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Is your work-life balance gradually becoming a work-work balance, minus the balance? You may have started your employer-employee relationship expecting to draw clear boundaries, or maybe your employer promised a “culture of balance” or a respectful relationship the day you accepted the offer and signed on. But now that day is in the past, and you find yourself sliding into a boundary-free life that’s increasingly unsustainable. Here’s how to take back control before you simply burn out and let the chips fall where they may.

Don’t let the issue resolve itself.

“Letting the chips fall where they may” is usually a bad idea. Why? Because after you burn out, you don’t make your own decisions anymore at all; your circumstances make them for you. You CAN’T decide to come into the office, because you’re sick in bed. Or you can’t decide whether to stay or quit, because your exhaustion led to a mistake and got you fired. When you burn out, your decisions aren’t decisions anymore. You no longer make things happen, you let them happen. And that’s no good. Recognize the mile markers on the path to that destination, like responding to emails at midnight, apologizing for not being available, or allowing your boss to set response time expectations that aren’t reasonable. Spot the red flags and act before it’s too late.

When you give an inch, you give a mile.

If your employer asks you to work on the weekend without compensation and you agree, expect to be asked again. And again. If you routinely stay until 8:00 p.m. on weekdays, don’t expect praise for staying until 8:00 p.m. In fact, expect dismay or even criticism when you leave at 7:59. When a bar of expectation sets, it sets firmly, and it can be very hard to make a radical re-adjustment. If you find that your regular 8:00 p.m. workdays are no longer praised and have become the status quo, sit with your boss for a face-to-face conversation and explain you need to make a strong reset. Then stand by your words. Don’t be guilted or pushed back into your 8:00 pattern.

Negotiate.

If your employer has come to depend on your uncompensated habit of staying until 8:00 p.m. and simply can’t manage a reset back to 5:00 or 5:30, negotiate to get what you need. Agree to continue staying late, but secure a salary increase or benefits adjustment in return. If you don’t stand up for yourself, no one else will. In the meantime, refresh your resume and make sure you have other options when the time comes to apply leverage or seek work elsewhere.

Need help keeping your career on track without letting your work take over your life? Turn to the career management experts at Extension.

 

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