Married to the job: Is work-life balance for sissies?

Married to the job: Is work-life balance for sissies?

Ivan Glasenberg, the CEO of newly merged commodities trading giant Glencore Xstrata, doesn’t do work-life balance, and neither do his staff.

“I tell investors, come meet [my employees], and tell me who you think is going to lie at the beach,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “There [are] no beaches.”

Asked whether anyone at the company had a work-life balance, Glasenberg was blunt. “No. We work.”

“You don’t come here to take life easy. And we all got rich from it.”

Glasenberg, worth nearly $6 billion dollars, is one of the world’s most successful business leaders. But you don’t have to speak to the titans of international business to find a persistent scepticism around the whole ‘work-life-balance’ concept.

For example, Boost Juice founder Janine Allis recently told SmartCompany to forget the work-life balance.

“Understand that there is a time in your business life that to be successful you need to throw the idea of ‘work-life balance’ out the window and commit everything to the success of your venture,”
she said.

This scepticism is well understood by Bruce Anderson, the Australia/New Zealand managing director of global career management firm Lee Hecht Harrison. He’s reluctant to draw broad generalisations about the ideal balance, saying it differs for different people, and depends on what they achieve.

“Ultimately, work-life balance is about not having your whole life consumed by work,” he says. “Most people accept that means some balance between work, family and outside interests. The exact ratios will depend on the person.”

For many executives, work is their passion. But that doesn’t mean letting other parts of their lives lapse is wise.

“My particular view is if CEOs are going to be effective in the long-term, they need to be involved and committed to things outside their jobs,” Anderson says.

“It can be seductive and incredibly demanding, the life of a CEO. There is a potential to say, ‘I can just do this for three years, and then I’ll get it sorted out and it’ll get better’.

“That works for some people for some time, but not in the long term.”

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