Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart
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Cartoon image of an exhausted worker

Stealing time and energy

One of my friends recalls getting an email from his boss (Mike) at 4:53 on a Friday afternoon. The subject line was “your weekend thinking list.” The email was a list of problems that Mike thought would be good for my friend to think about over the weekend.

In years past, I would often drop last-minute, end-of-day requests on members of my team or catch them on their way out the door and ask them about something that would require a long conversation, rather than start the same conversation at a more appropriate time.

This behaviour is wrong. We are using our authority to ask people to work unpaid overtime and at a time of our choosing. We are also saying that we expect even more from people, some of whom are already doing a great job for us and who we would hate to see go. Many highly engaged “A” players will work many hours outside of the norm, but this should be voluntary and at a time of their choosing or their overall engagement will disappear very quickly.

Other senior leaders I coach often struggle with this. Many worked long hard hours to get where they are and they struggle with what they see as the “laid back” attitudes of some employees. When I ask if they were forced to work the way they did earlier in their careers by a boss like Mike, the answer is usually no. Something internal drove them to work they way they did. They did it because they wanted to. Well, this is the way it works.

In my case, I was coaxing a little extra effort from people without really thinking about the damage I was causing. I learned over time that this is not the right way to get things done.

Mike needs to stop stealing personal time from his team, too. My friend resigned from Mike’s company, partly because of this behaviour. My friend was Mike’s top performer. It seems that Mike asked for just a little too much and paid for it in the end.