This week I met with a very good, long term client. He and I were talking about hiring an Operations Manager in the near future and what he would hope us to look for. Now, my client is pretty much a “straight shooter” and can be direct and brutal. He has high expectations and has built a very competent and motivated team who is achieving very strong results. I asked him: “what is the number one criteria that this person must demonstrate to be successful as an Operations Manager?” I was taken aback with his answer. He stated: “they must be able to separate their home life from their work life”. I nearly fell off my chair. His number one criteria was that the successful candidate be able to separate work from home life – above the ability to communicate effectively, above demonstrated ability to analyse large volumes of data and other attributes. It got me thinking…

Can we separate our work lives from our personal lives? If so, how do we do it?

For me, there is no real definitive answer. I am a father of two young sons and when they are sick of having issues at school it does effect me. I try extremely hard not

to let others know but there are times when I cannot mask those feelings. We are all human after all.

I asked some more questions of my client to see if he could add some “meat to the bone” with reference to this issue. I asked him to give me examples of where he felt that home life had interfered with work productivity and why he found it unsatisfactory. His examples included:

  • His “three day a week worker”. This one made me laugh. He spoke extensively about a member of his team who spent most of Mondays recovering from the weekend and telling all and sundry about it and most of Fridays telling people that he was glad it was Friday and how he was planning to relax on the weekend. He is a whinger whose behaviour obviously was demotivating for the team. What is worse is that he is totally oblivious to his surrounds and the impact he has on his team.
  • The “slow watch worker”. I had a chuckle here as well as I thought of people I have worked with over the years. They always have travel problems and they usual relate to either traffic jams or children. It is always a drama when they come into the office and the excuses flow like a river. In his particular example, his team member had twins and they were not settling at day care…..for seven of the last nine work days she had been late or had to leave early and his patience was wearing thin.
  • The “relationship issue worker”. Now this one really made me laugh as I made an assumption based on gender and got it all wrong. This issue related to a senior man in his team who was continually going through relationship issues. He struggled to get off Facebook and involved his entire team in the comings and goings of his love life. He was unceremoniously dumped by his recent soul mate of three weeks and had a teary meeting with his team mates….which lasted three hours. Every relationship this gent entered into became a discussion point in the team and wasted time.
  • The “health worker”. I am not sure why, but this one got under my client’s skin more than any other. This was the self appointed “nurse” in the office who liked to diagnose illnesses. RSI was her speciality. Apparently her mother had suffered a work related illness due to sitting too close to computer screens and she has made it her personal crusade within her team of 40 people to measure distances from the computer screens and other issues. She wasted a great deal of her own time as well as her team members.

After hearing these frustrations and sharing a few laughs, I began to understand why he placed such a high emphasis on the ability to separate work from home and personal. I counseled him and told him that is seems as though he has gone through a particularly rough trot and that things would improve but it made me think of the value of people who can do it successfully. We are all human and things external to work effect us in different ways……we just need to work hard to minimise the impact on work. Hopefully I can fill the job!!!

Brad McMahon – Managing Director

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