I’m a little surprised that Jack Welch’s comment about work/life balance is still making the rounds on the internets. It bristled many SHRM Annual Conference attendees in June. I figured it would blow over. It hasn’t …
Basically Jack said, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”
I’ve been critical of things Jack Welch has said in the past…but I’m not sure I disagree with him here. We all make life choices that impact our work. That doesn’t mean the choices are bad. Every day, we make decisions about children, other family members, going to school, etc. It only seems logical that we make those choices because it’s what we feel is best for us or that person close to us.
Of course, Jack’s comment was made in the context of taking time off to have children and raise a family. I didn’t take his words as bashing working mothers as much as pointing out that the system is flawed. Corporate America has a double standard where families and choices are concerned.
Individuals who take time off for family stuff shouldn’t be asked to choose between family and work opportunities. The mantra of business has been if you have the skills and do the work, you’ll get the same opportunities as everyone else. But in reality, I’m not sure we really practice that.
On the other hand, childless people shouldn’t be asked choose between work and whatever else they have going on. As a person who doesn’t have children, I’ve been told to come in early, stay late, and take work home because I don’t have children. And I’m guessing I’m not alone when I say I’ve really never felt there was a way to address it without running the risk of being labeled “anti-children”.
Corporate America needs to fix the system. Everyone should be able to make life choices and companies should “support” an employee’s right to do so. (Please note: I didn’t say support the choice…because sometimes that might not be possible.) But, an employee’s family situation should not be the driver. Rather, it’s ability to do the work.
It doesn’t matter who you are, at some point in your career, you’ll have to make choices. The important part is to know our workplaces understand our need to make choices and not hold those choices against us.
Think we can do that . . . ?