THE ORANGE SYNDROME: Professional development at work

Every day I hear from my clients that the working environment at some workplaces is not pleasant. More hours, less time for training, and the healthy work-life balance is gone. I call this the Orange Syndrome. Every day you get squeezed harder and harder until there is almost no juice left and you don’t get any extra time to develop and ripen up.

Let’s look at the “more work hours” aspect first.

It is a common complaint that over the past few years a working week has become longer. The 38-hour week has become a 45-hour week and the 45-hour week is about to reach 60 hours. The workload to reach deadlines only seems to increase. You used to get a few days to get that report done: now it’s always due tomorrow causing you to stay late.

What really happens is that employers are struggling for resources (due to cost control). More work needs to be completed by the same amount of people or, worse, more work needs to be accomplished with less people. What companies often fail to do is to actually get more efficient and scrap redundant tasks.

This is only one side of the coin. The other problem is that you as an employee have accepted this lack of re-invention to become your burden. The first time you accepted to work late without any fuss is when you opened yourself up to work late every night. In some cases your colleagues never work late but you do and that’s only because you allow it to happen.

The best advice I can give is for you to set the boundaries. Let people around you know what’s acceptable and what isn’t. There will always be exceptions but make sure everyone knows you are making a big exception and ask something in return.

For example, on Tuesday you need to work late. That’s fine if it is an exception and you may agree if you can recuperate the time by coming in later on Wednesday or leaving early on Friday. If you have kids staying late can really be a problem with nursery penalties and asking your family or friends to get the kids picked up. Make sure your employer knows about the inconvenience they have caused and ask for compensation if you run up any penalties or out-of-pocket costs.

My former colleague once made a great comment. When asked to stay late, he responded: Sure, as long as I can reimburse the divorce expenses there is no problem. The director immediately retracted his request.

The second element of the Orange Syndrome is the lack of ripening. The problem is that budgets are getting squeezed left, right and center, leaving no room for training and development programs. When this starts to happen, you must take initiative. Surely training will help your productivity and effectiveness. Outlining the potential benefits of the training expense should help you to make the business case for your employer to approve the training course that you require. You should however not just stop there. If you really want to expand your skills beyond your current job requirements, take responsibility. Read blogs, go to the library or fund a training course yourself.

Are you suffering from the Orange Syndrome? Let me know and I can tell you how you can avoid it in order to improve your career opportunities as well as your work-life balance.

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