6 MIN READ
This Woman Wanted More Time Off — Here’s How She Negotiated With Her Boss
Want more vacation days? (Who doesn’t?)
Then make yourself irreplaceable.
That’s the advice of Amanda Basse, and she should know.
She negotiated for nine extra vacation days during her employee review as outreach coordinator for Alan David Custom in New York City.
Actually, Basse negotiated for nine additional vacation days, plus her birthday off, plus work-from-home flexibility when her kids get sick or a snow storm hits.
So how’d she do it? And how can you?
Know What’s Negotiable
Basse notes that because she worked for a smaller business, there was more flexibility when negotiating and that her boss, as the owner, had the authority to make this kind of decision.
Depending on the company you work for, your ability to negotiate could initially be limited, explains career coach Loren Margolis, CEO of Training & Leadership Success.
“Smaller, more nimble companies can be more flexible in terms of certain perks,” Margolis says. “For structured, more established companies, you need to know their policies.”
But policies aren’t necessarily written in stone.
“Talk to HR, knowledgeable colleagues who’ve done something similar and read the employee handbook,” Margolis advises about making your case that your company should change a policy. “Do some research.”
Prove Your Worth
Don’t start planning that extended European vacation just yet.
Basse says it took her a year of documenting concrete examples of her accomplishments on a Google doc.
“Start by writing down your wins,” Basse says. “Document everything, even if it’s small. Little things amount to big things.”
Next, she assigned a monetary value to each accomplishment, from the extra hours she put in on the weekends to her assistance on projects that fell outside her assigned duties.
She totaled those numbers and compared it to what she expected to get for a raise that year.
Then she considered how much that money was really worth to her.
“I was expecting a 4% to 5% pay raise, which turns out to be only a few hundred bucks — I would pay for that just in childcare,” Basse says. “I could make more money elsewhere, but I also wanted to be present in my children’s lives.”
Money is only part of the equation, Margolis agrees, noting that you should also request a breakdown of all your benefits and add it into your total compensation.
“Know their value as you prepare your case,” Margolis says. “The better armed you are with facts, the better you can make the case with your boss.”
Get Your Boss on Board
You don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone.
Let your boss ponder the wisdom of Joni Mitchell when you present your case for more vacation.
“Companies are competitive with each other,” Margolis says. “When you’re in there, weave in what competitors are doing.”
Basse says she completed a competitive analysis of what her company’s competitors were paying before she went into her negotiation.
“I didn’t have any intention of leaving, but I started fishing for other opportunities,” Basse says. “I looked elsewhere so I could see what others are making to know what I’m worth financially in the marketplace.”
To find out what you’re worth, check out salary comparison calculators on sites like Glassdoor and search for jobs similar to your current position in your area for a salary comparison.
How to Haggle
You’ve prepared your spreadsheet of accomplishments, you’ve figured out your position’s market value and you’ve found three competitors who pay a higher salary for your position.
Now how much paid time off should you ask for?
Basse’s advice: Aim high.
“I’ve never gotten everything on my first ask,” she says. “I went in asking for 40% to 50% higher, then worked my way down.”
Her boss’ reaction?
“He was a little shocked I didn’t ask for a raise, but for days off,” Basse says. “He had to think about it, and it took a little back and forth.”
Margolis advises that if and when you reach this point, the next step is crucial: Make it clear your boss’ opinion matters.
“Ask your boss their thoughts — ‘Do you have any reservations?’ ” Margolis suggests asking. “Make it a two-way conversation so your boss can address concerns.
Basse adds that it’s also essential to get everything in writing.
“Right after the meeting, I emailed a follow-up,” Basse says. “I wanted to be clear what I was communicating.”
Close the Deal
Basse notes that by going into the negotiation knowing what she was willing to accept, she could clearly communicate her needs to her employer — as well as herself.
For Basse, that meant trading more money for spending her vacation with her family doing things she loved instead of having to squirrel away days to care for a sick child or for a snow day.
“I had to think of ways to feel compensated other than monetarily,” she says. “I realized I wanted time to enjoy my time off.”
Margolis also notes that what’s important to you at one point in your career (and life) could change over the years.
You may even end up realizing more paid time off isn’t what you really want.
“As you get along in your career, you may ask if I want to get more professional development, tuition reimbursement,” Margolis says. “That can be worth thousands of dollars.”
Another Benefit: Sharpening Your Negotiating Skills
Basse notes that asking for extra paid time off could have potentially hurt her career, but she ultimately decided it was worth the risk.
“There was some fear since women with young children can be considered a liability,” Basse says. “I decided that more time to travel and volunteer at my children's school is more important.”
And if her boss had ultimately said no deal?
“I would have stayed, but I think long-term, it would have been a deal breaker,” Basse says.
If your boss says no to more vacation time, it’s not necessarily the end of the discussion, Margolis points out, but it’s up to you to keep the dialogue going.
“Who knows, it could be the timing of your request, and you may be able to expand your vacation time after the company’s busy season,” Margolis notes. “Or it could be that your manager or peers might see your longer vacations as you not pulling your weight.
“But you won’t know that you have to move on to negotiating something different unless you ask.”
No matter what the outcome, the knowledge and experience you gain translates to a valuable skill, Margolis says.
And that skill could come in handy the next time you ask for those extra vacation days.
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She could always use more time.