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Work-Life Balance: The Joke's On Us

Posted by: Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson on June 20

cali and jody photo for blog.JPG

Work/life balance is important. We know that. It’s something people want to make sure they’ll have when they start working or get a new job.

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to go ask about work/life balance in interviews. What catches our eye (aside from how generally discouraging and depressing the advice is) is the number of statements that strike us as being completely wrong.

In a recent career advice article, we saw the advice as being sound, but still wrong. It happens to pertain to a world governed by a set of assumptions that are completely insane.

And so, we thought we’d translate the advice we saw in the article so you can see what’s really being talked about:

“Be careful about telling interviewers that you’re president of the local hockey association and that you coach four teams,” says one of the career counselors in the article. “If you do, they probably aren’t going to hire you.’”

Translation: In addition to owning your ass for 40 hours a week, your job also has a right to dictate your life outside of work.

“Naturally, if you’re a C-level candidate or a physician, you can’t expect to have much work-life balance.”

Translation: Balance isn’t for losers. Strangely, balance isn’t for winners either. We’re not sure who it’s for, but it’s certainly not for everybody.

“[I]f you’re interviewing for less senior jobs at more mature companies, ask questions about the employer’s culture and the job responsibilities instead of bringing up the issue [of having balance] directly.”

Translation: In very rare cases (certain jobs at a certain level in certain companies at a certain place in their business life cycle) you might be able to achieve some balance, but the subject is still so taboo that you can only talk about it in code.

“A more subtle query might be whether the company allows computer log-in access from home. If they say no and that you have to be here for security reasons, you can make up your own mind.”

Translation: Under no circumstances are you to stand up for yourself, push back against antiquated and misguided work policies, fight for your time, or in any way ask someone to make an exception to the rule. When in doubt: cower.

“It’s best to [ask about work-life balance] once you’re sure that the company wants to hire you.”

Translation: Who are we kidding? Your prospective employer is doing you an enormous favor in paying you the least amount of money they can in exchange for the most amount of work they can get out of you … while also controlling your life. Better to not ask about work-life balance until you’ve already been at the company for two years. By then you may have earned the right to even bring it up.

Is there smoke coming out of your ears?

Ours, too.

So let’s do something about it.

Reader Comments


June 25, 2008 02:05 PM

We have all been through this in some form or other....I for one decided to take action on it and succeeded. My former client is a financial major, truly conservative, treated employees like slaves, forced us to work weekends and monitored every minute that we spent in office. My manager for the sake of client satisfaction, asked us to adhere to whatever they said. Result low morale and poor efficiency.

I decided to take it no more and spoke to the client directly. The result was complaints against me accusing me of being in-flexible and poor performer and my feedback all negative. I left the place wondering if this is the norm. next client proved to be just the opposite. More emphasis on life than on work, had all ways to make work fun than a burden.

Even greater surprise when I got final feedback from my manager about work at the earlier client. All praises for handling the situation well and "maintaining work-life balance".

Since then all my colleagues have left that place frustrated and worn-out.

Lesson.....speak out, there is always someone who is listening.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



Cali Ressler, Jody Thompson and Brazen CareeristBest Buy HR renegades Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson and Yahoo’s “Brazen Careerist” columnist, Penelope Trunk, tell us how to juggle responsibilities without going crazy.

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