Why you shouldn't do 'whatever it takes' to advance career

Posted4/6/2017 10:09 AM

"You've got to be willing to do whatever it takes."

Listening to a man describe his understanding of how to be a top executive, I couldn't help but feel sad.

Whatever it takes? Abandon your spouse? Ignore your children? Use your friends? Sacrifice your health? Betray your values? Where do we draw the line if our only guide is "whatever it takes?"

Plenty of companies celebrate the "do whatever it takes" mentality; corporations that not only reward such an approach to work, but demand it. And with the downsizing, closings and job exporting going on today, a good many workers feel forced to "do whatever it takes" whether they want to or not.

American corporate culture to the contrary, research suggests that "whatever it takes" really isn't the credo of the successful. In fact, recent studies of people judged to be among the best at their jobs discovered that a well-rounded lifestyle actually is the best predictor of success.

It seems that individuals who attempt to live out a balanced commitment to friends and family, who invest time and energy in their own growth and development, who attend to physical health, rest and relaxation, spiritual centeredness, and so on, regularly outperform their more driven "do whatever it takes" counterparts.

Though "do whatever it takes" people may demonstrate more dramatic, eye-catching, short-term success, it seems they usually burn out quickly, often with disastrous consequences for themselves and the companies they work for.

On the other hand, individuals who work toward a more balanced life achieve steadier, dependable, long-term results. Ultimately they almost always contribute more to their professions or organizations.

A rich personal life, the research suggests, also teaches attitudes and skills such as trust, cooperation, patience, leadership, loyalty perseverance and integrity. These skills all contribute significantly to vocational achievement, especially in today's team-centered work environment.

Words of wisdom, then, for employers, managers, or supervisors: The employee who comes in early, stays late, works weekends and carries home a full briefcase is not as valuable as you think. Respect and encourage those workers who live a more well-rounded life. They are the ones you can count on in the long run.

• Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of Samaritan Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove. He is the author of "Mix Don't Blend, A Guide to Dating, Engagement and Remarriage With Children."

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