Achieving Work-Life Balance: Supporting Managerial Health In Organizational Change

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Management and Health: Promoting Employee Work-Life Balance in the Wake of Globalization and Organizational Change

We have seen in the article "Today's Main Causes of Organizational Instability and Their Impact on Managerial Health" that globalization, with all its consequences, is a phenomenon that cannot be escaped at the present moment. Market pressures and accelerated change are two givens that we must learn to live and work with, while mitigating their negative effects on managers and their social environment.

By Liliane Held-Khawam, author of the book "Management by Coaching (MPC): Learning to Cope With Complexity in a Globalized Economy"

Here are a few non-therapeutic methods that seems to help achieve some results. The central axis consists in repositioning the manager at three levels:   

I.   Health improvement thanks to an organizational approach

II.  Health improvement thanks to a workplace-based approach

III. Health improvement thanks to a self-management approach

I. Organizational approach

The company can set itself the task to help as much as possible the integration of employees, and of managers in particular. This development mainly pertains to three different areas:

  1. Implementing a transparency strategy
  2. Developing an organizational culture that matches structures
  3. Adopting an attitude of vigilant tolerance

Implementing a transparent strategy

If we want everyone to contribute to the success of the company, people ought to know what is expected of them. Indeed, strategy is a fantastic tool for those wanting to rally and energize others - it's just waiting for you to make use of it! However, when the company opts for an approach transparency, it has to assess the management's ability to understand and implement it. This is a purely communicational issue, as employees who are bothered by emotional burdens will not give any echo to the communicated strategy.

If managers, for example, are angry, they will not be receptive to an economic or rational language. Their anger will make the company's future seem to be of secondary importance. Decision-makers thus have to support their action on the expectations and frustrations of their managers, so that the future orientation of the company will make sense to them. The implementation of a new strategy will thus have to begin with a phase of listening to the management (and, ideally, to the other employees too). 

Developing an organizational culture that matches structures

Modifying the company's structures always has an impact on its organizational culture. The latter represents the fertile ground in which the employees will have the opportunity to grow. Moreover, a cultural change requires much more time than a change in structures.

It is thus most important to allocate any resources that communication and training may require. This is in particular the case in the context of a reengineering process or when "resizing" the organization (e.g. in the case of a merger, a "downsizing" process, etc.).

Adopting an attitude of vigilant tolerance

Why being tolerant at all? Because people are not machines and they will need some time to adjust to the new structure - and will necessarily make some mistakes. Why being vigilant? Because it is important to set some limits to one's tolerance. Some progress in the person's behavior has to be observed, although he/she may face difficulties. Moreover, any inclination for inertia ought to be confronted.

II. Workplace-based approach

Disorganization and the lack of a clear vision represent significant causes of stress. The attribution of projects and responsibilities to the different managers should thus be made in the clearest way possible, so that they may themselves duplicate this approach with their own people.

In practice, we observe that quantitative goals of a technical nature are often set, while qualitative and human-related goals are often forgotten. In this case, managers lack a global vision as to what impact their work has on their partners. This is particularly true for managers who evolve in a matrix and/or workflows-oriented organization. Moreover, many of the difficulties managers are confronted to nowadays are related to the realism of the goals that are set to them and to the resources and tools available.

Also note that the redesign of a project or a modification of job specifications can set new requirements in terms of technical and behavioral skills. It is then absolutely necessary for the management to offer relevant continuous learning programs.

III. Self-management approach

(You may also refer to the article "Learning to Deal With Stress in a Relaxed Way")

This is a fundamental development axis, as it consists in identifying and strengthening the manager's personal basis. It is this element that supports the person's potential and skills. If this basis is weakened, it will make it more difficult to express one's skills. This represents the support that will allow for the fulfillment of one's potential. A skills development process may be designed in 3 steps: 

  1. Developping a better self-knowledge
  2. Finding one's work-life balance
  3. Clarifying one's personal definition of professional success

Developing a deeper self-knowledge

This is an open-ended process that may be apprehended through the knowledge of :

  1. The knowledge of one's professional potential and skills
  2. The knowledge of one's emotional dimension
  3. The knowledge of one's personal rooting

Professional potential and skills

This part consists in 3 components:

  • Physical potential: resistance to long working hours and journeys, look, presentation…
  • Technical potential: know-how that has been accumulated over the years
  • Personal potential: behavioral skills (communication, management, teamwork...)

Emotional dimension

This dimension is often rejected, as managers tend to consider it as a source of vulnerability. And yet, the emotional dimension can unlock the doors of the "heart" (i.e. the sensitive and intuitive mind), which can bring much subtlety and warmth to the rational mind. Anyway, whether we like it or not, this aspect of our personality does exist. Ignoring it often leads to a disturbing and, in the end, pervasive emotivity. 

Personal rooting

This consists in progressively getting acquainted with one’s own identity and in developing a deeper rooting in life. It is this rooting that will allow managers to stand fast amidst the upheavals that are taking place in their professional environment. It also mitigates the impact of their emotions and worries, as well as of the burden of responsibilities, which allows them to strengthen their autonomy, creativity and intuition.

This part of the person's identity supports personal values. This is necessary in order for the manager's potential to come to expression. The person will be able to act in a proactive way while sticking to what they stand for. The regular expression of these three dimensions is necessary in order for managers to achieve professional fulfillment and maintain their well-being at work.

Outlining an ideal work-life balance

This is a purely personal matter. It is for each individual to determine their own ideal work-life balance. This work-life balance consists in 3 parts that combine in a unique way for each individual:

  • Professional life
  • Private life
  • Social life

The combination of these 3 elements is purely personal and evolves with each individual. It is strongly linked to the person's rooting and values, as well as to their professional and personal interests. For instance, while some managers may work 60 hours a week and enjoy it, others can feel uncomfortable with a 45-hour workweek which is already undermining their private or associative lives.

Managers could thus take some time to hierarchize these 3 life components, giving them weightings (in %). The ensuing balance will correspond to a purely personal choice. This work-life balance is a simple tool that seeks to address one of managers' most critical issues at the moment.

Clarifying one's personal vision of professional success

It is important for managers to distance themselves from any preestablished conception of professional success that are promoted by their organization and/or private environment. They need to find their own career orientation based on the knowledge they have of themselves and of their personal interests.

Moreover, such indicators should include such notions as well-being and health, so that we may, one day, enjoy our retirement!

It is indeed important to underline the fact that professional success is, in the first place, a personal matter. Indeed, the way we measure professional success evolves over a lifetime and varies from one person to the other. Professional success should be addressed in the broader context of the individual's global successfulness.

Conclusion

Management and health are two potentially compatible concepts. Moreover, the improving the management’s health is one of the cornerstones of corporate management. Indeed, the quality of the organization’s strategic vision is strongly related to the health of the decision-makers and has an impact on the work atmosphere of the whole company.

The aim of this approach – which cannot exclusively deal with single individuals or the organization taken as a whole – consists in helping managers achieve a clear and coherent balance between their professional and private lives (notion of work-life balance).

As for the company, it plays a dual role. It should, on the one hand, provide managers with the ressources they need in order to better delimitate and understand their own role within the company. On the other hand, it would gain from becoming aware of the fact that the temptation to maximize the efforts required from managers is usually a short-term solution that endangers the management's health and therefore puts the company's sustainability at risk.

Thus, companies should rather aim at the optimization rather than the maximization of both resources and efforts. Only thus can the health of the company's management - and thus the organization's sustainable development - be guaranteed.

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