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Have a stakeholder conversation with your family about work/life balance
photo by Liz Marie

Work-life balance sounds good, but how do you achieve it? Stewart Friedman, founding director of Wharton’s Leadership Program, tackles this question in a novel way.

“With most of the work-life balance approaches, the conversation . . . comes from the point of view of the employee making demands on his or her employer for more freedom and more available time to do things outside of work. And that’s the wrong approach,” he notes on the Knowledge@Wharton website.

Friedman suggests that you have “stakeholder dialogs” with the most important people in your life, both at work and outside the office. You may be surprised to learn how much of your current work-life imbalance comes from your own misperceptions about what other people expect from you.

On nine out of 10 occasions, he says, “what happens is that people come through that process with really new insights about how all the pieces fit together and what other people actually expect of them, because most business professionals probably have the following problem: What they believe others expect of them is actually greater than what those people really expect of them. You discover that gap when you have a good conversation. . . . And if it’s true—and believe me, it is true—that people expect less of you than you think, you can then reallocate your time and attention more intelligently.”



Friedman’s book Total Leadership is full of examples of how this plays out in the real world.

After having “stakeholder conversations,” a manager named Jenny says, “My father and mother are so different from me, and I often find it difficult just to accept them for who they are.

"So, I try to compensate by being especially attentive toward them in other ways. Clearly, they’re after something else, and I have to figure out how to meet their legitimate expectations.”

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