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Crucial Applications: How to Negotiate Workload Limits

We recently completed a study which reveals the most difficult issue for women in the workplace to discuss and successfully resolve is negotiating limits on their workload—it’s also one of the main issues that cause 1 in 5 women to leave their job.

We partnered with the top women’s business website, Little PINK Book, on this study which also found that women struggle most to hold high-stakes discussions with other women rather than with men. What happens when a crucial conversation goes awry? Nearly half admitted a failed high-stakes discussion caused their productivity and/or engagement to drop, and 1 in 5 women said they’ve had a crucial conversation go so poorly they left their job.

Here are six tips from Crucial Conversations for navigating the most difficult issue at work, negotiating workload limits:

  • Earn the right. Asking for fairness in work limits is easier when you have a reputation as a hard worker. Before raising concerns, evaluate if you are truly doing more than your share.
  • Clarify intent. Don’t start the conversation with complaints—start by establishing mutual purpose with your boss. Begin with, “I have a concern about my workload, but I want to be clear that I care about helping our team succeed. I don’t want to request changes that will make your life harder or put our goals at risk.”
  • Focus on facts. Don’t start with broad conclusions or generalizations that put others on the defensive. Build the case for the point you want to make by sharing objective facts. For example, “I’ve observed that those who do their work get rewarded with more work.”
  • Clarify boundaries. Be clear about any hard and fast limits you have on your workload. If, for example, you have family commitments or personal time values you won’t compromise, lay those out clearly and stick with them.
  • Propose solutions. Don’t just come with complaints—come with recommendations for how to make this work for your boss. If you just dump the problem on your boss, he or she may help you solve it, but you’ll strain the relationship.
  • Invite dialogue. Finally, invite your boss to share his or her viewpoint. People are willing to listen to even challenging views as long as they believe you are also open to theirs.