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With an uncertain job market and less full-time work available than ever, it can be difficult to know how to find the right work-life balance. There is a myth in many industries and specific jobs that in order for someone to be successful, they need to dedicate absolutely everything to their work. This can lead to long work hours, emotional burnout, and health impacts. Our boss is our primary source of professional feedback, and often the gatekeeper to new opportunities and positions. Unfortunately, some employers will take advantage of eager workers and an unstable job market, and push you into doing more and spending more time at your job. As a result, the onus is on you to make sure you strike a work-life balance that makes you happy. It can be hard to know where to draw the line and where to set boundaries, but there are certain life priorities that work can’t supersede, and we’ve put together a list of things that you don’t owe your boss in your quest for success.
Every Hour of Your Day
Every hour of your day. Many people and companies believe that employees at all levels owe them free overtime, and that it is simply part of the job. People working as interns or in the marketing industry might encounter this attitude most often. This can lead to a competitive attitude that the more hours spent at work the better, and that those who draw a limit on their working hours might be harming their careers.
The irony here is that working incredibly long hours simply because you are expected to will rarely lead to increased results. People have a limited attention span, and there are only a certain amount of hours in the day you can commit to being completely focused on work.
Take a look around the office. You might notice that the people who put in the longest hours are the ones who take the longest to complete tasks, or tend to leave their work to the end of the day. All dedicated employees need to put in late nights and a really dedicated week every now and then, but you need to be sure you set a limit on how much time you are willing to spend working, to keep other parts of your life a priority.
Your personal integrity and connections. Some employers are all too ready to put their staff in awkward positions to maintain their goals. This can be particularly apparent in social media roles or in sales. Employers might ask for their staff to recruit or sell to friends and family, force their way into your personal social media, or try to gain professional leverage through your friends or connections.
Many people find a healthy mix of work and friends, and naturally will know whom in their life will appreciate their products or opportunities. You are under no obligation to completely mix your personal life with work, and your employer should never ask that of you. Don’t feel badly if you need to draw a line at work, and keep your personal life separate.
All of your emotional energy. With our own pressures and stresses at work, it can be easy to forget that our bosses have their own issues to deal with. Good bosses handle this well, turning to their employees for support in achieving their goals and moving through difficult times. But some bosses can handle this pressure poorly and take it out on their employees. Some bosses may simply make too many demands of their staff, setting unrealistic goals, while others can be directly destructive, critical, and abusive to their staff.
In these situations, you need to try to separate yourself emotionally from what is happening. This can be difficult for people who are very dedicated to their work. But this is part of the reason that it is so important to maintain time for your family, friends, and hobbies outside of work. You should never allow your job to become your whole identity, or let your sense of self-worth come only from a boss who is giving you feedback. If you find a way to balance these these, even an emotionally abusive or taxing boss can be compartmentalized until you find something new.
Either way, this makes for a difficult work environment, and many people succumb to the stress of having a boss in this situation. If you have an employer you can talk to, there are ways to minimize or erase these problems, but if the emotional toll your boss is taking on you is too much, you need to start looking for a new place to work.
Your identity as a company asset. In companies where there are well-liked or rockstar employees, the boss may try to use your good name as a company asset. This could include having you send out emails to clients to encourage new sales, or having you encourage clients to try something based on their faith in you. Remember that your reputation and your name belong to you. While many people are comfortable doing this, you are not obligated to become a form of branding for your company, and are well within your rights to say “no” if your employer asks it of you.
Your health. Compromising your mental or physical health is not worth anything. Some employers are so demanding that people neglect their diet, exercise, and even routine medical and dental appointments. Some people work themselves into stress induced illnesses, and ignore their emotional well-being in pursuit of doing well at work, and your health is one of the most important things you do not owe your boss.
If you are sick, take a sick day. Make sure you keep up with regular dentist and doctor appointments, and that you eat well and make time to exercise. Doing all of things will make you feel better, and ensure that you are fit and happy to work. Remember, you’re living to work, not working to live.
A one-way commitment. There are some people who feel trapped in their jobs, that their boss or company is wholly dependent on them and that it would be wrong to move on. This is particularly true of people who are working in a struggling industry or for a cause they believe in.
But remember that employment is not guaranteed or permanent. Even if you have the greatest employer in the world, there are things that might happen that mean your role is eliminated, or company shut down.
So remember that you are always free to look for a job that suits you better or will improve your life. Don’t give your job more than they give you, and if possible, always be in the (real or perceived) position of having them need you more than you need them. Your boss is never going to be in a position to guarantee you lifelong employment and satisfaction, and you can’t commit your whole life to them either.
If you’re still trying to get secure in your career, it can be hard not to fall into a trap of trying to be everything in your job and for your boss. Remember that you’ll perform your best at work if you find a good balance, and keep time to do the things you need to be happy and healthy. Remember to do your best and focus when you’re at work, but keep in mind the things that you don’t owe your boss and draw a line when your boundaries are being crossed. A good boss will understand that you need a good balance to achieve at work.