When you’re actively seeking a move up, you can tend to over-prioritize the things you think will prove your worth, but often at the expense of your own needs. Despite craving a healthy work-life balance, taking quality time for yourself — whether that’s a vacation or simply getting home in time to have dinner with the family — can seem out of the question. The fear is that you’ll come across as lacking commitment, and that fear can have you in a cycle of sacrifice that doesn’t serve you or your company.
Whether it’s a role, a project, or an assignment, taking something on when the timing is off can leave you feeling stuck.
It’s a classic dilemma – the boss comes to you with a request, or some other pressing matter comes up, just as you’re about to head out on vacation. You experience that visceral tinge of anxiety that comes from being genuinely torn between your need to perform versus the need to get away. Despite a deep desire to turn off from work and be present with family, you feel obligated to take on the work. Maybe you believe it is essential for` furthering your goal of getting promoted. Perhaps you say “yes” as a reactionary response, without fully considering the implications.
As a result, you end up being half on vacation, half working, and not fully engaged with either. You’re trying to multi-task, answering emails by the pool and slipping away to a quiet corner of the hotel for a call while your spouse reluctantly holds down the fort. Your child looks up with pail in hand on the beach sad that you’re glued to your phone when you should be playing with him. His disappointment eats at you and you tell yourself one day he’ll understand you’re doing this all for him. You’re unable to fully engage your work without distractions and you’re also unable to fully relax because you’re worried about what’s going on in the office and getting it all done. It’s an inner tug of war that leaves you feeling resentful, guilty, and highly stressed on what’s supposed to be a relaxing and well-deserved vacation.
What if serving yourself was directly correlated with serving your company?
The truth is, being a martyr only leads to burnout that has you, your team, and your company suffer. Breaking the cycle starts with shifting the viewpoint that serving your company and self-care are mutually exclusive. When we don’t believe we can have both, we typically end up sacrificing our self-care. As a result, the company suffers as well.
In the book, Lean In, Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg describes advice she got early on from Larry Kanarek, who managed the McKinsey office where she interned. Karanek had noticed a pattern where employees often quit as a result of severe burnout despite having unused vacation time. They agreed to do whatever the company asked without setting boundaries, only to then leave when it became too much.
“Larry implored us to exert more control over our careers. He said McKinsey would never stop making demands on our time, so it was up to us to decide what we were willing to do. It was our responsibility to draw the line. Counterintuitively, long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every demand placed on us. The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately—to set limits and stick to them.” (Sandberg, 2013, p. 127)
Treating yourself as a resource:
When you manage yourself as an essential resource, you prioritize and honor your own needs as if the company depended on it—because it ultimately does. Not having your needs met over time creates resentment, distraction, and overwhelm. It also depletes your well of energy and motivation, which can impact your productivity. When you’re feeling aligned and taken care of, you’re more engaged and better equipped to meet and exceed expectations.
From the company’s perspective, the short-term cost is a drop in your productivity, but the longer-term costs if you burn out and leave are much greater: including recruiting and hiring costs to replace you, lost productivity during the transition to a new person, loss of the knowledge and experience that you had gained.
Part of managing yourself as a resource on behalf of your company is taking your breaks and vacation days. When we’re focused on short-term benefits, it may not seem ideal. But in the long-term, it’s what best serves you AND them. Even simply leaving work early enough to get home to your kids on a gorgeous summer evening can make a major difference in your quality of life and overall productivity, both at work and at home.
Holding the line
Holding the boundaries between your work time and time off can be tricky. If you have hopes of moving up in your company, you DO need to demonstrate commitment to the job and a responsiveness to your boss’ demands. How you raise the issue and have these conversations is critical. Pulling it off in a way that doesn’t sound needy or resistant can be a make-or-break in your career. Find a trusted friend or coach who can help you think through how to do this well without negatively impacting your reputation.
If you’re looking for specific strategies for navigating these situations effectively and communicating your needs in a way that gets you ahead, let’s talk. These are exactly the kinds of situations I help my clients with, so that they can take charge of their careers and move up without giving up their lives outside of work.
If this is of interest, book a call with me today. We’ll get on the phone for about 45 minutes and craft a game plan to get you to your next promotion. We’ll talk about what has you stuck right now, what’s next for you, and what you need to do to be ready for that next move.