In business today, leaders and organizations have to be more aware than ever before of how their employees balance the demands of work with their personal activities and responsibilities. Organizations are constantly focusing on how to improve production, profits, and performance, while at the same time maintaining a high level of morale. The core of this problem is the employees’ search for an optimal balance of personal and professional success. As there are no definitive parameters for measuring this balance, the real goal for everyone should be personal and professional separation. In the search for this elusive, and delicate balance, a leader must first understand why separation is critical, and understand the consequences when personal and professional lives overlap.
Why is separation so important? As technology has revolutionized the business landscape, many professionals no longer simply leave their work at the office or plant. This causes many of them to feel that they spend all their time working or on call, regardless of location. At the same time, many parents are prioritizing attendance at their kids’ events and family lunch dates using the same technology within the same time frames that continue to be understood as ‘normal business hours.’
The result is that many people are doing two things at once — and doing neither one very well. How many times have you seen parents at lunch with their children and all of their attention is devoted to their smartphone? Or, perhaps that parent is you? When your personal and professional lives overlap in this manner, the results are poor for both the person and the profession.
Problems make more problems. If an employee is experiencing personal issues, such as marital problems or the loss of a loved one, it can be extremely distracting, to say the least. Personal issues can cause them to be withdrawn and less effective, costing the organization and also impacting other employees. When this happens no one wins.
On the other side of the matter, if a manager or executive is having a tough time at work and brings their stress and frustration home there is a real possibility that he or she will inflict their disappointment or anxiety on their family, and of course negatively affect their relationships and home life.
Conflicting facts, feelings
Let’s establish a few facts:
At the office: Today’s jobs and professional roles frequently require people to work late, to put in extra hours, and to spend days on the road away from the family. This is because the job needs to get done, and a true professional understands that they may have to miss a child’s event or be away from home at inopportune times. To be great in business a person must make sacrifices.
At home: Most professionals today work to provide well for their family, and will attest that their family or personal life is the most important thing to them. Moms want to be moms, dads want to be dads, and people want to be who they are — which means they are not fulfilled by being solely the individual defined by the title on their business card.
So how can an individual resolve the conflict, being successful in their profession and satisfied in their home life and relationships?
Always be present at work: When a person is at work he or she must be at work, no matter what distractions or dilemmas their family situation may present; they must learn to leave those details behind, at home. Remember that one thing that will make any family problem even more difficult is for the individual to lose a job because their performance is inadequate or unacceptable, because personal issues are affecting that performance.
Always be present at home: When a person is home with the family, he or she must be present, available and engaged in the activities and discussions of the family. Leave your phone and your uniform or jacket at the door. Just like the company that pays that employee deserves its employees’ very best efforts, their families deserve their very best, too — their attention, their interest, their contributions.
In many organizations, leaders may not deal with a struggling employee appropriately, and one consequence of that may be high employee turnover. A strong leader must meet with that employee — and with empathy share with him or her the consequences if such behavior is not addressed and improved. The leader also can explore options available to the employee, if there are any, but the critical detail is to deal with the issue directly.
Some people may find this approach too harsh, but in fact it is exactly the opposite. The leader must help the person so that he or she can improve, or give him/her the personal time and space, away from the workplace to resolve the issues. To let matters proceed without addressing them, to allow a person to suffer and ultimately destroy his or her career, is selfish. It’s also irresponsible behavior for an organization’s leader.
When people don’t have personal and professional separation they may feel overrun and ineffective in all things. This causes employee burnout and a difficult home life. It is a leader’s responsibility to address problems in the organization, regardless of their origin or parallel effects.
Today, a leader must be clear in communicating his or her expectations to the team. To be successful a leader must have employees that are able and willing to do what it takes to achieve success. This only happens when all of the employees are at their best.
Separating personal life from work does not eliminate the personal side of business; actually, it strengthens an employee’s personal satisfaction with the work. The greatest achievement is for a person to be doing a job they love and to have a family that loves them. The goal is not to sacrifice one for the other, but rather to make the efforts needed for them to be the best at each one. The best way to do that is to separate the personal and professional matters, so that neither one is affected negatively by the other.
Here are a few tips on ways to implement triggers for you to remember to be present:
• Never walk in the house on the phone; leave the professional activity at work.
• Change your clothes immediately upon arriving home, so that you feel at home.
• Make eye contact with those you speak to or that speak to you, whether that person is your boss, your co-worker, or your three-year-old.
• Share your expectations with your company team and your family.
• Be aware of your personal state of mind, and change as necessary to suit your current task.
Finally, be happy no matter where you are. Happiness is not a destination; it is an approach for managing the current task. Ultimately, it is a choice. Happy employees make great employees, and happy people make great people.
Nathan Jamail is the president of the Jamail Development Group, and author of the best-selling Playbook Series. Now a motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and corporate coach, he has been an executive director, life-insurance sales professional, and small business owner of several small businesses, Nathan travels the country helping individuals and organizations achieve maximum success. Jamail’s most recent book, “The Leadership Playbook” released by Penguin Publishers, is available at www.NathanJamail.com.