When it comes to workers’ benefits, Americans get less time off than most skilled laborers. Although many developed countries offer 4 weeks of paid vacation, most Americans only get 10 days of PTO. With some jobs, even that is not always guaranteed. This has led to a fear culture in which people don’t want to take time off, or feel guilty for being away from the office. It has also left many workers hesitant to even negotiate for more time off.
However, paid leave from work is a right you are entitled to as part of your employment contract. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel guilty for using it. Keep in mind though, that when and how you make your request can drastically improve your chances of getting it approved.
When You Should Negotiate for More Time Off
There are times during your career, and life in general, when you will need to negotiate for more time off. The key to getting what you need during negotiations is knowing when to ask. Timing is everything. So, carefully consider when and how to request for more paid leave.
1. Choose the right time to ask.
Before you approach your boss with your request, you should carefully prepare your case and look for the right time to ask. When you know what you want to say, you will also be more confident during your pitch.
Additionally, identifying opportune moments will also increase your odds of a favorable outcome. For example, waiting until periods when business slows down means you are more likely to get what you want. Furthermore, making the request on the heels of a big achievement adds support to your argument as well. Choosing the right time could be the difference between approval and denial.
2. The ideal time to negotiate for more time off is when they offer you the job.
Without a doubt, the best time to ask for more benefits or compensation is when an employer offers you the job. They are typically more flexible and willing to make concessions in order to secure desirable candidates. Since companies are more likely to give extra time off rather than more money, a good way to enter the conversation is to begin by asking for a higher salary. When they deny the request for more money, then you can counter by negotiating other benefits.
Paid leave is a valuable benefit of your job, so you should view it no differently than other forms of compensation. Even if they claim to have a standard PTO policy for all employees, there is usually room for modification. Even if they have general rules across the board, the amount of time allowed is rarely set in stone.
3. Yearly reviews are a good opportunity to ask as well.
Annual reviews are a good time to make your request, particularly if you are in good standing with the company. A positive review is a powerful tool during negotiations. Moreover, you can better prepare yourself if you know when your boss performs annual reviews. If you plan ahead and ask before your sit-down with your boss, you also allow management more time to consider your request and discuss it with those who give final approval.
When You Shouldn’t Negotiate for More Time Off
Conversely, there are also times when it is better to wait than to force negotiations.
1. Avoid making request during increased work demands.
Although this may seem like common sense, you should avoid making requests when employers are asking for overtime to handle increased workloads. If your company is understaffed or struggling to meet their labor needs, this puts you at a disadvantage. Additionally, employers are less likely to grant requests if they are planning large events or handling important clients. If it seems like the company needs extra manpower, it may be better to wait.
2. Don’t choose times that would highlight bad behaviors.
Another important consideration is your current standing and reputation with the company. If you have a history of poor attendance or have violated company PTO policies in the past, asking for more time off could reflect negatively on you. Wait for the marks on your record to fade, and establish a pattern of consistent adherence before making your request.
3. Make sure to catch your boss in a good mood.
While this should not affect professional requests, people’s feelings often influence their decision making. If your boss is in a bad mood or having a bad day, pick a better time to discuss your request for more time off.
How to Negotiate for More Time Off
Once you have decided when to approach your boss, it is time to prepare your pitch. Doing your research and having a plan will help you feel and appear more confident during negotiations. Here are a few more tips that can also improve your chances of getting more paid leave.
1. Know what you want before you enter negotiations.
Knowing what you want before you begin negotiations will ensure they go more smoothly. It can be difficult to determine what to ask for, so you can do some research beforehand so you are informed during the conversation. You can also ask friends or coworkers in similar positions what other employer’s PTO packages consist of. This will at least give you a vague idea of how much time you should ask for.
Generally speaking, an additional week of paid leave is a reasonable request. However, if previous employers offered more, it is not out of the question to ask that they match it. Be persuasive and highlight your experience to help you make your case.
2. Start by asking for more money
As previously mentioned, employers are usually more willing to offer more time off than more money. Start negotiations by asking for more money. Then, when they refuse, you can counter to negotiate for more time off.
3. Be prepared if your boss calls your bluff.
With all negotiations, you need to be prepared for a flat refusal. However, a good rebuttal should include several reasons to support your request. When you frame your argument around your experience and job performance, it is hard to deny the merits of your request.
Another powerful card to pull during negotiations is how much the company would lose if you took another position. Should you have other job prospects with better offers, it might be a good tactic to inform them of this fact. If PTO is a sticking point, then you may also need to be willing to walk away.
4. Be creative in how you negotiate more time off.
Sometimes companies are simply not in a position to approve time-off requests. However, they may be willing to grant you more flexibility. Even if you cannot get more hours of paid leave, you may be able to gain more control over your schedule. Having the freedom to determine your hours may actually be better for some employees than additional PTO.
5. Get everything in writing
Once you and your boss reach an agreement, be sure you get everything in writing. Verbal contracts may have worked at one time, but it is always safer to have any formal agreements outlined in a legal document. Although you may like your boss, you have to remember they are not your friend. So, when it comes to legal contracts, it is better to take the stance that nothing is guaranteed until it is in writing.
- Negotiating Your Salary in a Down Economy
- If You Don’t Ask You Don’t Get
- What I Learned About Salary Negotiation
Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.