Thursday, September 22, 2011

Must Success Cost So Much?

Summary of an HBR article Must Success Cost So Much? by Fernando Bartolomé and Paul A. Lee Evans

Many people who reach executive levels in organizations do so at the expense of their personal lives. Success at work does not guarantee a well-functioning private life, and for women balancing home and career can be more difficult than for men. While all successful executives are characterized by professional commitment, they deal differently with emotional spillover – overflow of positive or negative emotions from business into private life. When individuals feel competent and satisfied in their work, negative spillover does not exist, but the manager who is unhappy in his work has a limited chance to be happy at home. All of us experience spillover in our careers, but we must be aware of not being trapped into a never-ending spillover. The effects of such are twofold: fatigue (physical) and emotional tension, such as worrying. Feelings that spill over from work are acted out at home, expressed through psychological absence (withdrawal) or even acts of aggression. Partners are children are often prime victims of such behaviors.

Individual and organizational interests can be in harmony, while executives who fail to manage the emotional side of work achieve professional success at the expense of private life. Healthy professional life is a precondition for a healthy private one, and we will look at three ways of managing spillover:

What is it about?
What to do?
Coping with a new job (after promotion, reorganization or moving to another company)
Tension following a job change is natural and necessary, spillover effects will eventually fade away. Still, top managers often fail to assess correctly the magnitude of change, allowing minimal psychological availability in their family for up to a year. However, sometimes such challenges are positive and bond the family.
·  Analyze the change carefully with your family before the move
·  Negotiate the decision with them;
·   Openly express the problems you will all confront
·  Do not promise what you cannot deliver
Most partners will understand and accept.
Taking the right job. Job misfit occurs in three dimensions: competence (absence of skill), enjoyment (dislike for the job) and values (moral misfit, values clash). Continuum: perfect fit to total misfit (none of the conditions fulfilled).
People take the wrong job for four main reasons: external rewards (choosing rewards over fit), organizational pressures (since management pays little attention to anything else other than the competence fit), inability to say “no”, and lack of self-assessment or self-knowledge (accurately recognizing one’s strengths and weaknesses).
·  Realize that personal life will inevitably suffer from job misfit
·  Analyze thoroughly the intrinsic characteristics of the job and the extent to which it fits them
·  Assess consequences and make right but tough decisions, learn to say “no”
·  Learn from past experiences, find a mentor, and strive for total job fit.
Learning from disappointments.
Disappointments are inevitable particularly as the career flattens out below the expectations level. Inability to recover from severe disappointment leads to being stick in dead-end jobs: self-esteem drops, while both professional and private lives become hollow and empty.
Two conditions to cope well with disappointment (A. Zaleznik):
·  Ability to analyze own emotions;
·  Capacity to deal with disappointment objectively.
Those who effectively compensate for their disappointment by enriching their present jobs (e.g. being a mentor) or developing leisure activities, regain their enthusiasm and self-esteem.

Although it is individuals who are primarily responsible for managing their own careers, management in organizations bears the responsibility for practices and policies that might facilitate maintaining the work and life balance in four ways:

·        Broaden organizational values: encouraging a commitment to what interests employees themselves rather than a blind commitment to their companies. Organizations ideally need a few ambitious and talented high-fliers who fit their jobs and a majority of “solid citizens” rather than many “jungle fighters” striving to get to the top.
·        Create multiple reward and career ladders: solely the managerial ladder is not appropriate for all – differentiated reward models are necessary to motivate various categories of employees. Edgar H. Schein distinguishes five “career anchors”, i.e. motivational factors: managerial, technical/functional expertise, creativity, need for security and need for autonomy.
·        Give realistic performance appraisals: managers help their subordinates best when they honestly discuss their (subordinates’) strengths and weaknesses. Such candor might create short-term unhappiness and even make them leave the company, but in the long-term lack of candor about a subordinate’s chances for promotion can be most destructive.
·        Reduce organizational uncertainty: managers can help reduce unnecessary stress and uncertainty by protecting their subordinates from worry about events over which they have no control.

Thus, even though many might claim that an executive’s private life is none of the organization’s business, interference between the two is inevitable. Responsibility for job fit and adaptation is shared between the individual and the organization, and companies need to face the need that more integration efforts need to be done, particularly due to changing values and increasing numbers of dual careers.

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