You worked hard, proved yourself, did your homework, and made your case to your manager. Finally, he agreed to proceed with your flexible work plan.
It’s now three months later, and you’re wondering if you misunderstood your boss’ approval. While he said then that you could work from home two days each week, he has since decided that he needs you in the office on those days. And his earlier statements that your performance would be judged based on your productivity and completion of tasks have been replaced by clear indications that he only thinks you’re working if he can see you in your cubicle.
You’re frustrated at this turn of events and wondering where everything went wrong. How did your dream of flexibility turn into this nightmare?
If you have found yourself in a situation like this, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, some companies or managers promise flexibility, only to show by their corporate culture that they’re not ready or willing to live up to those promises.
“Your culture defines the way work actually gets done at your organization. Flexibility can fail when the organization’s culture doesn’t match up with the official policies,” says an article from Gallup.
“Not only does this break down trust within the organization (as leaders’ words don’t match their actions), it can create ‘buyer’s remorse’ for new employees who realize that the organization doesn’t really believe what they have printed in their recruitment materials.”
When you’re part of an organization that is showing these cultural problems, you’ll need to take action to secure the flexibility you were promised.
Here are a few things to try if you’re not getting the flexibility you were promised:
Reconstruct the details of the offer.
Ideally, your flexwork plan was offered in writing, or you at least took careful notes about the details of the plan at the time it was put in place. If so, find and examine that information to make sure you understood it correctly. If not, write down everything you can remember about the offer and any caveats that may have accompanied it.
Prepare to restate your case.
Using the information you presented when you initially sought flexibility, and adding more as necessary, prepare for a conversation with your manager. As you do so, remember to focus on how your flexibility will benefit the company, not how it will help you. For example, emphasize your potential increased productivity, added availability because you’re not losing hours commuting, and improved engagement.
Put yourself in your manager’s shoes.
Even as you prepare your arguments in favor of the flexibility you were already promised, you must again consider the potential concerns your boss may have. Decide in advance how you will address those worries while staying calm and rational. Thinking about this before you meet with him should help you remove emotion from the equation.
Make sure you’re talking to the right person.
If you’re not getting the flex you were promised, it’s possible that the person who made that pledge didn’t have the authority to do so. As you prepare to meet with management once more, identity the person who can truly help you resolve your concerns. When the time is right for a meeting, make sure both your manager and that other person are invited.
Ask for a meeting and follow through.
Once you’ve completed those preparatory steps, it’s time to schedule a meeting. As you request time from your manager and/or others, be sure to let them know what you want to talk about and that you will be concise. As you go into the meeting, stay calm and stick to the facts. Don’t let your emotions take control, and don’t accuse anyone of nefarious actions. Simply state the facts of what you thought you were going to receive in terms of flexibility, why you still believe that flex would benefit the company, and how you would like to proceed. If you’re rational and specific, your arguments will carry more weight.
Propose a trial run.
If your manager resists your request, suggest a three-month test of your flexible schedule, during which you will be open to frequent feedback on what is or is not working. You probably already made that recommendation when you asked for flexibility in the first place, but it doesn’t hurt to try again.
Be polite and focused, no matter what.
Even if the meeting isn’t going as well as you hoped, keep calm. If your boss refuses your request for flex, you at least have the information you will need to decide what to do next, whether that means asking for a transfer to a different department, talking to HR, or seeking employment at a more flex-friendly company.
It will be frustrating to follow all of these steps and ask again for something you thought was already approved, but if flexibility is important to you, it’s worth the effort. And if you’re successful, you might lay the groundwork for other employees who want flexible schedules, too. Changing a company’s culture needs to start somewhere. It might as well be with you.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com