As I was getting ready to do a Q&A video for the participants in my time optimization course for higher ed administrators, I also invited people on LinkedIn to submit questions.
One question in particular caught my attention: “How do you help colleagues and employees see the value of work/life balance or blend so they stop feeling guilty about taking care of themselves?”
In general, when someone asks me how to change someone else’s perspective, I tell them that it would be wiser to let go of their own need to change others. Wanting to change someone’s beliefs and behaviors indicates judgement and attempt to control, which may not be appropriate and is rarely effective. People change when they want to, not when someone else says they should.
However, in this context, wanting to encourage others to have a balanced approach to life and not sacrifice their well-being for their jobs is a concept worth supporting.
I know people like to argue about terminology and work-life balance has been criticized so feel free to replace this term with any other you like better. The point here isn’t to achieve a perfect 50-50 split but to achieve both work performance and well-being. One should not be achieved at the expense of the other. When both co-exist, that’s what I call balance.
Now, let’s take a close look at the question.
How do you help them see the value?
That’s actually the easy part. You can list many benefits of having a balanced life and people will agree. In most cases, it is not going to change their behavior because of some long-held beliefs, but you can start here:
- The only way to do your best is to feel your best.
- Self-care is essential to feel grounded, empowered, and on top of things.
- Studies have shown that work quality decreases when people work long hours.
- Being tired or overwhelmed will impair your cognitive function and makes you more likely to make mistakes, over-react, or snap at someone.
- Working too much sends a message to others that they should do the same. It is neither productive nor fair to set unrealistic standards in the workplace.
- Self-sacrifice is never worth it. Step back, look at the bigger picture, and see what’s missing in your life.
- You can’t be a martyr and a leader at the same time. Servant leaders are inspirational leaders, not victims of self-inflicted unnecessary pressure and stress.
- Think about what will become possible when you decide to bring more balance to your life. Imagine how your life will transform and how the changes will benefit your loved ones.
At that point, the person will most likely agree that balance is a good thing, and they will be encouraging others to seek balance. But they won’t follow their own advice.
What is it really about?
On the surface, telling someone it’s ok to take care of themselves and work less is not a big deal. But it is a huge deal! Here are some common causes.
1. Values and identity
Many achievers work hard because of how they were raised. Their parents taught them the value of hard work. They were praised for working hard and their identity is defined (at least in part) by how hard they work and how much they achieve. Their value system is built on this foundation. Their self-worth depends on it.
So what happens when you try to take that away? The person feels like perhaps their whole life has been wrong. Maybe all that sacrifice was for nothing. Who are they without their hard work? What are they supposed to be and do from now on? Losing their sense of identity is a huge blow to the ego. The implications are enormous. What will happen to their relationship with their parents if they suddenly choose a different way of life? Will their parents feel insulted? Will they lose their love and approval?
2. Lack of self-love and self-worth
When someone was raised by critical parents and taught to be highly self-critical, lowering the bar for anything feels nearly impossible. The person lives with a nagging “not good enough voice” that drives her to always do more, try harder, and sacrifice excessively. That person can’t love herself and suffers from a never ending need to prove herself.
She may tell her subordinates to work less because she has compassion for them and she doesn’t need them to prove their worth every day. She may even lecture people on work-life balance and not walk the talk because she holds herself to different standards. She is strong, she is tough, and she is used to subjecting herself to abuse she would never inflict upon others. Secretly, she needs to feel superior to “normal people” because she works so hard at getting her own approval.
So what happens when you tell her to work less? How is she supposed to try to earn love and acceptance? How will she show her strength? How will she save the day by doing what others won’t? How will she quiet down the “not good enough voice” if she starts being complacent?
3. Not-so-satisfying personal life
If someone has used his career to meet all of his needs but doesn’t have a very satisfying home-life, telling him to work less means taking away some of his joys. A fulfilling career can give someone a sense of self-worth, status, purpose, accomplishments, service to others, opportunities to learn and grow, connection with peers, appreciation (given and received) and so much more!
Someone in an unhappy marriage, or with too many problems at home, is likely to take refuge in the office. The office is where he feels successful, powerful, connected, and appreciated. It is also possible for someone to have worked so much that he hasn’t had a hobby for a very long time. That person may not know what to do with his time off. Free time can feel intimidating and terribly uncomfortable because it brings to light what the person is missing in his life.
You see how a simple concept like work-life balance is loaded with emotional issues. You can’t get someone to change their perspective by talking to them and telling them what they should think, believe, and do.
The only way to create change is to identify the core beliefs and transforming them, not by lecturing, but by asking questions to make the person come to their own realization and have a breakthrough moment. That is exactly what coaching is and that’s why I find it so fulfilling. Coaching isn’t giving advice but leading someone to uncover their truth and overcome what has been holding them back.
The last part of the question was “stop feeling guilty about taking care of themselves.”
That statement shows a deep belief in self-sacrifice. For some, self-sacrifice brings honor and worth. That, again, isn’t easy to walk away from. The key is to question the logic, realize that self-sacrifice is not a good vehicle to gain honor and worth, and replace it with a more positive vehicle. Showing the destructive effects of self-sacrifice can also help someone change their perspective.
In every case, what is needed is emotional healing. Working too hard, self-sacrificing, and prioritizing everyone’s needs above your own is highly destructive. If you can relate to what I have written here, consider making a change. I invite you to click here to make an appointment for a complimentary call and we will discuss how to give yourself permission to be kind to yourself and enjoy a more balanced life. You deserve it.
Much love to you!
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset. For more information and free resources visit ThrivingInAdmin.com