Get The Holiday Time Off You Need Without Hurting Your Team

Family Enjoying a Thanksgiving Meal Together
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As the holiday season approaches, many people are starting to think about time off. Planning ahead and being organized is always best, but sometimes, plans go awry or a friend decides to get married at the last minute, and you need to negotiate with your colleagues for some premium time off. What should you say to secure that all-important flexibility?

Acknowledge You're Asking for a Favor
If your organization has a "no time off" policy during certain periods or if time needs to be planned months in advance, make it clear that you understand you are asking for something extraordinary and be prepared to explain why this need does not result from your poor planning. In other words, if you decided to book a trip because the price was right, even though you knew you were working and wouldn't easily be able to secure vacation time, you are probably out of luck and you may be burning your bridges. Depending on how firm the policy at work, if there's a family situation or event outside of your control and planning, it's fair to lobby for an exception to the rule in most circumstances. When you ask, explain the extraordinary circumstances and make it clear you would never otherwise ask for an exception to the rule.

Assume Everyone Needs Something
If it's up to you to find a stand-in so you can be off, keep in mind: the first rule of negotiating anything is that everyone should walk away feeling like a winner. It's unlikely you're the only one in the office with an unexpected event or situation. If you need Thanksgiving off and it's important to you, offer to work New Year's Eve for the colleague who's hoping to get engaged that night. If you find another person with an equally pressing need for time off and you can help each other, everyone wins.

Up the Ante
Assuming you cannot find someone to make an even swap for holiday time off, ramp up the stakes. Offer to work someone else's holiday weekend in the future, or take an extra turn or two doing an unpopular task. For example, you could suggest you take on your colleague's clean-up duty for the next week, or offer to work that person's late nights for a certain amount of time. Sweeten the pot as much as necessary to sway your colleagues and you may be able to win your time off.

Plan Ahead for Next Time
If these tactics fail, it's time to take a serious look at your work relationships. Maybe you're a valuable employee, but are you the colleague who doesn't give anyone the time of day until you need something, and then have no compunction about asking for a favor? Make some changes now, so next time, you'll have a better chance of convincing your colleagues to help you out in the future.

How can you make this change? Be exceptionally considerate at work. If your automatic reply is "no" when someone asks for something that inconveniences you, start to say "yes" instead. Offer to pitch in if co-workers look swamped and you have a little free time. When people ask you to switch shifts with them, do it, even when it's a little inconvenient for you. If you work remotely, make a point to connect with your colleagues regularly so you're more than a name on a screen.

Become the teammate everyone knows they can rely on to help out and it will be easier to convince co-workers to step up when you need a hand or a favor down the road.

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