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Career or Family ... the Eternal debate!

I received the following comment on yesterday's blog entry ... and thought it would be a good topic for today.

Kevin, Good blog on employees doing "whatever it takes". What are your opinions on those who at crunch time bail out and do whatever it takes for their family commitments? As a CEO how do you view these employees and how do you deal with employees who feel guilt about not being able to "keep up" with the single people?

The comment can be broken down into different parts:

1. What do I think of people that bail at crunch time?
2. What do I think of people that do whatever it takes for their family commitments?
3. How do I deal with employees who feel guilty about not keeping up with the single people?

What do I think of people that bail at crunch time? (Kevin's thoughts)

When the job NEEDS you, then you really should make that happen. There will always be crazy circumstances that mean you can't meet the commitment, but generally if it truly is a crunch then you should make the sacrifice.

Some caveats ... if the job is ALWAYS needing you then that is not fair. If it is an occasional thing then you should "suck it up". If it is a regular thing, but not all the time, then you should negotiate a "quid pro quo" that makes everybody feel good.

What do I think if you bail? I am bothered, and it colors my opinion of you.

What do I think of people that do whatever it takes for their family commitments?

Generally ... I am a big fan of bending yourself out of shape to meet family commitments. Through my career I have been able to find time to coach both my kids in soccer (for many years) and have tried to attend every event possible. Having said that, there were times that work "got in the way", and I missed some things. Quite often making the family commitment meant working later or going back to the office late or traveling on late/early flights in order to meet my business commitments. Most times I could work it out.

I believe in balance, but you have to be fair to the job too. Today we see many examples of alternate work arrangements and when these are well planned I think they give the company access to great people and the people access to rewarding jobs ... in a mutually flexible arrangement. I like these arrangements.

"Doing whatever it takes" for family commitments is a good thing, as long as it is fair to both sides. When I perceive that the company loses in the deal then it bothers me.

How do I deal with employees who feel guilty about not keeping up with the single people?

In my experience there really is not a lot of difference between the commitment demonstrated by single people or by married people. Individuals make their choices, regardless of their marital status.

Guilt is a crazy thing and we all suffer from it to some degree. Partly it is the conscience that makes us thoughtful people, partly it is a negative erosion of our self belief system!

My advice to people is to make their decisions and live with them. If you decide to pick a family event over a work commitment that is your right, and if you make the decisions consciously then you also realize it may impact how you are viewed. At certain points in your life you might well choose family before work, but recognize those who do put work first will see the rewards.

Most CEOs are family people too, so you might be surprised at how understanding we might be about these type of conflicts. Having said that, if you are letting people down with your decision then I would be disappointed and that would color my perception of you.

One final point ... it is important not to assume how others (including CEOs) think. If you are worried about how you are viewed ... then ask.