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I’M UN­ABLE TO SAY NO TO MY BOSS

QI’m be­ing put un­der pres­sure by my boss – not only to work longer hours, but also to spend time with him out­side of work. He doesn’t have chil­dren and thinks we should work hard and play hard 24/7. I am now un­der pres­sure from my wife who is re­sent­ful as I don’t help out with the fam­ily, am not around and don’t stand up to my boss.

AIt strikes me that you are a clas­sic case of some­one be­ing caught be­tween a rock and a hard place. For starters, I sug­gest in­tro­duc­ing two words into your reper­toire to help give you some much-needed breath­ing and think­ing room: pre­sent­ing ‘no’ and ‘bal­ance’.

How to keep ev­ery­one happy? The sim­ple answer: you can’t. Not all the time.

It’s key to re­alise to at­tempt to main­tain a state of emo­tional per­fec­tion is im­pos­si­ble to achieve. I tell my younger clients ‘Do your best and give it your all. You can do no more.’

This sim­ple mes­sage ap­plies and works sur­pris­ingly well in adult life. And while we’re on the topic of hap­pi­ness, what about you, are you happy? It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that hap­pi­ness is a two-way street.

The ex­pec­ta­tions for you to work long hours is not un­usual; it’s part and par­cel of a buzzing com­mer­cial en­ter­prise. How­ever, de­vot­ing ev­ery wak­ing mo­ment to your boss is not usual. Is it only you that has been sin­gled out for a 24/7 com­mit­ment or is it cul­tural – does it ap­ply to all?

How well do you know your boss? He’s clearly a driven in­di­vid­ual, but this doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean he’s an un­rea­son­able one. Maybe he’s un­aware you’re sac­ri­fic­ing fam­ily time. As he doesn’t have chil­dren its pos­si­ble he hasn’t even made that con­nec­tion. You prob­a­bly be­lieve that by not spend­ing ex­tended pe­ri­ods in his com­pany he will make your work more dif­fi­cult or even jeop­ar­dise your ca­reer. Or is it that you have never ac­tu­ally said ‘no’ to him?

Say­ing no is some­thing many peo­ple strug­gle with, par­tic­u­larly if they’ve built up big con­se­quences around us­ing such a small word.

You don’t need to be blunt when say­ing no, but be­fore you can be­gin to re­gain the bal­ance in your life you are go­ing to need to say it none­the­less.

The bot­tom line is: if the ex­pec­ta­tions of your boss are creep­ing ever­more into fam­ily time then some­thing will need to give. The only op­tions for this are job, fam­ily and well-be­ing. How you bal­ance these op­tions and main­tain all three is a chal­lenge that pretty much ev­ery­one must un­der­take in their lives. Your wife’s con­cerns, which man­i­fest them­selves as pres­sure on you, are borne out of love, but also the need for her and your chil­dren to see an emo­tional in­vest­ment from you. Un­for­tu­nately, for some­one in your po­si­tion the cur­rency is time and even a small in­vest­ment will yield huge re­turns. If your wife is feel­ing re­sent­ful to­wards you, it’s likely she’s wor­ried about you, but also frus­trated by your boss con­tin­u­ing to re­main the at the cen­tre of ev­ery­thing.

While you have to pro­vide fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity for your fam­ily, it doesn’t al­ways equate that the answer to this is found by sac­ri­fic­ing the re­main­der of your fam­ily time for ad­di­tional boss time. It’s down to ‘no’ and the work-lifebal­anc­ing act again.

Fi­nally, most suc­cess­ful peo­ple work very hard. So, if hard work equals suc­cess then surely more must, by de­fault, de­liver even more? Not al­ways. I work with top ex­ec­u­tives and when burnout hits them it hits them hard. In fact, there’s plenty of ev­i­dence that a bal­anced life is far more pro­duc­tive and a more re­ward­ing one.

Ul­ti­mately, you need to make choices, but I sus­pect that very few peo­ple at the end of their lives ever re­gret­ted they hadn’t spent more time at the of­fice.

Your WIFE’S con­cerns, which MAN­I­FEST them­selves as PRES­SURE on you, are borne out of LOVE, but also the NEED for her and your CHIL­DREN to see an EMO­TIONAL in­vest­ment from you

RUS­SELL HEM­MINGS is a life coach, and clin­i­cal and cog­ni­tive be­havioural hyp­nother­a­pist

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