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How can I convince my boss to reduce my hours?

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

I am looking to reduce my hours with my current employer. My relationship with her is good and I am well liked. Do you have advice on effective strategies for communicating with your boss on the topic of reducing your hours?

This is something that is super easy to do at some companies and impossible to do at others. If everyone is working full time or more, asking for a reduced schedule probably will be less than effective. If, however, there are tons of part time or slightly less than full time people, it should be a piece of cake. For instance, if you're working the floor in a retail situation, it's generally pretty easy to say, "Hey, Jane, I'd love to work 3 days a week instead of 5," to which Jane will say, "Cool." If you're a medical resident, you'll get laughed out of the room.

But, here are some things to do for situations which are somewhere in the middle:

Who is going to do the extra work? Assuming you're not just wasting time at work, someone is going to have to pick up the slack if your hours are reduced. Who is going to do this? How will it get done? Will this cause a hardship for someone else? You need to have this all planned out before you speak to your manager. Even if she doesn't agree with your solutions, the fact that you have solutions will be helpful.

Is this change temporary or permanent? If it's temporary, managers may be willing to grant it without much thought. If it's a permanent thing, your arguments will need to be stronger.

What's the business case? Okay, no one says, "The best way to make more money is to work fewer hours!" But, if you are a super star employee, there are strong business reasons to keep you happy and still working for the company. If you're a low or even average performer, your chances of getting this perk aren't great. If, on the other hand, you can demonstrate that by allowing you to work a reduced schedule you can perform at a higher level, be more reliable, or something, make that case.

What are you willing to give up? Pay, of course. You'll necessarily  make less money if you work less hours, but what else are you willing to give up? Part time employees generally climb off the fast track. You may have to give up seniority, management of other people, project lead roles, etc. Depending on how much of a reduction you are looking for, you may have to give up more. 

Are you willing to do the nasty tasks? Every job has shifts that no one wants to work, or tasks that no one wants to do. In exchange for a reduced schedule, are you willing to pick up some of less desirable tasks?

Are you willing to drop below 30 hours? With the new regulations requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for employees working 30 hours a week, volunteering to drop from 40 to 28 may actually save your employer more than just your salary. Of course, then, you'll be responsible for finding health insurance on your own.

Can you arrange a job share? If you really want to go part time, is there another employee who wants to do the same? If so, you can propose a job sharing situation, where you each work part time. This situation can work really, really well, but you have to be prepared to work very closely with the other person, and accept responsibility for their faults. Not everyone is up to this.

Why do you want this? Is there another solution? If you want to reduce your stress, is this the best way? If you have trouble with day care pick ups, or getting home tasks done, is reducing your hours the only way to do it? Could you work from home one day a week, change day cares, higher a cleaning lady or get your groceries delivered? Don't go into this thinking that this is the only want to accomplish your goals.

What will you do if the boss says no? Are you willing to continue working your regular hours? Are you ready to walk out the door now? Will you start looking for a new job? Will you go to pan B, with finding a different solution? Knowing what you are going to do also tells you how much you are willing to fight.

Savvy businesses will recognize that not every great employee wants to work a traditional schedule. If you are a great employee, hopefully your boss will see that and you'll be on your way to a reduced schedule in no time.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to

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