Hacking Work: A Little Help From Your Friends

Bill Jensen and Josh Klein's new book, "Hacking Work" is about righteous rule-breaking. Here, the authors explain how, with a helping hand, you can improve your situation at work.

Hacking WorkOne subset of "Soft Hacks," or hacks that change your relationships with people, are Negotiation Hacks. These are hacks that involve the willing participation of both parties—and are therefore can be tricky to pull off. They're also the safest kinds of hacks, because surprises rarely occur when everyone is involved from the outset.

You can achieve a hell of a lot with great Negotiation Hack. As an example, one person we interviewed wanted to start telecommuting two days a week. Rather than ask for it up front, he started taking on projects which would occasionally required weekend work, which he did from home. He documented every success, and after a few months presented his case to his boss by highlighting how effective he was. He was awarded two days per week of telecommuting because he already proved that it could work.

It's not hard to see why—doing the work upfront to provide "proof of concept" can be very convincing. For the boss, it was an easy sell: a happier employee with more and better work getting done. By seeing the situation from his boss's perspective, he was able to quickly make the case and get what he wanted. That's a successful hack.

Another example: One woman we interviewed couldn't get her employer to give her more printer paper than the standard weekly amount. (Sad how mundane, yet time-wasting and energy-sapping some of these challenges are!) Because of where she sat in the office, her printer supplied printouts for twice as many people as most, so it was always running out.

The solution her manager suggested was to recycle more printouts—reusing the blank side of old documents—which was fine for internal copies, but obviously unsuitable for printouts going to clients.

So she started saving choice pieces of recycled printouts, including the occasional joke, cartoon, or personal correspondence that got tossed aside. The next time her boss had a client coming into the office with a last minute demand for a printout she made sure that it got printed on this semi-embarrassing material. (Ooops. How on earth could that have happened?)

She never ran out of new paper again. Negotiation for more paper successful.

Bill Jensen and Josh Klein released Hacking Work through Portfolio Penguin on Sept. 23—a book on how and why to break the rules to create more success for you, your customers, and your company.

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