How to negotiate a sabbatical

A few weeks ago I wrote about How to Write a Sabbatical Proposal.  In this post I want to give you a few tips for presenting your sabbatical proposal.  This is a big step because you will be playing your hand at work.  Your secret is out and now everyone will know what it is you want to do.  This is where all the hard work you poured into writing your sabbatical proposal pays off.

But before you schedule a meeting with your boss or HR department and hand them your sabbatical proposal there are a few things you need to think about and get straight in your mind.  You probably only have one shot at this so make sure you are prepared and have you’re ‘A’ game on.  So before you march in and sound your battle cry consider these things.


You’re not making demands here, you are negotiating.  And that requires that you be flexible with certain aspects of your sabbatical, namely departure date (timing) and the longevity of your sabbatical.  Chances are if your boss is receptive to your sabbatical proposal he/she may want to make some modifications based on corporate/company policy or ongoing/future projects at work.

When I presented my proposal I was upfront about the dates I wanted but I also made it quite apparent that I was flexible with those dates and was open to negotiation.  As it turned out corporate policy at the company I work for only allows for 4 month maximum leave.  More on that in a bit.

Know Your Value

Like any business negotiation there has to be some value presented to the company.  If you spent the time crafting your sabbatical proposal (I highly recommend the “Negotiating Your Sabbatical” handbook) then you know what those values are.  Keep them at the forefront of your mind and bring them up at every opportunity during the negotiation.  Don’t be afraid to become that used car salesman you always fear if you have to.  Whatever it takes to get what you want right?

During my negotiation I concentrated on a new acquisition we had just made and how my skills would play a role in developing our services in that new area.  I wasn’t so much selling my sabbatical as I was selling myself as the best person to take on that role by showing my value and thus showing them that they needed me.  And really the more you are needed by your company the more likely you are to get your sabbatical approved.

Know Your Companies Values

Does your company tout certain values that fall in line with the goals of your sabbatical?  Maybe they tout themselves as a family oriented company.  Or maybe they advocate training and educational opportunities.  Whatever the core values of the company are see if they don’t fit into your own sabbatical goals and if they do make sure and bring that up during your negotiation.  If your sabbatical goals fall in line with company values and by achieving those goals you make yourself more valuable to the company then it looks much better for allowing your sabbatical.  Know what your company values, what’s important to them and then fit that into your sabbatical goals. 

Offer Solutions

Taking a sabbatical can obviously put a strain on team dynamics, work load distribution and other aspects of the work environment.  There may be some hard feelings from co-workers who will probably be wondering how much extra work is going to get placed on them.  They may not fully understand the benefits of your sabbatical.  Change can be hard for people.  It’s important to offer up solutions for these issues.

I knew going into the negotiations that one sticking point would be work coverage.  We have a team of 3 and while 2 can do the job easily enough on most days, that would be tested when people take sick days or vacation.  I offered up a few solutions to those issues during the discussion which actually led to some positive talk about changing up our team a bit and possibly some remote work opportunities.  So don’t be afraid to offer solutions no matter how crazy they may seem to you.

Know the answer to this question

There is one critical question that you need to have an answer for before your negotiation.  “What will you do if your sabbatical request is denied?”  Whether your answer is to proceed with your sabbatical plans anyway or to postpone until another time, you need to know the answer because there will be a chance that your proposal as you present it will be denied.

I felt very strongly about taking this sabbatical so my answer was that I would proceed regardless of the answer.  In fact, my boss asked me this very question and thankfully I had an answer to give her because I thought long and hard about this beforehand.  While my sabbatical was approved, I wasn’t granted the full time I wanted.  My decision now is whether to take the 4 months offered by the company or resign and go for the full year.  Right now I am waiting for some events at work to unfold before making my final decision.


Go in with confidence knowing exactly what it is you are asking for.  Don’t be afraid.  If you are timid and unsure your boss may not think you are serious or really know what you want.  Be clear and concise.

Your boss will probably have some concerns.  Make sure you anticipate what those concerns might be and have answers for them.  This is where I found the “Negotiating Your Sabbatical” handbook to be extremely valuable in that the authors offered up a whole list of possible concerns and various ways to respond to them.  Some of these concerns came up in my meeting and I was able to answer those with ease thanks to reading this handbook.

So we’ve talked about writing a sabbatical proposal and now presenting it.  Hopefully these tips and advice will get you out of the starting block and well on your way to sabbatical success.  So what are you waiting for?

If you have any questions about either writing or presenting a sabbatical proposal please feel free to contact me.

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