Lifescripts: What to Say to Get What You Want in Life's Toughest Situations

Lifescripts: What to Say to Get What You Want in Life's Toughest Situations

by Stephen M. Pollan

ISBN: 9780471643760

Publisher Wiley

Published in Self-Help/Self-Esteem, Health, Fitness & Dieting

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One

Asking for a Salary Increase


While it has never been tougher to get a raise than today, it's still possible. The key is to realize there are only three acceptable reasons anymore: your contributions to the company's bottom line have increased dramatically, your responsibilities have outgrown your job description, or (for professionals and upper-level managers) your income hasn't kept pace with your professional growth. Using and documenting one of these arguments, and forcing your superior to fall back on a poverty excuse, will at least result in your obtaining further nonfinancial compensation or a deferred promise. And sometimes, that's the best you can hope for.


Attitude: Remember that your salary has nothing to do with your value as a human being. It is solely a reflection of what your superior or company is willing to pay for your services. It's an entirely economic issue.

Preparation: It's essential to have irrefutable documentation that backs up whichever of the three arguments you're using. When it comes to documenting industrywide salary ranges, draw on trade magazine surveys, headhunters, and professional associations. All your information should be included in a memo, with appropriate attachments, that outlines your argument.

Timing: The best times to ask are shortly after a positive evaluation, upon successful completion of an important project, or after receiving some third-party recognition, such as an award. Avoid Mondays and Fridays entirely. Ask for an appointment either before business hours or just after lunch. The former will offer fewer interruptions; the latter will find the other party more relaxed.

Behavior: It's completely up to you to blow your own horn, so avoid humility and subservience. Don't project guilt-you're asking for what you deserve. This forthright attitude will come through if you maintain direct eye contact whenever listening or speaking. Only break eye contact when you're thinking. Avoid nodding reflexively. Your agreement is powerful, especially in this situation. Let the other party fill in gaps in the conversation. Chattiness will imply insecurity. Speak only when necessary and you'll convey strength and confidence.


This script can be modified to:

Obtain consideration for a promotion to another department or get a title changed.

Get your employer to pay for continuing education.


Begin by stressing you love your job or company but have a problem you need help with.

Your argument is that your compensation doesn't match either your growth, contribution, or responsibilities.

If your numbers are called into question, ask where you can get "correct" numbers. If none are offered, suggest some of your own and ask for a follow-up meeting.

If the other party says insufficient time has passed from some other event, say time isn't relevant to your growth, contribution, or responsibilities.

If fairness to others is cited, say that compensation based solely on seniority is also unfair.

If the other party pleads poverty, ask for nonfinancial compensation and/or a future agreement.

If you're stonewalled, force a future meeting and start looking for another job.

Chapter Two

Asking for a Promotion


Asking for a promotion is even more difficult than asking for a raise. That's because you have to demonstrate not only that you have the skills to handle the new position but also that leaving your current job won't hurt either your boss or the company. The secret is to prepare two plans of action: one for the new position and one for your current job. Don't fall back on seniority or hierarchy to make your case-they don't hold water in today's business world. Focus on your proven ability to do the job and emphasize that you're ready to move up. One other essential: make sure to present your case as soon as possible, preferably before an outside search has begun.


Attitude: Look at this not as something you're owed for past service but as an opportunity you've shown you're ready for. There are no entitlements in today's workplace.

Preparation: Draft two formal memos-one outlining what you'd do in the first ninety days in the new job and another explaining how you'd assist whoever takes over your current position. In addition, have in mind potential replacements for your position.

Timing: It is absolutely essential to stake your claim to the job as soon as you hear it's available. Consider dropping hints and spreading the word informally if you can do it without looking pushy. The more time that passes, the less your chances of landing the job.

Behavior: Accept compliments and constructive criticism gracefully, but don't hesitate to argue around these points by directing the conversation to your strengths rather than your weaknesses.


This script can be modified to:

Request a transfer.

Move ahead in a political or social organization.

Broadcast your ambitions and willingness for more responsibility.


Acknowledge that you've heard there's an opening, state your qualifications, and directly ask to be considered for the job.

Respond to arguments for going outside by demonstrating how you can bring a fresh approach ... at a lower cost.

Don't let your success be used against you. Offer to work closely with your own replacement.

Claims that you don't have sufficient seniority can be met by showing how your time, while short, has been intensive and exactly what is necessary to do the job.

Be prepared to forgo a raise-at least until you've proven yourself.

Have a memo ready outlining your plans.

Chapter Three

Asking for Emergency leave


Unless yours is a company with an established procedure for emergency leaves, you'll need to ask your superior directly for time off. Be forewarned that some superiors, despite their protestations, will be much more concerned with the effect your absence will have on the bottom line than your personal problem. The secret to this dialogue is to make it clear you've no choice but to take the time off; however, your workload can be adequately handled either by others or through your remaining in constant touch with the office. While you may be able to fend off attempts to turn your emergency leave into your vacation, when push comes to shove, you'll have to accept that unless your superior is both powerful and gracious, you may have to forgo salary while you're away. Your goal here is to get the time off and, if at all possible, to keep your vacation.


Attitude: In your heart of hearts you must feel this is a true emergency-otherwise you won't convey the necessary sense of urgency to carry the day. You must be able to say honestly you've no choice.

Preparation: Before having this conversation, make sure that you have plans-including detailed memos-in place to handle any workplace problems that could arise and that your current projects are all in good shape.

Timing: To the extent possible, have this conversation as early in the day and as early in the workweek as you can. Try contacting your staff or whoever will be filling in for you before working hours so contingency plans are already in place when it comes time to meet the boss.

Behavior: The more concerned and determined you are to take a leave of absence, and the more willing you are to do whatever needs to be done to get the time off, the smoother this dialogue will go.


This script can be modified to:

Get partial time off to go to school.

Get an extended leave of absence to wind up family business.

Get a medical leave for elective surgery.


Present your request for time off prior to divulging the details of the emergency. This forces your boss to ask what's wrong, hopefully setting a humane tone for the meeting.

Stress that all your work is under control and that you'll be available should any problems arise.

Fend off any attempt to take away vacation time by suggesting that it would constitute unfair punishment for something that's beyond your control.

If your boss claims she's powerless, offer to take your case to the higher-ups, but ask for her support.

If you're forced to go without pay, demonstrate the urgency of the matter by accepting the condition.

Chapter Four

Asking Your Superior for Maternity Leave


This dialogue isn't about what your superior is saying but what she's not saying. While she will congratulate you, what she really wants to know is how long you'll be gone and how your departure will affect the company. Your boss may be worried you'll never return from leave. Your goal is protecting your job while you're gone. Though in most cases your position will be protected-that's the law-lots of things can happen while you are on leave, particularly if you're in a competitive industry or company. You've worked hard, and taking maternity leave should not diminish your status in the company. Address your superior's fears and concerns, and you'll be able to protect your standing in the company.


Attitude: Display concern. Your superior will be worried about the effect of your absence. If you share her concern, it will make the situation easier to negotiate.

Timing: Set an appointment early in the week to speak with your superior in private. Make sure she hears about your pregnancy from you and not through the grapevine. Naturally, you cannot set an exact date for your leave, but the more advance notice you can give, the better.

Preparation: Speak subtly with coworkers who have taken leave and check the company's policies prior to your meeting. Review your current workload and create a strategy for sharing your responsibilities with other employees.

Behavior: Although you're conveying good news, your superior may view it as bad. Don't smile and celebrate during the meeting; you should be serious and concerned about the company. Your superior will appreciate your unselfish approach to the situation.


The script can be modified to:

Request leave to care for an elderly parent.

Request leave to care for a sick child.


Dismiss any notion that you won't return or need to be replaced.

Show concern for the effect your leave will have on the company.

Emphasize the importance of your job and your commitment to your career.

Chapter Five

Asking Your Superior for Paternity Leave


The problem with requesting paternity leave is that history isn't on your side. While you've just as much legal right to parental leave as a mother, society in general, and employers in particular, don't view things that way. Women are expected to place their family first. Men are not. Your goal here is to get sufficient leave without weakening your position in the company. Customarily, companies offer shorter paternity leave than maternity leave, and that can actually work in your favor. Still, your superior may accuse you of leaving at a crucial time, since there's never a good time to take leave. To mitigate objections, suggest working part-time at home and calling the office daily. Stress that you don't see this as a vacation, and show your superior that you want to continue to contribute to the company. Offer to work with other coworkers who will share your assignments during the leave, but be certain that such arrangements are temporary. Volunteer to come to the office one day over the weekend. Whatever you can do to meet your superior halfway will ultimately be appreciated and smooth the effects of your paternity leave.


Attitude: Be flexible but not a pushover. You're entitled to this leave; just negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement and your superior will be satisfied.

Timing: Request leave well before your wife's due date. The more advance warning, the less your superior can protest. Try to approach him after you have successfully completed a project or done something beneficial for the company.

Preparation: Check around the office to see if any other fathers have taken leave. Find out how they were treated and check your employee handbook regarding the terms of the leave. Have specific ideas about staying in touch with the company.

Behavior: Be ready to compromise on terms but not on timing. You must be granted the leave, it's just a question of the effects it has on your career. Be firm but open-minded.


This script can be modified to:

Request leave to care for an ill family member.

Request time off after elective surgery.


Emphasize the importance of your career.

Do not accept any delays. Tell your superior when you're taking the leave, not the other way around.

Point out the positive effects of your plan. Convince your superior he would be setting a fine example by granting you part-time leave at home.

No matter what the outcome, schedule a meeting to discuss your leave again in a month. If your superior disagrees with your plan, use this follow-up meeting to try again.

Chapter Six

Asking Your Superior for an Increased Budget


Asking for an increased budget is the ultimate uphill battle in today's lean business environment. Still, it can be done-as long as you frame it properly. The secret is to present the budget increase as a proactive effort to take advantage of an already existing opportunity, resulting in an improvement to the company's bottom line. That means it will boost revenues more than it will increase costs. It cannot be seen as a reaction to prior cuts, an attempt for more personal power, a totally new concept, an effort to save time, or a drain on the company's coffers. Be aware that asking for an increased budget carries risks, whether you get it or not. If you achieve your goal, you'll be under increased scrutiny. If you don't achieve it, you may be marked as being out of step.


Attitude: Whatever the real circumstances underlying your request, the attitude you bring to the meeting must be one of excitement and hope, rather than despair and exasperation.

Preparation: Develop an ironclad business plan that documents how your proposed change will positively affect the bottom line. Make sure there are no loopholes or question marks. In addition, have a host of fall-back positions ready in case you're unable to overcome your superior's objections.

Timing: Don't wait for budget time to present your plan. If you do, it will simply be seen as an effort to grab a bigger piece of the pie or to maintain what you've already got. Present your plan as soon as you've got all your documentation ready.

Behavior: Act the same as in every other planning meeting you have with your superior. Remember: you're not asking for more money-you're demonstrating an opportunity to make more money and urging the company to take advantage of it. Refrain from suggesting cuts elsewhere, even if you're pushed. That will color your proposal as political.


This script can be modified to:

Ask for an assistant.

Ask for a new piece of equipment.


Frame your proposal as "an opportunity," explain that you've just "uncovered" it, and stress, as early in the conversation as possible, that it will boost net revenues.

If your superior attacks you and suggests the proposal is self-serving, act surprised and hurt, but not angry, and stress that you've always put the company first.


Excerpted from "Lifescripts: What to Say to Get What You Want in Life's Toughest Situations" by Stephen M. Pollan. Copyright © 0 by Stephen M. Pollan. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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