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Submitted by awalton on


BLUF: I have a High C (let's call him Charlie) who manages a program for me. He's indicated in his 2012 goals that he has no work/life balance and wants to transition off the program, even if it's a significant pay cut. Charlie is a high performer who excels at many facets of his position, especially those requiring detailed planning.

History: My company has had this program for just shy of two years. Charlies says he has no work/life balance. In Charlie's last position he complained to the company owner that he was going to quit if he wasn't moved out of said position, due to the same work/life balance issue. (In that case he blamed the work/life balance issues on the customer's constant changes in direction). One of my former high performers was moved into Charlie's old position and is doing quite well, and working literally 20 hours less than Charlie per week.

My previous program manager in Charlie's position was working 45 to 50 hours a week, and delivering (with fewer resources than Charlie). However, Charlie is now working 55 to 60+ per week, and complaining that he doesn't have the technical resources to manage the program.

I am a High C/High D, and I've been working with Charlie on this particular issue for over two months. We've worked together to set and acheive small goals like setting a time each day that he should leave regardless of what work remains"undone". Helping him delegate to team members. Offering to do whatever work he feels he cannot cover, suggesting alternatives to issues or problems he is stressing about.

Charlie has indicated more than once that he can't sleep because he's "worried" about the program. I've asked if he felt that the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) would be of any assistance, but he laughed and said he'd been through that before at another company and they "don't help".

I'm at a loss. I'm sure there are number of details I've left out of this post, but I'd appreciate other MT forum readers suggestions on how I can help coach him through this. He is a great value to the company and I'd hate to lose him. Especially since Charlie has found yet another way to blame the program rather than accept that he contributes to the work/life imbalance. My fear is that he takes another position and goes through this same problem for a third time.

highlander's picture


The information you provided leads me to conclude that Charlie is over-thinking or over-analyzing his project (high-C, takes longer than other people).  If that is the situation, it may be helpful for him to do a Drucker time study for a week or so.  Help him to create appropriate categories to separate his various activities into, then review the raw data when he's done (don't let him post-process it for you).  You'll find out if he's working on unnecessary tasks, or spending too much time on important tasks (as compared to existing standards or other employees' performance).  Either way, you'll have a good idea where next to focus his improvement efforts.

Hope this helps...


Mark's picture
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I didn't know what you wanted until very nearly the end.  Grrrrr.

And, if you've been working with him for over two months, I'd suspect your thoughts are accurate.  Charlie overplans, and is professionally immature regarding the impacts of that.

I wouldn't coach him.  I would plan some of his work for him, with clear deadlines (or ask him to give me a plan with deadlines, and hold him to the deadline for the plan) and then give him lots of (polite, pleasant) negative feedback about his failure to meet deadlines.  I'd also delete stuff that was in the plan that wasn't necessary.


mewse's picture

Four years ago I was in the situation that AWalton describes here, including complaints about work/life balance, compulsive over-planning, and frequent bouts of insomnia which would last for weeks, until finally medicated away.

Complaints about work/life balance, trouble sleeping, and so on are all indicators of stress levels which have remained too high for too long. Addressing those symptoms never helped me long-term. It wasn't until I addressed the underlying problem that I was able to start to pull myself together again.

In my case (I'm high C/high S), the primary source of stress was that I had been unexpectedly catapulted from an individual contributor role into managing a huge team, including all of my former peers. I felt like I didn't have the training or experience or qualifications to be successful in this new role, and the company (while extremely vocal in their confidence in my ability to thrive in the role) wasn't able to offer me training or mentoring in how to do this new job, and I felt that I was letting the team down as a result of my lack of experience. If I could have had some formal training or mentoring, I think it would have made a big difference for me, just in terms of building my confidence and coping with the new situation I found myself in.

AWalton's Charlie probably has a different source of stress than I did. But from personal experience I found that when the stress level does finally fall below the "panic" level for a few weeks, the obsessive planning stops, the extra hours go away, the insomnia stops coming back, and everything becomes much easier.

awalton's picture
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My BLUF wasn't so much... Better next time.

Charlie's next one on one is Thursday, I'll update everyone after the holiday.

Thank you all for the responses.



naraa's picture
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 I was Charlie too only that I am a high d high I and my difficulty was to balance what I was able to deliver before to what I could with now two small kids.  I was trying to adjust with therapy, but couldn't do it fast enough and ended up at the emergency room at the hospital.  I was lucky enough and probably my company was lucky too as I am back now working 2 and a half days a week and accomplishing more than I was working full time before I collapsed from stress, to be able to take 3months off.  I would have quit though if I weren't given the 3months off and looking back I had reached a point that I don't thing I couldn't recover from within the system.  Trying to recover while having the same work load is worse because one only gets overwhelmed with more things to do and more feeling of failing.

I now plan my week better and leave more room open in the calendar for unplanned issues and have definitely learn to prioritize, accept the good enough, and strentch some things forward in time rather than stretching my day to fit everything.

I can relate well with the transition from a "doar" to a manager. And I have seen a lot of people failing or close to failing in doing that, specially top performers who cannot be substituted or form people working for them as quickly as new demand comes in (within a fast growing business). 

At the end of the day each one has to find his/her own balance and what works for each.  For me I needed more time to be with my kids, for exercise  and for meditation.  Normal working hours for me were just not doable.  I found my way alone, but the assurance I got from the company and from my manager that my health and the well being of my family was really, indeed more important than anything else was essential to me.

I do agree that help from the manager in planning and setting people's responsibility well and making them accountable is crucial.  The worst thing is not to demand work from a once high achiever who is failing, because the high achiever know he/she is failing and is actually demanding more from himself than anybody ever will.  Positive feedback on accomplishes being done is also very important.  Because when you are stressed out you cannot see things clearly anymore, suddenly everything even the things you maybe doing well seem to be bad.

I got a significant pay cut by the way and couldn't be happier with the money I am not receiving!