How to Negotiate with Your Boss


MODULE GOAL: To understand how to negotiate, what rights you have in the work place and how to advocate for yourself to get the accommodations that you need.


  1. To determine some of the pros and cons of disclosing your disability.
  2. To learn how to negotiate with a boss about receiving accommodations.
  3. To understand what rights you have as an employee with a disability.
  4. To identify ways to start the conversation when discussing your disability with your boss.
Negotiation of a salary, job change or any other request can be a challenge to people without a disability, but be even more of a challenge for those who have a disability to articulate their need for reasonable accommodations. What is negotiation? Simply put, negotiation is the back and forth between employer and employee when it comes to things an employee may want or require to have in order to work. The decision to disclose your disability is one not to be taken lightly. You are choosing to tell (or not tell) personal information that you may feel uncomfortable doing in the workplace. This module will outline strategies, tips, tools/resources, and other helpful information to help you communicate effectively when negotiating to help you get what you want (and in some cases are legally eligible). 
  1. What does it mean to negotiate?
  2. Is there any special language I should use to negotiate?
  3. What can I negotiate at work?
  4. When do I disclose my disability?
  5. Will everyone in the office know I have a disability?
  6. My boss is not listening to my request for accommodations, what do I do?
  7. Do I have any rights in the process of asking for accommodations?

What does it mean to negotiate?

When you think of negotiation, what pops into your mind? Dealing with a car salesperson, a seller of a house or maybe even a boss? All of those are examples of negotiation. This module will focus on negotiating with your boss and the process of doing so. Jenkins (n.d.) states that negotiation process presents “…an opportunity to define, communicate, and achieve what you want out of your job offer” (para. 2). Negotiation is an important skill, but it is not always an easy thing to do. It can be uncomfortable and awkward, but once you have the conversation you will feel better about advocating for yourself to be successful.

Is there any special language I should use to negotiate?

As in every conversation there is appropriate and inappropriate language to use during a negotiation. In negotiating with a boss it is important to and use appropriate language to make sure you are articulating your needs and wants in a clear, respectful and professional way. In negotiations it is important that you understand how your boss communicates and their communication style. “The more comfortable you can make your boss, and the more comfortable your boss is in dealing with your style,…the more likely he or she is to be able to work with you” (Corley, 2007,p. 9)*. You can determine out your boss’ communication style by observing how they act and their preference in communicating, if they prefer e-mail, phone calls or in-person conversations (Essortment, n.d.). Learn how your boss communicates and approach them via the medium they prefer best.

Examples of appropriate language:

-  When asking for a meeting where you plan to disclose your disability, you might want to state: “I would like to arrange a meeting with you to discuss some personal accommodations.”

-  When asking for a meeting in general: “I would like to get some time on your calendar to discuss_______. Please let me know some dates that might be good so we may be able to find a mutually agreeable time.”

*For more information or to hear the complete interview the link can be found here. 

What can I negotiate at work?
Jenkins (n.d.) states that, “It's all negotiable” (para. 1). For individuals with disabilities, articulating the need for accommodations is a necessary conversation to have with your boss in order to help you do your job well and to clarify and manage expectations. Today, employers generally have a greater understanding of the capabilities of people with disabilities, “…in many cases in which employers are given specific consultation from disability professionals, employers are willing to go well beyond the ADA requirements for reasonable accommodation…” (Unger, 2002, as cited in Luecking, Fabian, & Tilson, 2004, p. 50). When having a conversation about accommodations, be sure to focus on your strengths,

All job seekers have to be self-advocates and self-promoters, and they must believe in their skills and the contribution they can make to a business entity. This is even more important for job seekers with disabilities because employers may be inclined to focus on their limitations rather than on their strengths. (Luecking, Fabian, & Tilson, 2004, p. 90-91).

    Examples of how to disclose in a positive manner:

-  “My disability requires me to take frequent breaks in order for me to stay productive” (Costa & Smith, 2012, p. 1).

When do I disclose my disability? 

Disclosure of a disability is a personal decision. An important consideration in deciding to disclose your disability or not is determining what accommodations you will need to be successful. The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, The 411 on Disability Disclosure highlights to youth to “…remember that it is not essential to divulge specific personal information about your disability. Your disability is only important if it affects (or can potentially affect) your ability to perform the essential functions of a job” (2005, p. 7-4). Employers want good employees, and in order for you to be the best employee that you can be, you may need accommodations at work and in order to get them may need to disclose your disability.

Will everyone in the office know I have a disability?

No. It is not legal for your boss to tell your co-workers that you have a disability. It is up to you to determine which co-workers you decide to disclose your disability. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “…requires employers to take steps to ensure that medical records and information collected about employees and applicants is kept confidential” (Arizona Center for Disability Law, 2008, p. 40). Most people who receive accommodations have a disability, and as a result of sharing the accommodation, employers share the information that the employee also has a disability. Yet, there are certain cases when there are exceptions such as when “…an employer may tell a supervisor about necessary accommodations” (Arizona Center for Disability Law, 2008, p. 47).

My boss is not listening to my request for accommodations, what do I do?

When approaching your boss it is important to make sure that you have their full attention. Ask for a meeting time. Don’t try to “catch” your boss when they happen to be around. Schedule a meeting with your boss at a time that is good for the both of you will help make the conversation run smoothly and effectively. Legally, the boss should honor your request for accommodations if you are eligible to receive them. Remember, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations such as: modified work environment, how the job is performed, scheduling, accessibility, modified or different equipment, interpreters altering policies or offering trainings (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2002).

Do I have any rights in the process of asking for accommodations?

As an individual with a disability, it is important to understand the rights you have to hold a job. The American Disabilities Act Amendments Act (2008) provides some protection under the law, but it is good practice to know your rights so you can advocate for yourself when looking for a job. After you have informed your boss of your disability and the need for reasonable accommodations, you protected under Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (2008) (Robitaille, 2008). Be prepared to provide information to your employer about workplace accommodations if your employer seems hesitant. The Employers' Practical Guide to Reasonable Accommodation Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), through the Job Accommodation Network, is an excellent resource which outlines reasonable workplace accommodations. It can be found here:

Job Accommodation Network (JAN). Find out the laws that protect you in the work place as well as your rights.
Accommodation Information by Disability: A to Z
How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA)
The Art of Disclosing Your Disability. This is a question and answer guide to determining when and how to disclose information about your disability to an employer.
After reading this module you should be able to understand the following:
  1. What is negotiable?
  2. How to start a conversation with your boss.
  3. Understand your rights as an individual with a disability under ADA.
  4. You can advocate for accommodations for yourself to a boss.
After reading this module and reviewing the resources, you should be able to answer these questions:
  1. How might you start off the conversation with your boss about needing reasonable accommodations?
  2. What law protects you from having your boss disclose your disability to others?
  3. What is your boss’ communication style?
  4. Where can I go to find out more about advocating for myself?
  5. What resources are available to me to help me determine if I’m eligible for accommodations in the workplace?
After reading this module, you should be comfortable and confident in your approach to having the conversation with your boss about accommodations in the workplace and what you need in order to be successful. By utilizing these tips, strategies, and resources from this module, you should feel empowered and confident that your strategies and approaches to your boss to discuss accommodations will be effective and well received.
Mary Desmarais is a second year graduate student at The George Washington University. She is studying to receive her Master’s in Secondary Education and Transition Services. She earned her undergraduate degree in Communication from the University of Scranton in 2010.
Arizona Center for Disability Law. (2008). The Americans with disabilities act (ADA) and confidentiality of medical information a self-advocacy guide. Retrieved from Logo Guides/E7 New Logo.pdf
Corley, K. (2008). Negotiating with your boss- part two. Retrieved from
Costa, A. & Smith, L.M. (2012). Do I tell my boss?: Disclosing my mental health condition at work. The Word on Work. Tip Sheet #7. Worcester, MA: University of Massachusetts Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Center for Mental Health Services Research, Transition RTC.
Essortment. (n.d.). How to effectively communicate with your boss. Retrieved from
Goudreau, J. (2012). The secret art of negotiating: Take your ego off the table. Retrieved from negotiating-take-your-ego-off-the-table/
Jenkins, L. (n.d.) Everything is negotiable learn the power factors. Retrieved from
Luecking, R., Fabian, E., & Tilson, G. (2004). Working relationships: Creating career opportunities for job seekers with disabilities through employer partnerships. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
McInnes, R. (n.d.) Disclosure. Retrieved from
Robitaille, Suzanne. (2008). Finding the Right Way To Disclose a Disability. New York, NY: The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from
National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability (2005). The 411 on Disability Disclosure. Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership. Retrieved from
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2002). Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act