Does any of this sound familiar? You come in early to get a jump on the day’s work. You take no breaks and schedule working lunches every day. You stay late to finish up the paperwork before heading out to an evening meeting.
You move fast. You talk fast. You take calls as you stride through the building. Your conversations are all business. You send email messages from home at 1:00 in the morning. (Don’t think they’re not noticing the time on the message.)
Your car is parked in its regular spot in the company lot most weekends and stat holidays. You haven’t taken many – certainly not all – of your holidays for years. There’s always too much work to be done to take much time off.
Your home runs itself. You’ve long since negotiated the services to handle personal needs. Your family is self-sufficient. You drop in at events as your schedule permits. They’re accustomed to it.
You’ve worked hard and you’re reaping the rewards: influence, challenge, pay, benefits, position, status. You love your work. In fact, your work is your hobby, and it suits you just fine. You have no complaints.
So, what’s the problem?
Well, if this kind of schedule meets your needs and interests, your health is good, and the pace is acceptable to the loves in your life, then all may be fine – for you.
Problems arise when colleagues and employees look at your behaviour as the blue ribbon standard for success and advancement. If they try to emulate a pattern that’s not a fit with their values, their interests, or their stage of life, then there will be a problem – for them and for you.
If capable individuals are turning down opportunities to step into positions of greater responsibility because they don’t see themselves working that long and that hard, then your organization has a problem.
As a leader, a manager, or a CEO, you set the tone for all who work with you. The last thing you want is for your zeal and enthusiasm to end up crippling your best people or sabotaging succession. Here’s how to set a positive tone and assure that your everyday actions reflect your best intentions.
- Make sure your work habits really are healthy for you and for your relationships. Do a reality check and don’t base it solely on your own feelings. Ask for input from significant others in your life. How satisfied are they with your choices? Check your physical health with medical pros.
- Recognize that there are minimal requirements for most positions, and that there are discretionary and voluntary contributions that people make of their own volition. Let it be known, that some of your ‘over-time’ is not an essential requirement of the job. Make the distinction that some of your extra hours are a way of volunteering for something you believe in – much like a colleague’s equally valuable choice to coach a youngster’s ball team, or help out with a community project.
- Learn about the current stage of life of the employees and leaders who are following in your footsteps. Show an interest in their lives outside of work. Ask them how their work responsibilities are affecting their personal lives. Be open to discussing problems and flexible in addressing conflicts.
- Share your own experiences and challenges in handling workloads and addressing work-life conflicts. Though you may be happily working extraordinary hours at this point in your career, it may not always have been so. You may have struggled along the way to make time for family or education. Say so. Put a human face on the position you fill and the path you’ve walked.
- Actively monitor workloads and resources. When you delegate new tasks and initiatives ask these questions: What impact will this have on the work you already have on the go? Do we need to make any adjustments? When you open this discussion, you go a long way towards making it safe for colleagues to speak to issues of load.
- Understand that your actions will speak louder than any words or corporate policies. Know what your behaviour is saying. Understand the impact. Adjust the message as necessary.
© Patricia Katz MCE CHRP of Optimus Consulting is a speaker, author and consultant who helps individuals and organizations restore the rhythm of renewal to work and life. To bring Patricia’s expertise to your organization, contact her at www.patkatz.com or toll free at (877) 728-5289.