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3 Ways to Negotiate Your Way to a Happier Job

Once you make enough money to pay the bills, a bigger salary won't necessarily buy you happiness. But if you can arrange your job so that you have more autonomy and purpose, and better work-life balance, you just might feel a little bit more cheerful about heading off to work in the morning.

Once you make enough money to pay the bills, a bigger salary won’t necessarily buy you happiness. But if you can arrange your job so that you have more autonomy and purpose, and better work-life balance, you just might feel a little bit more cheerful about heading off to work in the morning.

i love my job 

(Photo Credit: zzkt/Flickr)

“According to recent research, it’s common for workers to ask their employers to make changes to accommodate their individual needs,” writes Jessica Hullinger at Fast Company. “With a little negotiation, you could design the job you want.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The research Hullinger cites is a study of 187 workers at a hospital in Germany. The study, called Redesigning Work Through Idiosyncratic Ideals, found that 20 percent of participants negotiated special deals with their managers — and most of those deals had nothing to do with salary. Instead, workers arranged flexible schedules, reduced work overload, and acquired skills that allowed them to advance in their careers.

It’s an interesting thought, even for workers in other industries and countries: if your job isn’t make you happy, and money isn’t the answer — or isn’t available — why not try to change the things that are making your work situation less than ideal?

Good negotiating skills come in handy, even when you’re not asking for cold, hard cash. If you’re thinking about asking your manager for different working hours or access to classes that would benefit your career in the long run, consider the following before you schedule the meeting:

1. Know your goals.

What’s making your life difficult right now? Maybe it’s your commute or your schedule, or maybe it’s stagnation in the same role for too many years, or more work than you can handle. Make a list, and prioritize. Assume that you might only get to tweak one aspect of your working life. Make sure you know which part will make the biggest impact.

2. Think about the long run.

You don’t need to know, with 100 percent certainty, where you want to be in five years. (No matter what hiring managers might lead you to believe in a job interview.) Especially if you don’t love your job these days, though, it’s a good idea to think about where you’d like to go next. If you have your eye on a particular job title or company, start planning.

Look at PayScale’s Research Center and the LinkedIn profiles of people who have your dream job, or work at your dream company. Figure out what they’ve got on their CVs that you don’t have yet. Then ask yourself if there’s a way that you can acquire those skills with the help of your employer.

3. Show that it’s in your employer’s best interest.

Of course, if you do opt to ask for classes that will prepare you to eventually jump ship, it’s not a good idea to reveal that plan during negotiations. Instead, focus on how whatever you’re seeking will benefit the company.

The same goes for requesting a flexible schedule, or telecommuting privileges: discuss how working from your home office will make it easier to work without distraction, and without losing time to your commute. Come armed with facts and figures — bonus points if there’s a dollar sign in front of them, and you’re able to show how giving you this benefit will save or make the company money.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s more important: a higher salary or better work-life balance? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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