Q. My company has been in crisis mode for about three years now, and I am thoroughly burned out. I don't want to be seen as lazy, but I need a break, vacation and some life balance. At first, I was productive with the long hours, but now I make repeated stupid mistakes. How can I convince my manager breaks are good for productivity?
A. The only way you'll convince your manager that breaks are good for productivity is to demonstrate the effect of the break you are going to plan. You're going to have to put together a plan to ask for forgiveness on life balance, not permission.
The problem is that many people in the short term have been able to remain productive with crazy hours and zero time off. Now is burnout is setting in and the natural exhaustion is stalling productivity.
Your manager is going to be aware of the fact the organization has gotten away with the same results with fewer people (less staff expense). Your manager will be less aware that human beings just aren't wired to remain effective when they are worked liked dogs.
All the research studies on productivity demonstrate that during a short-term crisis, adrenaline kicks in like intense espresso. Then, as when an intense espresso buzz wears off, the human body crashes and needs a period of rest. You have been working on adrenaline for far too long, and there is a physical price to pay for overextending yourself.
Let your boss know there is a very good reason that you are going to be gone for a week. Use any reason that will make sense to your manager. Give him enough time to cover your work that week. Then take the time, turn off your phone, and don't check your email.
When you return from your well-deserved break, show your boss how much more effective you can be. Propose time saving new processes, innovative solutions to old problems, and creative ideas about future challenges.
Great inventors have repeatedly observed that sleep, play and just watching the grass grow are essential to making brilliant innovations. Brain scientists suspect that a brain that is continually engaged in trying to solve the same problem eventually jams. A break allows the brain to unfreeze and finally seize upon a solution.
In a work culture where no one has seen a beach in three years, you may have to be a trendsetter to get some life balance for yourself. Like the wise advice to put on your own oxygen mask in an airplane emergency, other employees will follow your example as they see the beneficial effect.
You are taking the risk that your manager keeps you employed because you are good at the work you do and not because you are a martyr. If you are afraid of returning from your break to find your job is at risk, remember that your sanity and health are on the line if you don't take the risk.
If you want a long and successful career, working yourself into an early grave will not result in getting the financial or emotional rewards that you deserve. All work and no play will definitely drive any long-term success away!
Q. Is there a way to make a coworker quit acting like a baby in the workplace?
A. No, but you can learn how to give your coworker no blankies, no baby food and no rewards when he acts like a baby.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)