At least that’s what Jack Welch, Chief Executive for General Electric Co. would have us believe. I read an excerpt from this Wall Street Journal article today and while I’m not interested enough to subscribe for the full article, I did read through all the comments.
I don’t think Mr. Welch is all wrong. In fact, I think he has a very good point:
“There’s no such thing as work-life balance,” Mr. Welch told the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in New Orleans on June 28. “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”
In the commenting there was a lot of talk of sacrifices… sacrificing career for children and sacrificing family for career. But the thing that struck me most is the underlying tone that defines career success as more important or more valuable than family success i.e. devoting the time necessary to raising a healthy and happy family.
An entry level corporate job begins with 40 hours a week and increases from there. At the top of the ladder the execs are often putting in so much time that they’ve lost the ability to ever NOT think of their work… and honestly I don’t think it’s healthy.
We’re told we need to get 8 hours of sleep per night for optimum health; we’re told we need to eat a balanced diet and exercise a minimum of 30 minutes per day (some will say 60 minutes); we need to keep ourselves adequately bathed and groomed which, for me at least takes about 30-45 minutes per day… when you put just those things alone together that adds up to about 10 hours out of 24… then you add a commute of, say, another hour round trip (add another 30 minutes if you have a daycare drop-off and pick-up on the way to and from work) and you’re down to 12 and a half remaining hours in a day.
Now if you’re like me and you work a fairly normal 8 1/2 hour day in the office, you’re down to 4 hours left… 4 hours per day left to sort through the mail, and pick up the drycleaning, and stop by the bank, call to make a dental appointment, prepare dinner, clean the kitchen, maybe read a little before bed… and I haven’t even started talking about a spouse or kids.
When exactly would they get any time?
When I went back to work after my son was born I was mortified when I realized the schedule he was on had him waking up at about 6:30am and going to sleep for the night about 6:30pm. My work schedule made it so that we left the house at 8:00am and arrived home at 5:30pm… and that’s if I insisted on walking out the door at 5pm no matter what is happening.
I still only got 2 1/2 hours per day to interact with my only child. Someone else got the other 9 while I was at work.
I sometimes wonder what drives the C-Suite. I don’t think I have it. I mean, I’m pretty driven and I’ve never set a goal I didn’t reach without a good reason or a learning experience involved. I’m educated and intelligent and I have a good job; our household income is comfortably above average for where we live. But I have every intention of continuing to contribute my family’s income because where I live it’s not really an option not to. That’s my sacrifice, I guess… my family gets to live in what I consider to be one of the best places in the world but we need two incomes to make it work.
I know I’d be farther along in my career if I was more aggressive with my goals and just sucked it up and did it the way I’m “supposed” to… but I have too many life aspirations for that. I have too many interests and hobbies and other things I enjoy in life that I couldn’t dedicate my entire life to the pursuit of money and back pats from people whose families are falling apart all around them. When I sit down and think about the things I couldn’t live without in this life – the things I feel like I was made to be and do – none of them is my job… and I love my job!
I work hard. I play hard. When I’m in the office I’m working hard; as I’ve said, I love what I do. When I wake up in the morning the first thing I do with my morning coffee is check my email and deal with anything urgent. From the time I arrive in the office to the time I leave at 5pm I work hard and if need be I’ll work hard after my son has gone to bed at night, but between 5pm and 7:30pm is my time with my family. Every day. I mean, I think I owe them that at the very least.
This post alone is enough to get me passed over for an interview with some companies. It would absolutely take me off the short list for a corner office. But that’s my life choice. I value the quality time I do have, no matter how scarce, that I can’t imagine having less time than that… nor would I want to.
Why we define ourselves by how much money we make and how many people work under us is beyond me. Perhaps it’s peoples’ lack of self-worth that drives them towards needing the approval of others. Perhaps it’s because people are just greedy… but maybe, just maybe, it comes from millions of people looking for the love and approval they should have gotten from their parents but didn’t because they were too busy working.