Take a holiday at work

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Posted by Matthew Stibbe

Most people don’t want to be managers. Only one in three American workers actually aspires to a leadership role and only seven percent want to get into the boardroom, according to a recent survey. Being a manage is no picnic. But perhaps it would be more palatable if people could learn to take a holiday at work.

Sliding back down the greasy pole

It’s not entirely surprising. With great power comes great responsibility but even a little bit of power can be a burden:

  • Less predictability. The higher up the food chain you go, the more likely you are to come across new problems and the less likely you are to have help solving them.
  • A bigger workload. I’ve written about understanding your boss before but I forgot to mention how much extra stuff a boss has to deal with: HR stuff, sales stuff, marketing stuff, management stuff, decision-making stuff. It all takes time.
  • Less sense of completion. It’s harder to get the satisfaction of a job well done. Leadership decisions and management activity rarely produces binary outcomes. Everything is on-going. Everything is connected to everything else.
  • Long hours. If you run your own business you have to work 24 hours a day but you get to choose which 24.
  • Less camaraderie. I learned early on in my career as an entrepreneur that it’s hard to go to the pub with people you may have to fire in the morning. Being a boss can be insular if you don’t have a hinterland and a circle of friends outside work.

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The big quid pro quo

While it may be brutal for some (but not everyone), being a manager, boss or founder has some compensations:

  • The satisfaction of creating a business and seeing succeed
  • When you make a mistake or things go badly, you get to learn from them (this takes a bit of time to appreciate, however!)
  • Personally, I enjoy seeing my staff grow and develop
  • A degree of control over your destiny, or at least the comforting illusion of control
  • More money if the business succeeds than if you were an employee – relatively few people get rich working for someone else. Mind you, relatively few entrepreneurs get rich either.

How to take a a holiday at work

So managers and entrepreneurs operate in a narrow band between stress and satisfaction. Sometimes, though, thanks to the law of averages, you’re going to have a truly terrible week. Everything will go wrong and the upside will seem very meagre indeed.

Here’s what I recommend when you have a bad week: TAKE A HOLIDAY AT WORK.

I don’t mean taking time off from work itself (although that might be a good idea). Instead, what I mean is doing some different work-like activity. A change is as good as a rest.

The risk is that you double down on a dumb idea because you’re stressed. As a wise man once said, ‘a fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.’ So, when it all goes pear-shaped, take a step back. Get some perspective. Relax.

As Einstein said, ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’

Take a holiday

Here are some suggestions for ‘holidays’ at work.

  • Clear up. Tidy your office, tidy your desk, clear your in-tray.
  • Improve your environment. Buy a plant. Paint a wall.
  • Do something that will make your more efficient. Program your phone. Investigate some new apps.
  • Go back to school. Start learning a new skill. Start learning a new language.
  • Read. Go to a newsagent and buy three magazines you would never normally read. Doesn’t really matter which ones as long as they tickle your fancy. You’d be surprised where inspiration comes from. (In my case, chefs.)
  • Read more. Warren Buffett says ‘I just sit in my office and read all day’.
  • Talk to people. Book up lunch with a colleague every day for a week. But people you don’t see so often. Wander round the office and have a bit of a chat.
  • Hold a ‘surgery’. Open your office door for a set time every day and let people come and see you with their problems. Helping others is good therapy.
  • Do someone else’s job. Years ago, I saw Richard Branson spend a whole morning working in reception at Virgin Interactive Entertainment. Why don’t you try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for a little while.

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