Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reformed Workaholics

I once interviewed with a company that offered me a job even though I made it clear I already had a job offer that I planned to accept. For two days, they tried to woo me over. When I asked about the vacation policy, they replied, "We don't believe in vacations." How do you prevent burnout? "That's up to the employees to manage," I was told. They scheduled people for 6 day work weeks. There was no work-life balance.

That company is no longer in business.

Lately, an article about how the best employees are not the workaholics has been getting a lot of exposure. It mentions finding balance in work and life. It talks about a loss of productivity after "too many" hours. I will add a few more things that cause workaholics to be less-than-stellar employees:

  • Downtime creates an opportunity for creativity. Sometimes stepping away from issues allows you to explore other areas that might have influence on the paradigm you have about work.
  • There are roles in our lives that only we can fill. No one else can be a father, husband, son or good friend. Someone else can always fill the role of VP, manager, director, shoe-shiner just as well as you.
  • Working a lot of hours puts pressure on efficiency, not on effectiveness. We handle work the way we've always handled work, out of our own habits and traditions. "Oh, this customer wants a proposal. Pull out the template and fire it off." There's no room to think about the situation and its potentially unique characteristics that might allow you to create growth and new opportunities. You might stop and ask what the customer is really looking for. Don't just give them "any color you want, as long as it's black" as Henry Ford famously said.
  • Downtime--and this includes time away from the Crackberry and Eyes-Phone (can't look at anything but it)--forces empowerment and engagement on the rest of the team. If they know they can't always reach you for an answer, they have to think through the situation. It's great for learning, development and finding your new leaders.

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