Friday, March 7, 2008

Workaholics: Being indispensable is no longer a good management strategy

My character is Ned. He’s male coz it’s always easier to relate to – but it could just as easily be a woman. This phenomenon isn’t limited to any particular sex.
Ned is the Director of a large media house. His position in the organizational hierarchy is protected by the fact that he devotes 24/7 time to the company. He lives in the cocoon of belief that if he isn’t accessible things fall apart.

Ned isn’t alone with this line of thought. Radical lines of management pave the way for people like Ned to shed the coat of enslavement; yet, they chose not to. Yes, it always is a matter of choice when it comes to organizational slavery. You make the choice to live the way you do, to work the way you do. You lead people to expect you to be there 24/7.

What happens if Ned takes a day off – no cell phone, pager or email? Will the company collapse? Will the world come to an end? Or will his absence cause irreparable damage to the nation, or even the company? He lives in the myth that he really is that indispensable. He is part of the society of workaholics who thrive on the inherent need to feel wanted, corroborated and important at work. It’s a complete misconception that being indispensable to the organization is essential for career growth.

How can Ned make a change to shift from being a workaholic, yearning for recognition and respect, and being unable to strike a work-life balance, to being a regular responsible leader, passionate about his work and life, to live a normal life and to just stop and smell the roses? Life has so much to offer. There are books and travel, people and experiences, wining and dining, chilling out outdoors, enjoying the sweet sound of laughter, helping someone pull through a difficult time and being there for the ones who love him.

The shift is difficult. Breaking the habit, leaving the addiction isn’t easy. Or is it? As a high-powered male who’s expected to continue delivering as usual, the shift in strategy could easily backfire. Expectancies in corporate organizations run very high and gambling with his career could shake the very foundations of what hold him together. Yet, the very foundation he’s laid is wreaking havoc on his health, his peace of mind and life in general. What life? His life has been his work, and now he wants to rediscover the joys of living again. After all, he’s living this life only once, he might as well enjoy every moment of it.

The key to effective management is delegation. Pass on responsibilities down the chain of command and step back and watch the fun. Initially there will be a whole lot of errors. Mistakes are stepping stones to success. When the burden is shared, it isn’t burden any more. Ned can still be passionate about work, and once the focus changes, he can find new passions too.

All of us working people face the challenges of balancing power. It is how we chose to even the odds out that take us forward. Evolution is about change, with change comes chaos, and peace is only truly appreciated if it comes after struggle and turmoil. Anarchy becomes order once again.

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