Negotiations expert Wharton Prof. Peter Cappelli shares some tips about how to discuss this important topic with your employer.
Whether you are planning to ask your employer for financial support to attend Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives or you’re going to self-sponsor, you’ll still need to get your boss on board with the program’s schedule and time commitment. You’ll need every other Friday off as well as certain weeks throughout the two years.
Be prepared to present a strategic plan to demonstrate how your participation in the EMBA program will be feasible and beneficial to your company and your team. Detail how you plan to meet your work responsibilities while balancing your academic workload.
We asked Wharton Prof. Peter Cappelli, a negotiations expert and director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, to share some tips about how to discuss this important topic with employers. Here’s his advice:

Remember That Flex Schedules Are Common

In most businesses now, employees are out of the office a lot. The idea that someone is not sitting at their desk in the office every other Friday is not unusual. Find out how extensive telecommuting already is in your organization as a way to start the conversation: a 2017 survey found that 43 percent of the U.S. workforce works at least some time remotely.

Getting your bosses to accept the fact that you will be out of the office is the first step toward the much harder issue of getting the organization to back off your work demands while you’re doing the program. It is probably more important to avoid unpredictable demands – “Jill, we want you to go to Spain for a couple of weeks” – than to cut back the overall amount of work.

That is unlikely to be something you will ever get in writing, and even if you do, the important understanding is still with your immediate supervisor. As many as two-thirds of U.S. workers report that they have some special arrangement with their supervisor that hasn’t necessarily been sanctioned by headquarters, so understandings on issues like this are very common.

Avoid Using Vacation Time

I would avoid suggesting to your bosses that you will use your vacation time to attend the program. You will certainly need time to catch your breath over the two years, and substituting the classroom for days off is bad for your health.

Make Sure It’s the Right Time

If you don’t have support from your supervisor, it’s not a good time to do the program. Even if don’t get a great (response) from your employer right now, it doesn’t mean you won’t a year from now.

Or if you don’t think you can back off work demands, then this probably isn’t the time to attend an executive MBA program. In my experience, students who get into academic trouble in the program do so because the demands of their day job make it impossible to do the classwork.

You might want to think about putting it off for a year or two. There are worse things than not going for a year or so.

You may find that some of Cappelli’s tips for negotiating financial sponsorship with your employer are also helpful in making the case for how your participation in this program will benefit your employer.
They are allowing you time away from the office so make sure they know the time you put into the program will be worth the value they’ll get out of it.

Posted: February 5, 2018

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