The Boss

AUS­TRALIA’S LEAD­ING BUSINESSMAN CALLS IT AS HE SEES IT – SO FORGET THAT SAB­BAT­I­CAL IF YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE ANY SEM­BLANCE OF SUC­CESS.

GQ (Australia) - - GQ INC - Mark Bouris

“YOU RUN RISKS EV­ERY TIME YOU TRY TOTAKEA SAB­BAT­I­CAL, ORANYTIME YOU LET SOME­ONE WHOWORKS FOR YOU TAKE ONE.”

They were once as rare as gen­uine laugh­ter in a Kevin Hart movie. But the idea of tak­ing a sab­bat­i­cal – a three- or even six-month break from work – is in­creas­ingly on the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble in Aus­tralia, par­tic­u­larly for high-value staff. While viewed by some bosses as a valu­able op­por­tu­nity to re­ward and re­fresh key employees, a chance for them to re­new their con­nec­tion with life and learn­ing, Bouris thinks oth­er­wise: sab­bat­i­cals a bad idea re­gard­less of whether you’re ask­ing for them, or grant­ing one. I just don’t ac­cept the con­cept of a sab­bat­i­cal, be­cause it makes no busi­ness sense. The only rea­sons I would con­sider grant­ing one would be if some­one was hav­ing some sort of ner­vous break­down, their wife was leav­ing them or they really needed to spend some time with their kids. Other than those three sce­nar­ios, there’s no good rea­son for it. I guess there might be cases where, if you’re the em­ployer and you have some­one work­ing for you who’s very good, and you feel they’re go­ing to go some­where else and you need to hold on to them, you might want to of­fer an olive branch of some kind. And if the only way you can hold on to them is to give them a break, which builds some loy­alty, then maybe you’d con­sider a sab­bat­i­cal. But as an em­ployee, it’s some­thing you should never go ask­ing for. One of the down­sides of giv­ing some­one so much time off is that they may just leave any­way – the sab­bat­i­cal al­low­ing them time to re­assess, look at their job and de­cide they don’t want it. And then they also have time to reach out to some­one else. Ba­si­cally, a sab­bat­i­cal is a no-win, whether you’re an em­ployer or an em­ployee. The worst-case sce­nario is that you take a sab­bat­i­cal and while you’re gone the com­pany re­alises it doesn’t need you, and they think, ‘why are we pay­ing this guy all this money, when he doesn’t do that much and things are run­ning fne with­out him?’ So you come back and you’re out of a job. If you can af­ford to take a sab­bat­i­cal, you prob­a­bly don’t need to be in the busi­ness at all. And keep in mind that there’s al­ways some­one who’ll look to fll your shoes while you’re gone, some­one am­bi­tious who will see you not be­ing there as an op­por­tu­nity and will work hard to take your role by do­ing it bet­ter while you’re away. That’s not to say I don’t mind the idea of a sab­bat­i­cal my­self. I of­ten think about it, but I’m the pro­pri­etor of a busi­ness, so I can’t leave. As far as I’m con­cerned, a busi­ness like mine, which has grown from a small com­pany into a medium-sized one – it’s been around fve years and is grow­ing ex­po­nen­tially – sim­ply can’t han­dle me not be­ing there. We all know that we need to take that break and prob­a­bly that we’ll all die at the wheel, but it doesn’t mat­ter – we know that and we do it any­way. And any­one who’s suc­cess­ful in busi­ness is like that – even if they take a hol­i­day, they’re still work­ing. That’s what most blokes I know, who are mostly en­trepreneurs and high per­form­ers, are like. Imag­ine if Jac Nasser, who’s run­ning BHP Bil­li­ton, said he’s go­ing to take a sab­bat­i­cal? What would peo­ple think? There’s no way. This dif­fcult time they’re go­ing through now, it could go on for years, and he just has to stick it out and stay there. The idea of sab­bat­i­cals is part of this cur­rent think­ing about hav­ing ‘work/ life bal­ance’, which though a good idea, I think has gone way over­board. You run risks ev­ery time you try to take a sab­bat­i­cal, or any time you let some­one who works for you take one. If you take it, you run the risk of the fnd­ing out they didn’t need you any­way, and if you give some­one one, you run the risk you’ll never see them again. As I say, it’s a no-win sit­u­a­tion, it makes no busi­ness sense, and it’s sim­ply not worth the risk. For more no-non­sense busi­ness and fi­nan­cial in­sights from Bouris, catch his weekly pod­casts at mark­bouris.com.au

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