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Three Common Approaches to Asking for a Sabbatical – and Why They Don’t Work

What is it about springtime that prompts individuals to want to act on the idea of asking their boss for a sabbatical? While sabbatical programs in companies are a growing trend, individuals at work in companies without them are taking the initiative and negotiating their own.

With more and more people contacting yourSABBATICAL for help, we want to let you know the season you choose won’t make a difference in your success.

But the approach you use in your initial conversation with your boss? That’s a definite determining factor of whether your request is met with the you-must-be-kidding look or results in a let’s-talk-about-this-more response.

Over the years, our question to individuals has been: How were you thinking about beginning the conversation with your boss about this sabbatical idea? Their responses fall into the themes summarized below and while each premise might have merit for other requests, none gives a chance to gain the support of your boss or an executive team for a career pause.

Our advice is avoid three themes in an initial request for a sabbatical:

Theme #1. I deserve a sabbatical. While basing a request for a sabbatical on merit (hard work, high performance, superb rainmaker or long hours) might seem logical, it’s a bad move. First, it reeks of a lack of company concern and seems an un-team like attitude. (As in: So you want to get paid, go away and have the team do your work? Oh, yeah, I love that idea.)

Second, the sabbatical request may be novel idea for your boss. Follow up with a lot of I, me, my and this won’t sway his thought process. The boss needs new thinking about the sabbatical idea (why is this important and how does it work?) not a litany of your attributes and accomplishments.

Theme #2. I’m on the way to burnout and need a sabbatical. Well of course you are burning out! But so are your boss, co-workers and all the rest of us. Talk about your burnout, increasing high levels of stress and your screwed up work-life balance with your physician or write about it in your journal. These workplaces realities discussed as a part of your sabbatical request will elicit a lukewarm response because the words– stress, burnout, balance – yield no power and do not activate the slightest possibility for positive conversation with your boss. You should focus on outcomes, not problems.

Theme #3. I’ve worked my butt off for 15 years. Loyal are you? Super. But the longevity theme is thin on connecting the dots for your boss on current reality. Just how will your time away benefit your future performance, value and help the company with current challenges? Plus, harping on your longtime-employee-status makes it sounds like you’re asking for a reward for sticking around. Consider that most sabbatical programs are now being designed for employees who have 5-7 years of service, you might even be considered to look a little late for the party.

What will it take for your boss to say yes to your sabbatical request? By avoiding the above three ideas, you can start to percolate and explore a better possibilities. No boiler-plate template for success exists; every individual creates his/her own success in articulating a sabbatical request. Created to help individuals – and used with extraordinary success – is the downloadable resource, Negotiating Your Sabbatical: The Ultimate Toolkit for writing and Presenting a Killer Sabbatical Proposal Your Boss Can’t Refuse.

Is this spring the season to jump start the idea of a planned career pause? What is there to lose?

This toolkit enables even the mildest mannered employee to assemble an intelligent, articulate, and ultimately convincing proposal. It’s loaded with solid strategies, sage advice, and an arsenal of resources that give you the tools and confidence you need to convince higher ups that giving you a sabbatical is a great idea.

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