Your Job or your Life: which takes priority on the weekends? by Celena Collins

Posted on June 12, 2013 by From the Front Management 2 Comments


Phone Etiquette: We Had That Once

Remember the days when you could screen calls on your answering machine, and then, your caller ID, and it was ok not to pick up every call?  Even now, we could be screening calls on our cells, but who really does this?  And even more, how often do those calling us get upset when we don’t instantly drop what we are doing to answer their unexpected call?  I believe that phone etiquette has not caught up with the advances of today’s technology. I believe that this technology, of which was designed, to be tools that help make our lives better, is the very thing we are enslaved to now.  This enslavement captures us all with equal-opportunity, and does not care if you are at work or not, and includes the main forms of electronic communication: Calls, emails, texts, and instant messaging.

Please understand that I am glad to have a cell phone that I can play games on while waiting 45 min at the doctor’s office, or bank or pharmacy.  I like getting calls from friends in the evening. I like taking calls from my kid when I am driving across town.  I like getting calls from my husband to find out what we need from the store while I am making dinner.  I may not, however, answer those calls if I am in some bad traffic, elbow deep in raw chicken breasts, picking the best melon at the grocery store, or having a lovely lunch with a dear friend. 

Now, what if I had to take calls from my demanding boss while doing any one of these things, at any given time, for a job were no lives are at stake? It would take away from my quality of life, and make it impossible to practice good phone manners.

The Hero-Expectation and the Unbalanced Life 

In most cases, trying to keep up and look like the hero by taking on extra work after hours does not really help you in the end, it only creates a higher standard, to do more work, at an even faster pace. I have seen evidence of how making and meeting unreasonable expectations only hurts the team and company in the end.  A gifted, highly intelligent and helpful co-worker had to leave a job with these expectations on him due to stress-induced chest pains that woke him at night, and lead to mild panic attacks at the office.  He left behind a team that had to scramble to keep up the work that he did after hours.  I was one of those trying to support what he left behind.  It was clear he was juggling too many things to keep them working well on their own, and I was left scrambling myself, with no direction on how to fix anything or run the processes without working nights and weekends for the remainder of the contract. 

Much to my manager’s amazement, I was able to fix my end of operations, making the client very happy.  And I did it without working extra hours! However, it did something else too.  It set me apart from the rest and showed me how deeply the hero-expectation was embedded in our company culture.  While I was not willing to allow work to run my life at home, the rest of my team was! Unrealistic expectations that are company-wide are not just on the bosses head, they have become the core of many company cultures.  Teams will not hold together long with this culture, bosses will struggle to lead them, and entire departments will lose very talented employees, all from using  technological advances to create higher expectations, or rather, just create more work for each employee.

Technological advances are supposed to save you time, and therefore money.  They are not supposed to double your workload, and expand your normal working day. Some jobs, such as on-call doctors, military personnel, or firemen require that you be available to take calls, respond to emails/texts immediately 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  For those jobs, I hope the job-satisfaction and compensation is good!  For those that do not have those jobs, but remain available to every email/call/text for any possible issue from work may not have a reasonable or sustainable work/life balance that today’s technology was ideally supposed to give us.  It is unreasonable to expect employees with non-life threatening issues to be on call 24/7.  After weeks, months, even years of having very little to no downtime will not last.  Employees working under these unrealistic expectations will sooner or later leave the managers that put this extra strain on them. 

Unplugging: the New Answer to Stress Management 

Some country clubs do not allow cell-phone usage on the club grounds; I think they are on to something. Before laptops where available to the masses, all computer based work kept you chained to a desk, but have laptops really “Freed” us from any chains?  Sure we have laptops that can go places that desk-tops could not, but that does not mean we SHOULD take them everywhere we go, and that goes for cell-phones too. Keeping yourself on constant alert for the next call/email/text/tweet/status update is stressful!  Put down the phone, close your laptop, take that Bluetooth or ear-bud out of your ear, and just BE.

Even zebras in Africa take time to shake off nerves and adrenaline once the threat of a predator is gone. If they didn’t, they would die of stress, quickly.  We can learn something from those zebras. 

It would be extremely beneficial to all of us if we would take the time to create a sense of safety, and “shake off” the stress of being constantly “plugged in”. It has been proven time and time again that being in a passive scene in nature, like a mountain trail hike or walks on the beach, is one of the best ways to reduce stress levels.  Leave your phone in a safe place, and get away from it!

You Have a Choice

If you are a manager, and you don’t like tethering your employees on a short, data-service leash, you have options to explore to change that, options that your company can get behind and support you with.  If you want employees that come to work refreshed and excited about the work at hand, and if you want to keep your top-grade talent, help is available! If you just want to be available to your family when you are home, there are opportunities available to you to help make that happen.  All you have to do is choose to do something different.  Learn more at From the Front Management TM.

Celena Collins
Empowerment Coach,Golden,CO, Living In Your Power
Coach of Coaches, From the Front Management™
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c:720-314-6009| Skype: celenacollins


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