just procrastinating

Monday, May 16, 2005

Work-Life Balance
I've been reading Jack Welch's book Winning. All throughout business school they pounded this crap in our heads about how great Jack is and how we should all emulate him, etc., but I've never been a big fan of Neutron Jack. Something about the guy has always rubbed me the wrong way. But, he comes across well in the book and his advice is practical, clear and smart.

That is until he gets to the chapter on work-life balance. There, you find out that Jack doesn't give a fuck about anyone but himself and his company's bottom line. Here is an excerpt here from his chapter on Work-Life balance and it's a sad commentary on his life. For a book about winning, it's clear that he's an unapologetic loser here. His focus is and always will be on the bottom line. Well, bottom line, Jack's still a douche:
If there was ever a case of "Do as I say, not as I did,'' this is it. No one, myself included, would ever call me an authority on work-life balance. For 41 years, my operating principle was work hard, play hard and spend some time as a father.

It's clear that the balance I chose had consequences for the people around me at home and at the office. For instance, my kids were raised, largely alone, by their mother, Carolyn. And from my earliest days at GE, I used to show up at the office on Saturday mornings. Not coincidentally, my direct reports showed up too. Personally, I thought these weekend hours were a blast. We would mop up the workweek in a more relaxed way and shoot the breeze about sports. I never once asked anyone, "Is there someplace you would rather be—or need to be—for your family or favorite hobby or whatever?'' The idea just didn't dawn on me that anyone would want to be anywhere but at work.

My defense, if there is one, is that those were the times. In the 1960s and '70s, all my direct reports were men. Many of those men were fathers, and fathers were different then. They did not, by and large, attend ballet recitals on Thursday afternoons or turn down job transfers because they didn't want to disrupt their kids' sports "careers." Most of their wives did not have jobs with their own competing demands. All that changed, of course.
You can tell that by tone and the emphasis on sports "careers" that Jack kinda longs for the good old days when he could hang out at the office with the boys. He goes on from there to say how things changed because women started entering the workplace and that 2 career families forced changes in the work-life balance.

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