Work-Work Balance

Four days before my August wedding, my boss told me, “Gary, we can let you have the weekend off for your wedding, but you need to be back here Monday morning. We’re behind schedule.” [I had scheduled the two-week vacation several months earlier.] I replied, “I’m only going to get married once in my life, and my wife starts teaching school in three weeks. We can’t delay our honeymoon. I’ll see you when I get back.” My boss replied, “I’ll remember this on your performance review.” And she did. I got an F- on attitude, and the very large consulting company pushed me out the door, saying I was not professional and not fit to be a consultant. “Professional” to them meant that they owned my time 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. I learned later that this was standard operating procedure for this firm – work the consultants until they drop. And the 10% who put up with it became partners, perpetuating the culture. (I am still married to the same wonderful woman.)

In the 1970s when I was traveling the country helping clients implement manufacturing software, the most common refrain I heard from their professionals, middle-aged and older, was “I wish I had spent more time with my children.”

Fast forward a few decades. One of my relatives was working for a multi-national high-tech company. His boss was an Indian ex-pat who had no family here and no interests outside of work, so he worked 14-16 hours/day AND expected all his subordinates to do the same. So my relative would frequently be on the phone at 2 a.m. to India, or Germany, or wherever in the world someone he needed to talk to him. He left the company.

By contrast, the Oregonian publishes a list of the Best 100 Companies to Work For annually. These companies have people lining up to work for them. Many don’t even have to advertise their open positions. One example is Cascade Corporation in Fairview. When they have an opening, they ask their workforce whom they know that would be a good fit.

PS – many years ago, the department that dealt with people was called Personnel. The name got changed to Human Resources. I strenuously object to that term – people are not “resources” to be moved around a chess board, or used like financial or physical assets and discarded when they are used up. They are, or at least can be, partners in creating great products and services. To view them as “resources” dehumanizes them and implies that their only value is how they can benefit the company.

The choice is yours. You CAN keep and attract the best and brightest. All you have to do is treat them as if they matter, as fellow human beings in this adventure called life.

I welcome your feedback

Gary Langenwalter

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