You’ve heard this before: It’s just so difficult to juggle a job and a home life. I’m having a hard time juggling all these responsibilities. You’ve probably said it yourself at some point–it’s a common metaphor for balancing the professional and the personal because it’s an apt one. You might feel as though you’re the one performing for an audience of family, friends, coworkers, bosses, dealing with one thing after another in an amazing feat of circus-worthy coordination.
But I think there’s an even better metaphor to describe the experience of being a modern woman in the workforce: a teeter-totter. Yes, that playground staple with the funny name is, in my opinion, the perfect analogy for the relationships that structure our busy lives, because we all too often forget that relationships are exactly what we’re talking about when we discuss work-life balance. You’re not just a solo act, juggling your obligations day after day with no hope of changing or improving things; you’re part of a complex series of relationships that are driven by continual give-and-take, much like a teeter-totter. I think that we all need to remind ourselves of the fact that we can actually use this feature of our relationships to leverage more favorable conditions.
Do you remember being on that teeter-totter yourself, many (or not so many) years ago? You’d go up when the person on the other end went down, and, if they decided to stay there and hold you hostage up in the air or, worse, let go and send you crashing down, the game would certainly lose its fun.
The interaction between, say, an employer and an employee isn’t that much different. If employers refuse to budge, effectively “holding hostage” employee interests, the sense of equilibrium is lost. If employees fill that “anchor” role, their message is more or less that they expect employers to work around them, making demands that sometimes veer towards the extreme. An interaction like this quickly becomes a tug-of-war between inflexible opposites, doomed to breed dissatisfaction on one side or another.
With a little compromise–and it’s easier than you think–both parties can be satisfied and the metaphorical teeter-totter can balance itself out. If, for example, employers agreed to measure performance by attitude and outcome, rather than by hours worked and amounts billed, they’d find themselves with a more self-motivated workforce. And if, conversely, employees committed to taking ownership of work responsibilities rather than feeling like a victim within the workplace, the overall result would be increased honesty and productivity, and decreased drama and buck-passing. Employers could provide more resources for safe dialogue, such as HR representatives or coaching services, and employees could in turn be more straightforward with themselves and their coworkers about their abilities and needs.
The gist of it all is that balanced relationships–whether professional or personal–are comprised of a back-and-forth rapport that can only be sustained by ongoing collaboration and communication. Transparency and approachability are the keys to achieving workable solutions, and, as on the playground teeter-totter, you’ve got to look the person across from you in the eye and let them know where you stand.
By: Kelly Walsh
Kelly Walsh, M.Ed, ACC is the president of 1 Smart Life. Over the past 18 years, Kelly has successfully coached business leaders and people from all walks of life to reach their highest potential. With a Master’s in counseling, professional coach and mediation certifications, and 20 years of Human Resources experience, she has successfully helped others define their dreams and create pathways to success. She is the creator and owner of 1 Smart Life, LLC a new style of personal coaching with a team of experts in all of life’s challenging areas.
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