As we approach Christmas it is likely that, as a professional manager, the intensity of your work will go up a notch or three. In part this is a function of the high commitment and importance that professional managers commonly attribute to their work role. As managers are highly committed to the task and to the solution of complex problems, the looming deadline of Christmas may likely exacerbate an already high workload.
Professionals often find themselves in a dilemma between the external pressure placed on them and their self-dedication to work. The high salience of their work role is likely to increase the work-to-life conflict as they increase their hours beyond the ‘normal’ 50-60 hours per week. Part of the dilemma is that professional managers see their work as part of their self-concept or “who they are”. In dual-professional families the work-to-life conflict can be exacerbated.
Much like the monsoonal build-up, the intensification of work pressure as we approach Christmas requires intentional leadership and managerial evidence of ‘better practice’. In the absence of this, the increased personal stress on professional managers has a potentially cascading effect on direct reports. Unless appropriately managed, staff burnout is likely to be reflected in staff turnover in the new year.
Managers are encouraged to recalibrate expectations of themselves and their teams in performing the volume of work and to renegotiate the resources or timeframes if capacity has been reached. Early and honest conversations with clients (internally or externally) may reduce stress on individuals and the organisation. Last-minute conversations are damaging to reputations and put at risk clients who have been relying on timely input to their own systems.
Christmas provides a time for reflection and recalibration. With societal changes in values there is a shift towards higher prioritisation of family and private life. Understanding that work-life/family conflict is highest for those who place deep value on both work and family, the following New Year’s resolution checklist may be helpful:
- Identify what success means to you in work and non-work domains/roles and how you are going to measure progress.
- Clarify and then communicate what is essential for successfully aligning important aspects of work and life.
- Diplomatically decline requests that take you away from what you need to achieve.
- Consider private initiatives that decrease stress and increase quality of private life by using support services to lessen the drudgery of household chores.
- Consciously consider boundary management strategies, whether this is to keep work and non-work domains strictly separate or to integrate domains as tasks and responsibilities arise.
- Provide an opportunity for employees to shape their work role so they achieve work-life objectives that meaningfully add to their quality of life.
- Support work-life initiatives such as flexible working times or part-time working which have been proven to enhance job satisfaction and organisational commitment.
- Monitor the work-life balance of employees, particularly in highly demanding work environments, where work-life conflict can cause serious health problems.
- Negotiate work-life boundary management strategies and policies that are supportive of agreed ‘principles of professional practice’.
As evidence of your commitment to these principles, be sure to leave your laptop in your briefcase for the duration of your holiday break!
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happier New Year.