The never-ending emails and phone calls. The unrelenting deadlines. The pile-on of projects and deadlines.
- Set your work boundaries early and stick to them.Acknowledge critical after-hours work and negotiate. Schedule work time on weekends to avoid conflicting with family time.
Having a workaholic as a boss often means working long hours and sacrificing personal time to meet all the demands. Forget about having any work-life balance — for workaholics, work is life.
But working under this kind of pressure can quickly lead to burnout.
“The key for employees is to coexist,” said Harris Kern, author of “On Being a Workaholic: Using Balance and Discipline to Live a Better and More Efficient Life.”
“You can’t change your boss. They thrive on it. They live for the adrenaline rush … but as an employee, you might have a family and other priorities and can’t work 24-7.”
Avoid notorious workplaces
Some bosses, companies, or even entire industries have reputations for long work weeks and relentless demands. Try to avoid the problem and do your research before accepting a job offer that will suck you into a work black hole.
“Find an organization that is in line with your views on work-life balance,” recommended Dana Brownlee, founder of Professionalism Matters, a professional development training company. “You don’t want to find yourself swimming upstream from day one. You probably aren’t going to go in there and change the entire organizational structure.”
Set your own boundaries…
Don’t be afraid to share your work philosophy with your boss to help establish boundaries.
If you just started a job or are feeling overworked at your current position, request a meeting with your manager to talk about your schedule.
Avoid being aggressive — that can create more problems for you, advised Bryan Robinson, author of “#Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn on Your Life.”
He suggested a sandwich approach to raising the issue: Start the conversation with something positive, then bring up the issue of being overworked with specific recent examples, and then end on another positive note.
“Workaholics don’t see the water they are swimming in and don’t realize it’s taking a toll on people and themselves,” he said. “They are totally focused on the task and getting it done.”
Bosses can forget how much work they’ve already assigned, so if you’re feeling overburdened, ask your manager to review your to-do list and set priorities.
“It is incumbent on you to point out that you were working on six things, and you can increase it to eight, it might impact the timing of when you can provide some of these deliverables or add a lot of extra hours,” said Brownlee.
…and stick to them
There are going to be times when long hours and weekend work are necessary to get a job done. That’s expected, and it’s important to be flexible.
If you decide to work on the weekend, make sure your boss knows this is an exception, not an expectation.
“Tell your boss that you are fiercely protective of your weekend time, but that this project is important, and you want to make sure it gets out,” Brownlee said. “But acknowledge this is an exemption.”
If you don’t want it to become a habit, stick to your work-life boundaries.
“You can’t expect other people to respect your boundaries if you aren’t respecting your boundaries,” she said.
Acknowledge, then negotiate
If an assignment comes in late Friday afternoon that requires weekend work to hit the Monday morning deadline, acknowledge the request and then work to find a compromise.
Say something like: I understand the importance of the project, but I have other obligations. Can I get it done by end of day Monday?
Find the right balance
If weekend work is unavoidable, make it part of your schedule so it doesn’t disrupt your personal and family time too much.
Kern checks his emails on the weekends before his wife wake up. “Work around your family.”
Show your sacrifice
If you have to skip out on family or personal time for work, it’s okay to let the boss know.
“Say something like, ‘You might not be aware, but when you called, I was at my son’s game and I want to figure out how I can be productive and meet your expectations but also protect my personal time with my kids and spouse,” said Robinson.
A response like this is invitational, showing you want to work with your boss to find a middle ground.
“You are brainstorming together,” he said. “You aren’t being passive and allowing yourself to be run over, but not aggressive either.”
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