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How to Stay in the Job Game and Still Take Care of You

Did you hear that? It’s the sound of the two “C’s” of cooperation and compassion clinking into the other two established and revered “C’s” of competition and capitalism, trying to earn their place on the world’s business plate.  This is not a new trend and it’s happening globally albeit under cover, but it’s not universally welcome here in the US. Regardless, in certain circles this trend is now being blogged, written and spoken about on the web, in communities, at banks, in Board rooms, Keynote speeches, at TED conferences, everywhere. The message: to be successful as a business consider more how to create AND sustain a better bottom line by caring about your employees, the planet, your community by enveloping these precepts into your business model.

It’s true – there’s that vision of being a ‘kinder, gentler, more human economic system and market place – and then there’s the reality. Especially felt at the individual, human level, reality makes the vision much more difficult to enact. As employees, CEO’s, entrepreneurs and people, we have not been quite as successful in adding the ‘human element’ to our workday; I believe that’s because we are concerned about remaining competitive and keeping our positions secure.

And let’s face it, the biggest ‘C’ that rules our business plate IS competition. Wherever we are, we know we have to compete with other employees, other companies or organizations, even your boss  at times – everyone and anything that is not on your ‘team’, period. Capitalism can’t work without competition. Can’t we have a balance to add compassion and cooperation but still remain competitive?

Yes, we can, but it requires a change, both in individuals and organizations. What’s truly needed is a transformation of business ethics, philosophies and most importantly, actual business practices and processes; it’s big and will indeed require a ‘paradigm shift’ in the truest sense of the word at the organizational level.

While that level will take time, the individual level is manageable. Things like working from home and asking for flexibility  are a start and all good to know –  but whatever you do, you will have to change yourself in some substantive manner to achieve your goal of having a better work-life balance that still allows for job security.

Consider the recent blog by Chris Brogan, CEO of Human Business Works, who wrote about “How to Get More Done – the Works”. Chris writes an excellent piece with examples of how to take care of your personal well-being, managing your time after work by shutting down early, then waking with a thoughtful and deliberate morning – all of which will make you more effective during the day. I agree 100%! He’s correct and I highly recommend the read.

But I also know from personal and coaching experience, this is not so easy to enact depending upon your job. You may have an evening work shift, or you may spend the bulk of your work week traveling, entertaining late at night, or preparing reports because your company expects high productivity imposing many deadlines or expected outcomes on you. What then?

You can take control and not allow the company to railroad your work-life just to stay in the game. You will have to be the one to change until our culture and systems change.

Here’s how:

Demonstrate your Value  - The greatest, most effective way in cementing your position as a valued entity in your organization is to do good work. Your work will speak for you and that remains true. Productivity is the greatest form of job security there is. So, to get there you do need to be organized, in mental and physical shape and effective in what you do using healthy, disciplined measures for living – ones like Chris mentioned, but adapted to your current work life – until you can command more of your time to work your best way.

After you have worked effectively, promote it and yourself. Here’s one example: In sales, make sure your superiors KNOW you have just increased your customer base, or improved it. Send surveys, ask for testimonials, create executive sum reports and demonstrate your value.

Set Boundaries – This has to come second -AFTER you have demonstrated your value. You can then begin to shape your boss’s expectations. In a ‘quid pro quo’ manner, not often found in our commercial enterprise system, you now want to establish your work boundaries. As an example, if you travel a lot and feel you may be even MORE productive with less travel, this is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate your effectiveness. Document a key work success while working in your home town. Next, set up a meeting to communicate your productivity during this time then set your boundaries in a conversation.

How do you do that? Well, it does not mean to start out with hardline communication of hours you will work or things you won’t do. A better way to approach this is to bring along the people you report to gradually, with professionalism and direct, clear communication. This means using less words, more points outlined, with personal “I statements” and sentences that have a goal in mind. Always, always confirm the listener understands what you just said. Direct communication is a skill you can build either with coaching or training.

Finally, be Realistic and Tenacious. It’s true – our culture of success rewards incessant effort which drives up the expectations for employees’ productivity. Add to that, the current economy where employers have more leverage over employees’ time and productivity. The result is that in some organizations there are no ‘off-limits’ when it comes to personal time for the very top or bottom level employees. Regardless if it’s greed, arrogance, or both, I submit that if the culture of your organization or the nature of your role requires this type of dedication to keep your job – you will eventually part ways and possibly save your health or life. You will survive to have a better job and an enhanced career for another day.

“Don’t be pushed by your problems; be led by your dreams.” – Anonymous

 Hopefully, you work for or with a reasonable or even ‘enlightened’ company and can overcome the barriers by making known your personal needs and using direct communication – backed up with good work.

I learned something I will never forget: “We teach people how to treat us.” You are the one in control, so enact it, wisely. You can do this at any juncture in your career. If you are just starting out in a job, that’s a perfect opportunity but you can still shape the expectations of your boss, leader, even your organization – just don’t give up; keep trying even if the first or second effort doesn’t work.


Question:  What other ways can you take control over your work schedule and not lose your position or job?

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