Prepare yourself before you make request to go part time

Dear Joan:
I am in Information Systems with a large healthcare organization. I’ve been with this organization, for the most part in a management role, for the over twelve years. I’ve always enjoyed my work, have a good track record, and am well regarded by my employees, superiors, and customers within the organization.

I have three small children who are growing up very fast. I have been able to juggle the roles of wife/mother/ employee over the last seven years very successfully. I am now at a point in my life (and my family’s life) that I wish to be at home after school for my children. I wish to continue to work, but not full-time. Even though I realize that I no longer will be able to continue in management, I know I could contribute as a Senior Systems Analyst (the highest non-management position). I would like to propose to my boss the idea of working 30 hours a week on special projects or filling in where needed. Because of the IT market, we usually always have positions open.

I’ve had an excellent working relationship with my boss for over ten years, and even thorough he knows I’m very devoted to my family, I think he’ll be surprised when I tell him I wish to go part time. I did have a part-time Sr. Analyst on the payroll for several years that worked out really well (my boss also recognized this), however, she didn’t originate in management, as I would. I’m prepared to work outside of this organization, but would much prefer to stay within it. I am hoping my boss will agree with me. Do you have any suggestions on how to best approach him on my proposal?

You have the perfect profile for this situation: an excellent record and good relationships. The fact that your organization has positions it can’t fill is also working in your favor.

The only thing that could derail your proposal is a political or policy snag, For instance, some companies would rather have a manager leave than move to a non-manager position at a lower level. They fear that the manager who steps down won’t adjust to his/her lack of authority and might be a handful for the new supervisor. In a case where you’ve been at a senior level, it’s likely the organization will squirm a little at putting you in a lesser role, since people are used to relating to you as a much more powerful member of senior management. It could confuse some employees or be misinterpreted as a demotion.

Although it’s possible you could experience some resistance to the idea, a well-conceived communication strategy will help the organization announce and manage the transition effectively. With skilled employees in short supply, I doubt they’ll put up much of a fuss. On the contrary, I suspect they will jump through hoops to keep you.

Here is an approach I’d suggest:

§      Schedule a meeting with your manager rather than putting your request in written form. Because you’ve worked for him for over ten years, and get along well, a written proposal may seem too formal and even feel like an ultimatum. Come prepared with some notes and after the meeting, offer to put your discussion into a formal proposal for him to take to others.

§      Do your homework before the meeting. Find out if anyone has ever done anything similar in the past. Refresh your memory about the former part-time Systems Analyst who worked out so well. Why did it work? What benefits did she get? What kinds of projects did she work on? Why didn’t she stay? Why didn’t the organization replace her with another part-timer?

§      In addition, talk to someone in Human Resources about company policies regarding situations such as this (you can pretend to be asking about one of your employees). In addition, ask the HR specialist what kind of outside arrangements they currently use for IT people (for instance, IT contract firms, a pool of former employees who do special projects, independent contractors, etc.).

§      Probe for details about how benefits and salary are adjusted when a person steps into a smaller job category. (Sometimes when a person is forced to step down, due to a reorganization or if the job has outgrown his/her ability, the employee’s salary is capped and increases are frozen for a period of time. In your case, you’d have to take a decrease immediately and you’d lose senior management perks, too.)

§      Think through to whom you might report. Would it be one of your current peers? Would it be a manager further down the organizational hierarchy? Even though you may not see this as any big deal, the employees in this organization are used to interacting with you as a senior manager. It may feel a little odd to relate to you at a much lower level. Some people may struggle with these power and authority issues, so think it through in advance. For instance, what kind of communications would help to smooth the transition? Some former executives choose to leave their organizations and become consultants to their former employers for just this reason. It’s simply cleaner.

§      Take a close look at the kind of work that needs to get done. Do you have the up-to-date technical skills that are required? Would you be better off leading special projects…and can that be done in a thirty-hour week? In the end, the organization will take a look at what it needs and if your skills fit the existing gaps.

§      Once you’re homework is done, present your case in a friendly, matter-of-fact way. Chances are your boss will try to talk you into keeping your job and working at home a few days a week or leaving early more often. You need to weigh and discuss these options carefully. But if it’s clear that a reduction in responsibilities is the only way to meet your time-at-home requirement, be willing to do everything you can to be the poster child of a perfect transition.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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