10 Simple Phrases That Give You Leverage with Your Boss

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Leonardo DaVinci

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Sharon, 47, has been a long-time client. Over 12 years, she has risen from entry level Associate at a mid-tier investment management firm in San Francisco to Partner at a very successful hedge fund in Chicago . During that climb, Sharon has worked for four different employers. On each of her four firm-to-firm transitions, we’ve counseled Sharon and helped guide her negotiations. With each step up, Sharon’s done better and better for herself. It always seems like her prospective employers will do anything to hire her. I used to wonder what her secret to success was. One day I came out and asked her; she simply smiled.

The subject of Sharon’s success came up more than once around our office. Someone mentioned Sharon’s penchant for quick, positive feedback, in all sorts of interactions with our office staff. The consensus in the office was that Sharon was something of a “favorite client.” The reason was her habit of providing quick, positive feedback, and the ease people had in working with her. Whenever we had a question or request for Sharon, her response was characteristically on point, simple, positive, and facilitating. Whenever Sharon had a question or request for us, her inquiry was focused, to the point, and without any sense of unnecessary, false urgency. As a result, Sharon’s inquiries and requests were often attended to sooner than others’ requests.

I recognized in Sharon a way of doing business that I have also seen in some of my own employees over my 20+ years as an employer. I noticed in Sharon’s business interactions a style of communication that encouraged effective collaboration, and supported the achievement of common goals. I realized that my own employees who have used Sharon’s kind of interactive phrases have been the same employees whose compensation rose the fastest, and whose careers have developed the quickest.

During a short break in the midst of a discussion last year, I had occasion to raise the subject with Sharon. I told her of her “favored client” status in our office, and my observation that my own “favored employees” had the same communication style. She replied, simply, “I watched the successful ones, and I copied them.” As always, I got her message.

LESSON TO LEARN: “Can you help me negotiate with my boss?” is the question I hear most in my law practice. The real question my clients are asking, is: “Can you help me understand what leverage I have with my boss?” That’s because negotiation is all about leverage: identifying it, acquiring it, and using it, to maximum advantage.

We define “negotiation” as “a process of motivating someone to do something they are not inclined to do.” At work, your boss is usually the “decision-maker” regarding decisions about your compensation, job security and career development. Whether it’s a desire for a raise, promotion, job security or severance, negotiation with your boss is a matter of motivating him or her.

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We define “leverage” as “the value you offer (or risk you represent) that can make the decision-maker decide in your favor.” In short, leverage is what motivates the decisions you seek.

For almost 25 years, I have counseled and represented employees, but during that time I’ve also been an employer. I see the employment relation from “both sides.” Likewise, my clientele is comprised of people who are, at the same time, both employees and employers, in light of their being in senior-level management and executive ranks. Like me, they see both sides of the equation; they understand the perspectives of both the employee and the employer.

Every “employer” seeks to attain various goals, and every employer faces tasks, burdens and obstacles in trying to achieve those goals. In employers’ quests to achieve their goals their primary resources are their “human resources.” Employees can help employers achieve goals, or they can hinder the achievement of goals; employees can make their bosses’ day, or break their bosses’ day. And in what employees say, and how employees say what they say, employers often separate those they view as “helpers” from those they view as “hinderers.” Make no mistake, the “helpers” are more likely to be granted the employment-related decisions they seek.

In what you say, and how you say it, in both the “large” things and the “little things,” you can give yourself leverage, or lose leverage, with your boss. And don’t forget that the “large things” are usually composed of many “little things.” And, too, that “attitude is everything.” Of course, what you say must be backed up by efforts, actions and results. But all workplace negotiating – that is, motivation of your boss – starts with what you say, and in how you say it, too.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider, if you were an employer, how hearing these “Ten Simple Phrases,” and phrases like them, during the course of your hectic day, would motivate you. Consider, then, using these “Ten Simple Phrases” with your own boss:

1. “How can I help you?”

2. “I will take care of that right away.”

3. “When would you like this?”

4. “No problem. You got it.”

5. “Before I leave, is there anything you need?”

6. “That makes sense; I’ll get it done.”

7. “I understand how important (or urgent) this is.”

8. “Is there a way I can make this easier for you?”

9. “I have an idea for improving things; may I share it with you?”

10. “I appreciate that (or, Thanks).”

These “Ten Simple Phrases,” and phrases like them, are highly motivating to employers. When you make requests, and when decisions are made, regarding your compensation, job security and career development, these represent leverage you can call upon. But you probably won’t have to, because like your reputation, your leverage will proceed you. It’s that “simple.”

Don’t know what to say, or how to say it? To help you we offer Model Letters, Memos, Checklists and Form Agreements for almost every workplace issue, concern and problem that requires your smart navigating and negotiating. Just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation is a matter of motivation, and leverage is what you do to motivate. It’s wise to create leverage every day, and to take every advantage you can of what your leverage can get you. Though others may see no great significance in these Ten Simple Phrases, you understand that they create a powerful, positive perception, and that perception is sometimes more important than reality. There are opportunities and problems in every aspect of working life. Intelligence in creating, and taking advantage of your own leverage, makes every difference in your career. Gaining maximum rewards while taking minimal risks is what business is all about. But it takes more than luck to make that happen. It takes forethought, care and prudence, the essential ingredients in good negotiating.

Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be aware. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.

A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.

Please Note: This Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel, and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale.