Over the past several weeks, I’ve had two clients reach out with tough career situations. One was a top performer who was overlooked for a salary increase because his direct Boss had recently changed. The other was approached by a new department in her company to consider an exciting role which was more aligned with her career trajectory.
Both clients set up a meeting with their respective Managers, but were at a loss at how to influence them to see their point of view. Preparing a data-driven rationale is always helpful, but keep in mind that a Manager’s priorities are likely different from your own. While you’re primarily considering what’s in your best interest, they’re considering what’s in their best interest, as well as the interest of the team and company. So, even if you address some of the benefits to others when presenting your case, it’s still difficult for a Manager to fully see your side of things.
One strategy to try when facing a difficult discussion with your Boss is to briefly present your case and then ask, “This is a challenging situation and I value your opinion, so I’m curious what you would do in my shoes?”
While no one could (or should) answer this for you, that’s not the goal. The goal is to open the other person’s mind to experience things from your perspective. Encouraging them to imagine themselves facing this decision does exactly that. While it’s not a guarantee you’ll get everything you want, you’ll likely get an honest answer and some empathy from your Boss in handling the situation since they can now more clearly understand how their ultimate decision to give you a raise (or not) or support you in applying for the new department (or not) will impact you.
The reverse can also be helpful (putting yourself in your Manager’s shoes) in enabling you to find a win-win solution. Whether in business or life negotiations, when asking “What would you do in my shoes?“, you compel the other person to slow down and think about the issue in a way that doesn’t result in them simply towing the company line or nonchalantly dismissing your concerns. It also shifts the discussion from an “us against them” tone to a more collaborative one, which will also work in your favor.