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07/22/2009

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I get where everyone is coming from on this work-life balance. However, research has shown that some of the most engaged employees have the worst work/life balance. In fact, rewarding highly engaged employees with time off can be considered a punishment.

I think it comes back to what each individual needs in their life. And I kinda agree with Jack in that - each decision has consequences. If an employee wants to work 100 gazillion hours a week and they love it - hey - the company is lucky. If they burn out - that's a problem for both the employee and the employer so it does make sense to watch for it and find ways to allow folks to do what they need - and do what they love.

I think the issue is one of "entitlements" not balance. When employees believe that "balance" is an entitlement then there is a problem. Some think balance is "equal hours" of work/play - others may think it means a 6-month sabbatical after a big project.

I also believe that there is a subtext to this discussion - and that it is a non-male issue - you reference 27% of the working population - in reality this issue affects 100% of the working population.

It all comes back to open, honest discussion between employees and managers. If the management understands what balance is they can work to provide it.

Thanks for the well thought-out comment, Paul. I think what it really comes down to is that businesses pay to get work done. If that work is getting done, that should really be all that matters. I'm a big fan of ROWE for this reason; everyone can make the choices about their time at work that works best for him or her.

I totally agree that the bottom line should be work getting done well. And I'm right there with you on the guilt thing.

When I first heard about this comment in the WorldatWork Online Community and then Work-Life Blog, I tried to surf to the various links to see if I could get the text and context of Jack Welch's remarks. It's no where that I can find. So essentially every one is reacting to other people's reactions!

Let's cut the guy some slack until we see a copy of the guy's speech. I tried on the SHRM web site and couldn't find anything. I did however find some SHRM interviews with Jack before the speech, and he was very supportive of the role HR plays in organizations and had lots of comments about how HR can be more effective.

Paul W - There was a link to his remarks at one point, but it doesn't seem to be functional any longer.

Darcy:

A thought provoking post - look at the great discussion you've got going!

It pains me to say so, as I'm not typically a Jack Welch fan, but I am in agreement with him on this one. I come to this discussion with 22 years of working motherhood under my belt, so I certainly empathize with the struggles of women (and men) in their efforts to keep so many balls in the air. I believe, however, that it does ultimately come down to choices and consequences, as Mr. Welch asserts.

As employees, we have to make choices about what we are willing to bring to the table for our employers. I also believe that it's realistic and fair that there be consequences for those choices. And that flexibility is something people earn, not something they are automatically entitled to.

And I particularly agree with his position on balance. Balance is a myth, and potentially a problematic and unhealthy one, especially for women. It leaves us with the impression that it is really possible to do everything, and keep it all in balance, without consequences or having to make unpleasant choices. Too many of us - particularly working moms - shoot for that unattainable goal, and then beat ourselves up and feel guilty when we can't get there. Or when we are faced with consequences we didn't anticipate.

The term balance suggests a perfect end state that we can actually reach, if only we try hard enough (and sleep little enough). It is ultimately far better to understand and appreciate that we are faced with choices and consequences, and then to go about making them in the most informed way we can, based on our own values and circumstances. To me, that is a position from which we can all make healthy and informed decisions - for our careers as well as our lives.

Thanks for teeing up such a great dialogue!

Maybe this is old news now in this fast-paced information age, but I have posted a lengthy response to Kathie Lingle's WorldatWork Work-Life Blog about Jack Welch's remarks here: http://www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimComment?id=33613&from=blog-home-wl

The response contains a link to the SHRM web site so people can listen first hand to Jack Welch's interview at the kick-off of the SHRM annual meeting.

The context of Jack Welch's remarks was a long stream of ideas about how HR can be more effective in their organizations. In the middle of the interview the moderator asked a lot of questions about getting more "estrogen" into the top ranks of companies.

My take on the remarks was that his comments about work-life choices and their consequences were equally applicable to men and women. They are important remarks to hear, because there are no doubt other CEO's and top management that feel the same way.

Now that you have heard his remarks first-hand, and understand the context that they were given, what do you think?

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