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