Negotiating a Flexible Schedule
QUESTION: I’m a manager in a small department and have to get approval of flexible schedules for staff from my Boss. Boss wants everyone to be at work during normal business hours, doesn’t like flexible schedules, and sees all requests as the same (trying to get out of work). Yes, I’m confused about this thinking and believe Boss doesn’t really understand flextime and its advantages, but I’m wondering how to best discuss this.
Boss tends to overreact whenever I bring up the topic and gets into the issue of “not trusting the employee to really work and not goof off.” I see a request to temporarily change a schedule by arriving earlier and staying later on some days and leaving early on other days because of family schedules/child care issues to be different from a request to work at home on certain days on an ongoing basis. The first example involves working all hours at the office for a limited amount of time and the second example involves working some days at home with no finite term, but Boss lumps all these requests together and denies all of them. Any suggestions or advice on how I can approach the subject and try to get Boss to logically consider these requests?
ANSWER: The topic of flexible schedules seems to be a hot button issue for your boss, so I am not convinced logical persuasion would work in this case. Your boss will have an emotional reaction during the conversation and the best logical argument simply cannot work when he is in that state.
Your boss considers flextime as trying to get out of work because his definition of work is face time. As long as that remains the case you are fighting a losing battle. Instead of trying to change his mind about flextime, it would be more productive to change his attitude about work.
In a recent article about unlimited PTO, Carol Harnett writes that having the right cultural attitude about work is the key; “the culture litmus test is whether a company possesses an established track record of managing by objectives and/or functions as a results-only-workplace-environment. If not, moving toward these operating principles is key before taking on any flex-time policy, including unlimited PTO.”
If your boss is unaware of what your staff is actually working on and which of those actions are the most productive or profitable for your business unit, it is understandable that an absence during so-called “working hours” would cause anxiety. With your boss, focus your efforts toward creating a more accurate definition of work for your staff. From there, you will be in a better position to have a conversation about work in terms of impact rather than in terms of specific hours.
This was my answer to the October reader question on the Intuit QuickBase Blog. To see three other expert perspectives on the topic, please view the original post at 360 Answers: How to Convince a Manager to Allow Flexible Schedules.