More money would be nice, but I'd rather a better job.
October 8, 2012 2:18 AM   Subscribe

In a couple of days I will be going to my boss's boss to ask for changes to my work. In the last ten years I have generally either freelanced or worked in government jobs where this is simply not done. How do you actually go about this kind of negotiation?

Some background:

I've only been in this job about 1.5 months. I have mis-judged it somewhat and am not being challenged to the degree I thought I would be (actually, it's not remotely challenging and I'm very bored and feeling somewhat down about the whole thing). I tried to make it fairly clear at the interview stage that I was moving into this new industry solely to learn new skills, apparently I was not successful in making this understood.

I'm not asking for a raise, and I'm not asking to be moved from my core role. I'm asking for greater opportunities and support, which may mean some unusual PD for someone in a role like mine and perhaps some costs to my employer through that. It will almost certainly mean I end up doing more work. That's fine. I have a lot of experience in an industry not too distant that I believe could be useful in this one.

I'm nervous for a few reasons. Partly because I have to admit to a senior manager that I don't like my work. Partly also because I may leave if this conversation doesn't go well. And thirdly because I have to challenge the incorrect understanding that I'm in this town solely because my partner lives here and I should be happy to have any job. (See the previous question linked below.)

So how do you start a conversation like this?

How do you negotiate in a fashion that's constructive and doesn't alienate the other party?

What do you ask for, exactly?

Additional points:
The culture is that of large scale construction in Australia.
I don't know the manager I will be talking to very well.

The job is referenced in this question from a while ago. I took the job. Living here is challenging in some respects but I'm glad I moved. The job itself though is proving to be not at all what I expected and may cause me to move back in the other direction. As usual in life, I should have been worried about something different.
posted by deadwax to Work & Money (7 answers total)
"How do you actually go about this kind of negotiation?"

VERY VERY subtley, over the course of several months of any small or not small interaction you might have with this person.

First time, I suggest you say something like "So this job is really great- I'm really surprised at how quickly I feel comfortable with the working environment and with the job responsibilities (NOTE: THIS IS A POSITIVE SPIN ON THE YOU NOT FEELING CHALLENGED BIT). I'm really looking forward to getting new responsibilities and learning about new ways I can contribute to the company- do you have any ideas for me? (TRANSLATION: YOU WANT MORE AND ALSO RECOGNIZE THAT THE MORE ISN'T JUST YOUR EDUCATION, ITS MORE SUCCESS FOR THE COMPANY, WHICH IS ALL THEY REALLY CARE ABOUT ANYHOW)

Don't make the mistakes I've made of more aggressively/assertively/dramatically expressing a frustration as you seem inclined to do- don't express any frustration after only 1.5 months for sure. It will ruin your relationships unless phrased correctly and then things definitely won't get any better.

Good luck! Take your time! Even though the private sector professes to move quickly, relationships still build slowly over time and its the relationships that will ensure you get the career growth you're looking for.
posted by saraindc at 2:27 AM on October 8, 2012

This is in Australia; do you have a standard three month probation period at your job? I would personally wait until the three month review to bring this up, along with a concrete plan of what exactly you'd like to be doing, unless you really don't mind leaving this job.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:31 AM on October 8, 2012

Put together a proposal. Think of something concrete that you could do that would result in a return to the company - hopefully in cash terms, but definitely in something measurable. Write a short document outlining what you would do and how it would work, what the risks are and how you propose to control them.

Supposing you can do something that would save 5k a year in costs - now you can walk into your boss's office and have a conversation where you offer him/her 5k a year.

Presenting a business proposition will go over better than asking for favours.
posted by emilyw at 2:38 AM on October 8, 2012

I know you are speaking more plainly here than you would in that meeting. But, you need to identify what's in it for them. You could do that here, too, to try out a few arguments. But, these statements are not that: I tried to make it fairly clear at the interview stage that I was moving into this new industry solely to learn new skills, apparently I was not successful in making this understood.... I'm asking for greater opportunities and support, which may mean some unusual PD for someone in a role like mine and perhaps some costs to my employer through that.

So, you want to learn new stuff, and you want them to support you while you are learning. But what do they get? Why is it better to support you through a learning curve than, say, other employees who have been there longer than 1.5 months? They are running a business, so you'll need to appeal to the business reasons. How will it make them money? Save them money?

An additional thought: Since you are new to the industry, is it possible they are taking it slow with you until you prove that you know the basics needed to move on to bigger challenges? Six weeks is not very long to deeply understand an industry.

(What is PD?)
posted by Houstonian at 3:27 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Houstonian: I'm guessing PD means Professional Development.
posted by third word on a random page at 4:04 AM on October 8, 2012

In the question you linked to, you said you're there for 18 months. I don't know many companies that would be interested in additional professional development for someone who is only there for that length of time. You were hired to fill a need temporarily, and if what you want doesn't fit that need, it's not really their problem.

Volunteer to do more things while you're there. If you're done with your work at any time, see how you can assist others with the things you find challenging. The main thing is to not let them think you're slacking on the "boring" parts of your job simply because you don't like them.
posted by xingcat at 4:27 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Giving this a stab because I did manage to obtain some of this at a previous job (get the projects that I wanted and some of the (new) training that I wanted and also not go entirely in the same direction that I was hired for), but not sure as to what degree this applies to you OP since this is a different country, different career field, it sounds like you have more experience in your field OP, etc.

Similar to what everyone else is suggesting, I don't think a confrontational type conversation at 1.5 months would go over well in the format that you seem to be suggesting.

But would these things work for you at your job, too?

• To get additional training - what worked well for my previous company was identifying things that other departments knew about but our team/division did not. So if you are making a product or service,and it goes from your team to another team ...are there things (skill sets) that you could learn or do that would improve the quality and/or save time for the next team? Ask people in the other team - what do they do? How do they feel about what is handed over to them? Do they have suggestions that could help you or your team improve? If it is lots of info, as the person/other team if they would be willing to teach it or share it with your team.Ask your team (one on one, small group) if they have an interest in learning more about X from the other team. If everyone likes it, then propose to your supervisor that your team learn about it (from whom and what) and that you do this during lunch time ("Lunch and Learn").

• Identify projects that you want that you are likely need to learn new skills to do, but are still within your department. Do you have a program manager or someone with a list of upcoming projects? Get to know that person and see what is coming down in the pipeline. Then the next time your supervisor states "great job on X" ...ask more details about an upcoming project. If it is interesting (to you), express interest in being part of it doing it. Mention it to another supervisor,too. Then if you get to work on it, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. But it is not a sudden "change job roles," but picking out projects and one by one doing them and giving the supervisor/team what they want.

• Create a giant list of things that you want to learn and places that you can learn them. Propose to your supervisor or boss that you go for a training session and if they say no, well, ....go get it yourself. This means requesting time off, paying for it yourself, but still get the training. These are skills that you want to learn and hey, it will help you at your next job or teach you something that you want to learn. Over time I became okay with this approach - because a company will not select the same skill sets that I want to learn and it was the only way for me to get what I wanted.

• "One on one meetings," which were initiated by management and done after several months at a job- they specifically ask for your feedback about how you view the job at that point. This is the only time and place I have ever stated "I do not want to do this part of the job" and would give a supervisor this feedback. I also already knew that I would be leaving in X months and it would be wasted expenditure for them, but only presented it as not wanting to do X part of the job.

If I read the other question correctly, aren't you in a new town and place, OP? If your workplace is limiting the time at work - this is a gift - explore the new things in that new town/place.
posted by Wolfster at 5:31 AM on October 8, 2012

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