Stepping Up to Own Your Work-Life Balance


In Dear Terri, I respond to followers who send emails asking for leadership advice, practical solutions, or ideas. Your questions can be sent directly to me by clicking here.

Dear Terri,

I am the only single woman without children on my team, and I seem to be the one who receives the weekend and holiday assignments. How can I continue to appear as a team player while protecting my free time?   – Sandy S

Dear Sandy,

Years ago, Bruce, a friend at my workplace, had a situation similar to yours. Without a spouse or children, he was on the road more than his colleagues. He complained to me once, saying this situation wasn’t ok with him. A few weeks later, he told me the situation was resolved to his satisfaction.

Bruce taught me a valuable lesson about being authentic and courageous at work. He chose to resolve the issue instead of continuing to complain about it. And by doing so, he was able to make the impact at work he desired while having a work-life balance that fit his lifestyle. So what did Bruce do?

Gained Clarity

First, he took time to get clear on where he stood. Bruce identified that the constant travel was causing unhealthy stress levels and the inequitable travel schedule was resulting in resentment toward his manager and colleagues. He also acknowledged that felt taken advantage of and recognized he was allowing someone else’s expectations of “fair” travel to be imposed on him. Bruce knew he needed to establish boundaries.

Established Boundaries

Once Bruce was clear, he decided he no longer could be a silent bystander. After honing in on his feelings of stress and resentment, he determined he had to honor what would serve him better. Bruce mulled over what he had control over and what he was going to do to have a more balanced life. He began to enforce boundaries by saying “no.”

Learned to say no

Bruce recognized he tended toward the “disease to please.” Being relatively new to his career, he thought that saying yes would make him more likeable and valuable. He saw excessive travel as a way to go above and beyond. He thought taking it on would be the way he would make his impact. But it wasn’t working as he thought it would. Constant jet lag, the stress and resentment were making the wrong impact. The hours were there, but his high quality output was beginning to suffer. He knew the time had come to speak up.

Spoke up

Because he did a good job at “acting” away his feelings, Bruce knew his manager and colleagues were not aware of his stress level and resentment. He had to be direct and put the issue out there. Bruce asked his manager to put “travel scheduling” on the agenda for the next department meeting. He went on to explain the importance of making time on-site with the customer more equitable for all team members. He added the importance of a team effort to devise a new approach to schedule the work off-site. The manager agreed to the topic, and the team resolved issue very quickly during their staff meeting.

Sandy, I hope Bruce’s story gives you ideas for how to best approach the holiday and weekend work hours with your manager and colleagues. You may be surprised, as Bruce was, by the confidence that can be gained through self-awareness and actions to better serve you. Also you might find colleagues who are willing to participate in the healthy give and take required for high performing teamwork.