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Who to turn to for work life balance advice?

                                       Work life scale

Over the holidays, I had lunch with a friend who has been in her new job about two years. I asked her about the hours and whether the job has been more conducive to her work life balance. It was like I had let the flood gate down and suddenly she could vent, ask questions and get an outside opinion on work life matters.

If you have problems with work-life balance or overwhelming stress, it would seem logical to seek advice. But that’s not something we are prone to do.

Is it that we think we can handle it ourselves? Or, is it just that many of us don't know who to turn to for work life balance advice?

Harvey Schachter, author of  Advice is for Winners, says seeking advice is so rare – in work and in life, even in an era of counselling and consultants – that he has written a manual to encourage the process and help us navigate the terrain. “The book came about as I kept observing that people don’t seek advice and therefore make mistakes that are avoidable." He says gender is not a factor, "Generally we all are weak on seeking advice."

Schachter believes the No. 1 reason we don't ask for advice on work life issues is that it simply doesn’t occur to us. When we hit an uncomfortable situation, we don’t go through the process of asking ourselves: Do I have what it takes to handle this well, or should I seek advice? 

Right now, ask yourself: Do you have someone in mind you would go to for advice for a specific problem or issue?

Your go-to person might be right down the hall or in the next cubicle. Or he or she may be a complete outsider, someone you could become better acquainted with by asking for advice.

My suggestion is make your go-to person someone who doesn't have a stake in the outcome of your work life dilemma. For example, you wouldn't want to ask your co-worker if she thinks you should ask for a flex schedule if she has something to lose by your getting it approved. 

Good advice givers are often colleagues or even peers at another company who have navigated a similar scenario with success. He or she might even be able to help you change how you look at a situation or provide assurance that your approach or solutions make sense. Years ago, when I asked to scale back my work hours, I vented my work life issue to a women in the newsroom who had a similar schedule to the one I was requesting. She told me the pros and cons of making the change and encouraged me to ask, even guiding me with the right language to use when I made the request.

It's pretty common to create New Year resolutions around better work life balance. People pledge to give more time to their kids, or have a regular date night with their partner. Yet, we all know how hard it is to make resolutions stick. 

I think real change starts with getting in the habit of thinking about asking for advice when you are struggling with work-life balance issues and it moves on to identifying an advice giver. Remember, I'm here for you as a resource. Email me anytime at balancegal@gmail.com. Wishing you lots of fulfillment in 2013!



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Sharon Teitelbaum

Thank you for writing about this. As a coach who has specialized for a long time in work-life balance, I completely agree that there can be excellent advice available from a colleague or mentor in your company or field, and this option should not be overlooked. I also want to make the case that it’s not always (or only) advice that people need. I have found in my practice, and as we know from our personal lives, people can get enormous traction from assistance in figuring out for themselves what they want and what action to take, if any. You can get great value from a skillful listener who can facilitate that kind of process. Experienced work-life balance coaches and others who have guided many people through that process can offer questions and perspectives to complement what a colleague can offer.

Pat Katepoo

I question the "gender is not a factor" claim. The research in Women Don't Ask (Babcock & Laschever) reveals that women often don't see all their options or even *think* to ask for something different than the status quo. As a work-life advisor, I've seen that building *confidence* to ask is also an issue.

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