Is the 80 hour work week realistic? It is if you are faking it! And I don’t mean this in a negative way. A study by Erin Reid of Boston University’s Business School showed that male employees at a large, high pressure consulting firm who presented the illusion of working long hours while still maintaining the “work life” balance were rewarded while female employees who actually asked for a lighter work load to achieve the same balance were penalized for that request. Being open and upfront with the company was not rewarded while the deception received high marks. Clearly, the message is that employers appreciated the appearance of “workaholics” and clearly disliked those of any gender who ask for a moderate work schedule. The male employees were savvy enough to figure out a way to work out a solution within the confines of what their employer and clients needed as balanced against their own objectives. They didn’t involve the employer in this discussion but rather ensured that everyone got what they needed. The other employees discussed in the study, predominantly women, either actually worked the hours required by the employer or sought to incorporate the employer into their effort to strike a work-life balance. So, what’s your take away? Be strategic and make sure that everyone gets what they need without having too much of a collaborative discussion with your managers and HR. Regardless of the changes in the economy, women’s rights, corporate culture etc., one thing remains constant-an employer expects to receive value for their investment in you and the employer gets to define what that value looks like. As the “collaborative” employees found out, the employer wasn’t interested in discussing ways to reduce productivity to achieve a work-life balance and made their displeasure clear in reviews and reduced bonuses. Everyone in the work place seeks a better work-life balance but there is simply no benefit in talking about it. The lesson learned from Erin Reid’s study is to just go about achieving that balance without involving the employer. But paramount to the success of that plan is to ensure that the client, and hence the employer, is happy.
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