Oh, weekly schedule how we love to hate you. It seems like week in and week out you continue to get the wrong shifts, and nobody cares to make it any different. You’d threaten to leave, but that’s too risk—you don’t actually want to leave, and you can’t really afford to either. There’s another way to make a change.
It’s about having an intentional conversation with your boss about the schedule, but it involves a pretty serious amount of strategy. From the get-go, you’ve got to prove that you’ve done the research, run the numbers, and created a solution that works for everyone—not just you.
If you’re desperate to make a change in your company’s schedule, then these are the ducks you need to line up before that big conversation or email. Remember: you have to make a solution that works for more employees than just you. If you can do that, then you’ll be well on your way not to simply having a schedule that’s tolerable, but having the hours you truly want to work.
Make a List
Get an idea of the hours you really want to work, and then the ones you absolutely cannot stand. Prioritize your hours accordingly. Sometimes there are going to be shifts you really can’t do, and some you may not want to do, and others you don’t care if you do or don’t—in that situation, the priority list can’t be black and white.
If it’s only shifts you love and only shifts you hate, you’ll be set up for disappointment. Be honest with yourself, and create as much flexibility as possible in what your “ideal” shifts are. That way, when you have to fudge some people’s schedules, there’s wiggle room to make up for it in your own.
Investigate The Schedule
This is where you have to wear multiple hats: detective, spy, and man or woman of the people. Find out which shifts everyone wants, and which ones no one wants, and begin to map out the perfect switches. Maybe some people are indifferent to their current schedule, while others are absolutely married to a shift they don’t yet have.
You won’t really know the details until you get to talking. While everyone who’s currently working during your ideal shift may love it, they may have some more wiggle room than you assumed. And you have to get inside your manager’s head: think like they would, understand their plight as they make the schedule each week.
You need solutions that work for everyone.
Take The Hit
This may seem counterintuitive, but your first move needs to be against your own self-interests. Figure out which shift that nobody wants you’d be willing to take it. When you ultimately propose your schedule, this is going to come as a leverage piece. You have to show that you’re willing to make something work beyond just your own best-case scenario.
At the same time, you don’t want to take a shift that falls under the “absolutely not” category. So when you go into this conversation, you have to have an idea of the shifts that may be inconvenient, but are still ultimately on the table without being a deal breaker.
Make a Pact With A Seasoned Employee
Here’s a move that you should only do if you don’t see a lot of wiggle room amongst your employees. Sometimes putting an offer on the table for another coworker is a risky, but often worthwhile move. You may get burned if it’s not a trustworthy coworker, but sometimes you can offer to take a shift they have in exchange for other shift or work-related trade-offs.
Maybe they have other things they care more about getting taken care of, that will leave you with a shift that means a lot to you to have. They may have some scheduling leverage, and could directly trade you a shift—if it works, it’s certainly the most painless route.
Present Your Manager With a Plan
Now here’s where it all comes together. You’ll have to be tactful, but firm. It’s important to understand that while you can’t always get the exact shift you want, you have to be clear about times that you absolutely cannot do.
If you only put the times that you really want, you’re going to be disappointed by a schedule with very limited hours—if any—because you won’t get all the shifts you want (everyone else probably wants the same ones). Offer your willingness to take certain shifts if it can mean having other desirable ones. This shows your manager thoughtful consideration, flexibility, and also garners some sympathy.
This is where tact is extremely important: if you’re saying you’ll take a Saturday in exchange for having all nights off, it’s probably not going to look super great for you. But if you can instead go into a meeting or long email showing that you’ve done thoughtful research, and put your coworkers (and manager’s) best interests in mind while creating a viable solution, you’ll blow your manager away.
Making a tough change to your schedule isn’t just about getting your way; it’s about showing your boss the easiest way to make it happen for everyone. That way exists… it’s just a matter of you digging around a little to find it.