid case gives you your best chance of making the changes you seek.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.

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