“Having It All” – The Secret to Work/Life Balance

There was a big uproar this week after this New York Times article was published, How Some Men Fake An 80 Hour Workweek, and Why It Matters. It’s a fascinating look into how men and women with high-powered, demanding jobs manage to also make time for family and still get promotions and raises. The article cited a study at a top tier collar consulting firm that showed that many of the professionals claiming to work 80-90 hours a week weren’t actually working that much, and also highlighted that many of these “fakers” were men.

The article dives deeper and talks about how many of these high-powered women would ask for maternity leave or flexible schedules to spend more time with their children, BUT by asking for this time, they were ‘punished’ come their performance reviews. They often didn’t receive promotions or raises as readily as men/women who claimed to work the 80-90 hour weeks.

To me, the most fascinating part of the article is that if you don’t explicitly ask for a flexible schedule and simply keep up the appearance of working a ridiculous amount of hours, you are rewarded. The author, Neil Irwin, explains the difference between those who ask for more flexibility at work and those who don’t:

A second finding is that women, particularly those with young children, were much more likely to request greater flexibility through more formal means, such as returning from maternity leave with an explicitly reduced schedule. Men who requested a paternity leave seemed to be punished come review time, and so may have felt more need to take time to spend with their families through those unofficial methods.

The result of this is easy to see: Those specifically requesting a lighter workload, who were disproportionately women, suffered in their performance reviews; those who took a lighter workload more discreetly didn’t suffer. The maxim of “ask forgiveness, not permission” seemed to apply.

Basically, the key takeaway is that you shouldn’t call attention to yourself if you’re going to ask for time off or a flexible schedule. Having worked at a few major corporations myself, I definitely believe there’s a lot of truth to this. Unwavering devotion to your job and the perception that you put your job above all else in your life seems to go a long way towards making you successful.

What do you think? Would you rather ask your boss for a flexible schedule/lighter work load or “keep up appearances” of maintaining your same pace/productivity?

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