Last week a LinkedIn post by a Chicago businessman went viral. The intention behind it is clearly good and I agree with the basic premise that employees are grown-ups and should never feel any need to “apologize for having lives.” But as I read it, I found myself bristling.
I agree that we “never need to know you’ll be back online after dinner.” I start to disagree with “I never need to know you’ll be in late because of a dentist appointment. Or that you’re leaving early for your kid’s soccer game.”
No, we don’t NEED to know. But it’s nice to know you can share at work (if you want to) and not be penalized. It’s powerful to feel like you can talk about your kids or your parents or your dog or your hobbies and have that celebrated as being part of the awesome package that is you as opposed to a dirty secret that you don’t feel comfortable enough to discuss.
One of the most toxic versions of this that I (and many other women) have experienced is feeling the need to try and hide our pregnancies as long as possible, hoping to keep it under wraps until after bonuses and promotions were determined that year. Is that the best environment for success? Is that the best we can do as leaders and employers? To have our employees feel the need to hide something that should be filled with joy? To have them feel that they are alone and unsupported at that pivotal time?
I wrote about the best thing an investor ever told me (and I’m pretty sure he didn’t even know it). I won’t spoil the punchline, but from that moment onward I made it a conscious habit, as a senior woman in a male-dominated industries, to be honest about when I was doing things with or for my kids. Not only is that more authentic, but it has allowed me to be a role model for people on our team and in the finance and technology communities overall. Years later I still have employees thank me for showing them that being an involved parent and a dedicated professional are NOT mutually exclusive.
Honoring the juggle between work and the rest of life is essential. I deeply respect people’s ability to find their own balance among and between all aspects of their lives (work, family, friends, health, spirituality, leisure, community service, etc.). Respecting and honoring this in our teams leads to greater loyalty and engagement. The future of work to me means making space for people to shape their own boundaries and tell their stories if they want to.
Our stories of work/life juggle are powerful, and while I don’t NEED to hear your story, I WANT to listen if you want to share and be heard.