Race to the Top: Your Work-Life Balance

Q: What is the best way to talk to my boss about work-life balance?

A: Thanks for asking this question. In recent years, I have heard it more and more. First things first: it’s important to be clear with yourself exactly what you mean. For some people, work-life balance means being able to telecommute once a month. For others, it means leaving the office every day by a certain time. So, start by asking yourself a few questions: when you look around the office, particularly in your own group or department, what do you see? How do people work? How does your boss work? Long days that start early? Shorter days at an intense pace? And what are the stated policies about telecommuting and the other popular flex benefits? The answers to all of these questions should give you a sense for expectation at the job. Your work culture likely starts with your direct supervisor, but it tends to involve broader questions about the organization, overall.

The next set of questions is equally important: does what I see fit with the way that I work? When I first worked on Wall Street I had a great colleague named Kevin. We were part of a research team that tended to work very long hours and Kevin was the one person who was always smiling. When I finally asked him for his secret he said, “I really just love to work with numbers. It would be terrible if I had to work with people.” At first, the comment seemed harsh, but, in fact, Kevin knew himself quite well. He stayed on a research path coincidently and did very, very well.

Usually, when someone asks the question as you did here, he or she would like to actually correct something that is going on at work. And, if you would like to talk to your boss about it, it typically means it’s the type of thing that needs a policy change. If you have something specific you need to discuss that just pertains to you, I would recommend casually raising the issue during a regular meeting. If it’s a small issue, you don’t want it to become a big issue. Now, if it’s a big issue, really think it through and be careful how you raise it. Keep in mind, even your boss has some limitations. Lots of these issues are owned by the Human Resources team and many organizations like to see equity when they look across all the different departments. So, if no one in the company telecommutes, chances are your boss may not be able to make that change without putting some other balls in motion.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there is a difference between the day-to-day general demands of an organization and the extra demands that come along with special projects or “crunch” times. That’s just the nature of work – sometimes you have to put in a little extra.

Lilyanne has worked in corporate America for 25 years and has supported eight CEOs. She wants to answer your career questions – so you can get ahead at work. Email your questions to Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com <mailto:Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com> , rttcareers@gmail.com or through your favorite connection to the Houston Forward Times.