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29 June 2017Last updated
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Ask the expert: I’m unable to say no to my boss

What sort of work relationship do you share with your boss?

Russell Hemmings.
28 Apr 2017 | 10:55 am
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I’m being put under pressure by my boss – not only to work longer hours, but also to spend time with him outside of work. He doesn’t have children and thinks we should work hard and play hard 24/7. I am now under pressure from my wife who is resentful as I don’t help out with the family, am not around and don’t stand up to my boss.

It strikes me that you are a classic case of someone being caught between a rock and a hard place. For starters, I suggest introducing two words into your repertoire to help give you some much-needed breathing and thinking room: presenting ‘no’ and ‘balance’.

How to keep everyone happy? The simple answer: you can’t. Not all the time.

It’s key to realise to attempt to maintain a state of emotional perfection is impossible to achieve. I tell my younger clients ‘Do your best and give it your all. You can do no more.’

This simple message applies and works surprisingly well in adult life. And while we’re on the topic of happiness, what about you, are you happy? It’s worth remembering that happiness is a two-way street.

The expectations for you to work long hours is not unusual; it’s part and parcel of a buzzing commercial enterprise. However, devoting every waking moment to your boss is not usual. Is it only you that has been singled out for a 24/7 commitment or is it cultural – does it apply to all?

How well do you know your boss? He’s clearly a driven individual, but this doesn’t necessarily mean he’s an unreasonable one. Maybe he’s unaware you’re sacrificing family time. As he doesn’t have children its possible he hasn’t even made that connection.

You probably believe that by not spending extended periods in his company he will make your work more difficult or even jeopardise your career. 
Or is it that you have never actually said ‘no’ to him?

Saying no is something many people struggle with, particularly if they’ve built up big consequences around using such a small word.

You don’t need to be blunt when saying no, but before you can begin to regain the balance in your life you are going to need to say it nonetheless.

The bottom line is: if the expectations of your boss are creeping evermore into family time then something will need to give. The only options for this are job, family and well-being. How you balance these options and maintain all three is a challenge that pretty much everyone must undertake in their lives.
Your wife’s concerns, which manifest themselves as pressure on you, are borne out of love, but also the need for her and your children to see an emotional investment from you. Unfortunately, for someone in your position the currency is time and even a small investment will yield huge returns. If your wife is feeling resentful towards you, it’s likely she’s worried about you, but also frustrated by your boss continuing to remain the at the centre of everything.

While you have to provide financial security for your family, it doesn’t always equate that the answer to 
this is found by sacrificing the remainder of your family time for additional boss time. It’s down to ‘no’ and the work-life-balancing act again.

Finally, most successful people work very hard. So, if hard work equals success then surely more must, by default, deliver even more? Not always. I work with top executives and when burnout hits them it hits them hard. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence that a balanced life is far more productive and a more rewarding one.

Ultimately, you need to make choices, but I suspect that very few people at the end of their lives ever regretted they hadn’t spent more time at the office.

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Russell Hemmings.

Russell Hemmings

Life coach, and clinical and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist. More info: www.russellhemmings.co.uk / 04 4273627 / 055 2867275.