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Posted: May 11, 2009

Today’s business jobs require dedication

Don't want to be married to your job? Then don't expect to keep it

John Heckers

“I don’t want to be married to my job.” I’ve heard that in the past few years from person after person, some of them, unfortunately, who were working for me. Being over the hill myself, I’d like to say that I’ve heard this mostly from the young whippersnappers. I’d really like to, but I can’t… not entirely. The older workers phrase it as “work-life balance” or some such absurdity, but it’s the same exact thing.  Sorry, folks, but this is not 2006 or 2007. And, stimulus package or not, some realities are not going away for the rest of this year or next. Probably not by 2011, either.

It is time for people in business jobs, especially at any executive level, to get very, very “real” about the demands of today’s economy and job market. Here is a dose of hard, cold reality and common sense.

1). Everyone has to “do more with less.”  Sixty-hour weeks, nights and weekends are the norm, not the exception. Eighty-hour weeks are common. If you want to make anything more than $50K a year, much less $250K a year, get over wanting an active social life. You won’t have one.

2).  Families who want to eat and pay the mortgage had better understand the demands of the job and take a back seat to it. Those who want loads of time with their families had better learn to live on much less money. This is a trade-off in almost any job in the business world. Get used to it and over it. Regardless of what you have been told, most of us cannot “have it all!”

3). You need to keep your emotions in check. People who are going through crises of any kind need to find some way to keep their emotions at a normal level. While employers are usually sympathetic for a while when someone is going through a crisis, they still have a business to run. Your falling apart or being distracted doesn’t cut it.

4). There are 10 people who would love to take your place. They’ll probably work faster and cheaper. If you don’t perform, and perform well, you’re going to be terminated and replaced with someone who will perform. This is business. If you wanted empathy, you should have been a minister or rabbi.

5). You can’t make mistakes. There is no room for mistakes in today’s business world. You must constantly pay attention and do what you are required to do.

6). You must show extreme initiative. If you want to remain employed (or get employed) you had better be prepared to show that you’re willing to go the “extra mile.” You must clearly show that you’re thinking ahead and figuring out ways to help the company. Companies can hire 100 people who do just what they’re told. People who think ahead are a rare commodity.

7). If you’re not dedicated 100 percent, you’re going to be canned. Companies don’t need you right now. You do need their paycheck. They expect dedication, long hours and at least the appearance of complete loyalty. Ignore this at your extreme peril.

8). If you want to own your own business or are coming in as a partner or owner of a small business, the business is your life. This is the price you pay for the freedom of being the owner.

I know that I’ll get nasty e-mails about this article. Understand that I don’t like it any more than you do. I’m merely describing the necessary level of work dedication, not approving of it.  If your company is different — they don’t “get it” and will probably go out of business in this economic crisis. You’re going to work extra hours and have to do things that are difficult and unpleasant. Don’t whine about it. It is the economic reality of our time. Suck it up and get to work.

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

What a shame you are! You call yourself an executive coach? executive transition coach? After reading your article I went to your ceo skills corner blog spot. In it you talk out of the other side of your mouth saying things that are the complete opposite of what you say in this article! Now how professional is that? I wouldn't trust my career in your hands for one minute! By Elizabeth on 2009 05 13
I'm the last person to side with the whiny, entitled 20 and 30 somethings in the workforce, but even I have to say that much of the thinking exhibited in this column is a contributor to the current economic downturn (though #6 is good). This thinking isn't sustainable. Oh, you might get an initial bump, just as the investment bankers made ungody amounts of money over a period of a few years as they found a new way to exploit a market weakness. I'm sure they followed most of Mr. Heckers points as they ammassed more and more money. But it only lasted for a while, and then it collapsed. Now we all are paying the price. Like anything in life, work success requires balance. This article reflects a mentality that would have been right at home at the beginning of the Industrial Age. Surely we have progressed beyond that ... haven't we? By Been There on 2009 05 13
I disagree with #5 5). You can’t make mistakes. There is no room for mistakes in today’s business world. You must constantly pay attention and do what you are required to do. I feel this is an issue for company growth I had an employee tell me once "I am doing what I am told, I didn't know my job required me to think" - He was quickly provided with an "attitude adjustment". If you do not make mistakes you will stay at the status quo and not allow for innovation. I think there needs to be room to make mistakes (not earth shattering ones) and a culture to experiment. Otherwise, your job will disappear anyway. By Mark Eagle on 2009 05 12
Work hard, get canned anyway. I know plenty of people who fit your retained worker description who no longer have jobs. Longer hours don't mean more productivity. If you don't make errors, your not trying hard enough. Just don't make the same error twice. Your article is weak. I also agree with the previous respondent. By Barry on 2009 05 12
How very misguided you are Mr.Heckers. God only knows why anyone would want to work for you! Your thinking goes along with the typical corporate greed machine. Run through people- they are expendable. Have a personal issue?- get the hell out you non robotic collection of cells. Sadly you can not see that the only companies that will be surviving in the future are those that take RESONSIBILTY and PROTECT the human capital that runs their companies. Your place must be crawling with seething, angry, under appreciated, under paid, over worked people just waiting for the second the economy improves to leave. You are creating the worst of karmic situations by taking advantage of YOUR people while they are helpless to move on under your tyrannical rule. They are disloyal to you, they will steal from you, they will talk about you and your company, staining your reputation. Until you learn to honor, protect, care for and appreciate your workers, your company is doomed. Let's talk in 5 years to see where you're at. My bet is we will be digging under some huge garbage heap.You may have gotten away with this in the past, but your corporate, no feeling, suck it up while I use you attitude doesn't cut it anymore. By e on 2009 05 12

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