As featured, Wednesday, January 28, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The Consequences of a High-Powered Job

By Terri Mrosko

Finding a work-life balance, especially for those people in high-powered jobs, is becoming more of a challenge as we move into economically-uncertain times.

“There’s a lot of fear that people have about their relative security at their jobs, and I think one of the ways we respond is that we throw ourselves into our work,” said Paul Meshanko, managing partner at Edge Learning of Ohio. “We try to out-hustle everybody around us to keep up the appearance that we’re team players. I see it certainly getting worse as the economy worsens.”

That kind of work style may lead to some trade-offs in one’s personal life. The consequences of having a highly-stressful, highly-visible position can often mean less time with family, alienation of friends and coworkers, and an elevated sense of corporate responsibility that can be taxing to a person’s well-being and physical health.

“If you ask these people what their values are, almost everybody will tell you that family is one of their top priorities,” Meshanko said. But, if you look at their behaviors, you see that non-work priorities place second, third or even fourth.

In today’s high-stress workplace, we are seeing those behaviors creep down lower and lower in the organization, Meshanko said. “I had one mid-level director in a company who said to me, ‘Down time? I don’t have down time. I basically have a dimmer switch.'”

Dealing with the stress

Meshanko has worked with training and development for those in leadership positions for almost 12 years. He has seen countless examples of work-life balance getting askew. It’s great if the company recognizes that there is a problem and can take action, he pointed out, but that is often not the case.

While it’s not up to the organization to provide its employees with a work-life balance, said Meshanko, it is up to the organization to create an environment where people can create their own work-life balance.

Companies cannot achieve that culture by abusing people or by expecting people to burn the candle at both ends, day in and day out, he said. For those individuals who feel trapped in an organization that does not respect his/her particular set of values, it’s time to draw that line in the sand.

“If you really are in a situation where you’ve tried everything you can, then it’s time to step away from the situation if those other things are truly more important to you. I counsel a lot of people who are in between jobs. I increasingly ask people to find a company that’s a good cultural fit for them,” Meshanko explained.

“Really try to interview the organization that you’re talking with just as much as they are interviewing you. Talk to people who work there,” he advised. Changing companies is certainly not one of those things you want to do frequently, so finding the right fit should be a priority.