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Like so many in corporate America today, Susan needed more balance in her life-but she did not know how to get it. Faced with a 60-hour work week and a lengthy daily commute, Susan was left with little time for outside interests. Her job was literally draining her of energy, and her attitude at work was changing, especially within her business unit.
Who is Susan? Susan is a composite of thousands of executives who are pushed to the brink by trying to juggle demands on the job with demands at home. Susan could be you.
At work, Susan was accepting extra work and projects and was not able to say “no” to her boss. She became frustrated and drained. By accepting everything and not speaking up for herself, Susan became increasingly frustrated and angry. She became more demanding and less flexible with her own team. Her usual encouragement to “think outside the box” was replaced by a controlling “do as I say” attitude.
Micromanagement became her style. As a result, her staff appeared less involved in their work. They began to distance themselves from her.
On the social front, Susan was also making unhealthy choices- spending time with friends and family that were draining and burdensome and then keeping silent and angry about it. She did not have anybody to talk with about her experiences and frustration, so there was no one who could help her develop the perspective necessary to propel her toward greater personal fulfillment.
Like so many other executives, Susan believed that if she increased her hours and worked harder, life at work would get better. Are you just like Susan? Do you think that if you become more demanding and micro-manage your employees, the job will get done? Do you think keeping silent makes the problems go away?
To anyone who still believes this way, this is your wake up call. It does not work. Change is the answer-change coupled with a shift in perspective.
But sustaining meaningful change is never easy. It takes desire, intention, a clear vision, a good plan . . . and commitment. Change also takes time. In our increasingly busy lives we often get overwhelmed with demands on our time. Complacency sets in, and we lose the ability to overcome inertia-the tendency of a body at rest to stay at rest or of a body in motion along a certain path to stay in motion along that path.
To change, we must create structure that encourages and supports change, and it begins with an all-important shift in perspective. Instead of living in silence and hiding-or being overly controlling in our work relationships-or feeling that we need to leave our job-we can start by considering a more fulfilling alternative.
In Susan’s case, she looked at what energized her, what she was good at, and what gave her joy. She put limits on the amount of work she was willing to take on and began speaking up to make sure her needs were heard and met. She shifted from being a controlling team leader to one that encouraged risk-taking and “thinking outside the box.”
The result? Greater group cohesion and less stress for everyone involved. Group members felt less restricted and more empowered. Susan added greater value to her company and the results were visible and rewarded. More opportunities-the kind of opportunities Susan wanted-started coming her way.
At the same time, Susan developed criteria for what she wanted in her relationships. She evaluated her current relationships and determined which ones needed to be addressed. She began to speak up to make her needs known, and in some cases she ended unfulfilling relationships. As she revised her standards and set limits, she gained more energy to try new activities outside of work-re-awakening areas of interest that she had long ago left behind.
Susan’s success story can be your success story, too. And it starts with four simple steps.
You must . . .
1. Be clear about your intentions to make a change;
2. Be willing to experiment and to try new strategies to achieve the changes you want; 3. Be willing to learn what works and what does not, and to make adjustments; 4. Not let fear stop you from making these significant changes. To successfully change-whether on the personal or professional front-you need perseverance, feedback, and support to help achieve your goals. But change you can . . . and sometimes you must.
(c) 2004, by Steven Bacharach Psy.D. All rights in all media reserved. This article may be reprinted so long as it is kept intact with the copyright and by-line.