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8/24/2006
05:27 AM
Patricia Keefe
Patricia Keefe
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Workaholic Lawsuits?! It's Time To Get A Grip

So being the "Type A" person that I am, last night I just had to read a story posted on our site headlined, "Always Connected To The Office? [yup, that's me] Troubled Times Ahead." Intrigued, I read on and came to a screeching halt at this statement:

So being the "Type A" person that I am, last night I just had to read a story posted on our site headlined, "Always Connected To The Office? [yup, that's me] Troubled Times Ahead." Intrigued, I read on and came to a screeching halt at this statement:"Companies that give employees BlackBerrys and cellular modems, providing always-on connectivity, may wind up with lawsuits, if they don't promote balance between work and play," Porter warned Monday. "The relentless pace of technology-enhanced work environments can create stimulation that may become addictive," she said.

Whoa, whoa. Lawsuits? Suing for forced overtime or failure to compensate for overtime is one thing, but suing because you couldn't let go of your job after hours and on weekends and vacations? Nah-uh.

And while we're on the subject, suing MySpace because your teen made a foolish decision to meet up with someone she met online is equally absurd. (But that's a topic for another blog entry!)

Can someone somewhere take responsibility? Please?

Like many people, I struggle to cut the ties to work once the closing whistle blows (metaphorically speaking--we don't have any such whistle). I do check mail on vacation, and I do burn the midnight oil at times. Sometimes it's my fault for not getting something done, sometimes it's because there's just so much to do, and I want to get a jump on it, and sometimes I'm struck by an idea that I just have to work on before I lose it. And well, I like work. Still, being the multitasking fool that I am, sometimes I exhaust myself. Did you catch that? "I exhaust myself." Yep, me. I do this to myself.

In the story, Gayle Porter, an associate professor of management at the Rutgers University School of Business in Camden, N.J., predicts that "in the near future, employees will turn to employers and say, 'Not only did you let me do this, but the pressure to get promoted and not laid off led to this addictive behavior.' "

She cites as examples people who sued cigarette companies after years of ignoring plentiful warnings (and probably requests that they stop smoking) and the idiots who have sued fast food restaurants because the food they chose to eat regularly was fat-laden. Quel surprise, huh? Don't even get me started on the people who sue over hot coffee. As far as I'm concerned--none of these people have a leg to stand on.

Eager to prevent things from coming to a legal head, Porter then tries to shift the blame to managers who somehow are supposed to magically ensure a work-life balance for their employees. As long as you're not being asked to do anything too ridiculous, why blame the managers? Sure there are jobs where it's implied that if you want to get ahead, you work overtime--but you know that going in usually, and you don't have to pursue that line of work or work at that company. After all, it's usually the go-getters who get promoted. That's not important for some folks, and there are job tracks for them, too. The problem is when you're expected to cram more work into one day than is possible--which is a combination of bad planning and unrealistic expectations on the part of your manager. But I'm thinking about people who willingly work overtime.

I used to feel compelled on occasion to remind my former manager, back in the day when I was one myself, that the people working on our team were adults, and at some point we had to treat them like that, and they had to act like it. There's simply only so much your manager can do for you, and then you have to take it from there. If they encourage you to knock off at 5, and you don't--well, that's your choice. In this particular case, a little self-restraint and common sense can go a long way. I know, I try to tell myself this all the time! Looks like my next step is gonna have to be those subliminal tapes...

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