The tricks to taking a break - and leaving a good impression

It's your leave, you've earned it - but when you get to take it is at the discretion of your boss.

It's your leave, you've earned it - but when you get to take it is at the discretion of your boss.

Carol Kulik from the school of management at the University of South Australia says asking to take your annual leave, or asking for unpaid leave, is all about negotiation.

Kulik says one of the best times for employees to discuss annual leave - such as wanting to take leave during school holidays or asking for a salary package that includes six weeks' leave a year - is before you start a job. "The advantage of doing it before you start is that nobody has made any commitments. You can really explore everything as a blank slate," Kulik says. "The other advantageous time is to wait until you've proved something: hit a milestone, had a positive performance review. Then you have demonstrated your ability and you might get more mileage."

Kulik says it's important to let your boss know you are being mindful of the business needs when asking for leave.

If you are worried your boss is going to reject your leave application, it can be useful to practise role-plays of the conversation with family, friends or colleagues, Kulik says. This will not only prepare you for the discussion, it may also give you insights into your boss' perspective.

When it comes to the conversation, Kulik says to slow it down.

"One of the most effective strategies in negotiation is pausing. Take a drink of water. Say things like, 'Well, I'll have to think about that'," Kulik says.

Asking open-ended questions is another good strategy, she says. "Make it a back or forth - don't make it a 'yes or no' question: 'Can I take a week off in May?' The answer may be no.

"Whereas if you say: 'I would like to take off a week in May, what do you think about that?' You can then wait for the boss to say, 'What! You want to go in May?' And you can say, 'Yes, I can see that there could be a problem but let me suggest some ways to get around it'." Executive coach at Perspectives Coaching, Pollyanna Lenkic, uses a model called the "three phases of awareness" that considers self, others and climate, which she uses with clients for workplace negotiations.

First, be clear about what is important to you by putting it on a scale of zero to 10, Lenkic says. "Zero being not important at all - 'I'm just trying my luck and three weeks in Greece with my mates will be great but it's not a life changer' - and 10 being not-negotiable: 'I have to have that time off or otherwise I will resign'," Lenkic says.

The next step is to consider how your request will affect others. "Get clarity on how it impacts your colleagues, your boss, your manager, clients or other departments that rely on interaction with you. And demonstrate that you've thought more broadly: clear communication is the key."

The third issue is "climate", which includes considerations such as checking the company policy on leave and what precedents exist or pointing out industry benchmarks. It also includes the timing of your request. "Don't grab your boss at five on a Friday and tell them you want holidays in two weeks' time," Lenkic says.

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