“Have the right priorities to avoid work-life conflict”- 29 May 2012

When Dhawal joined the company after his MBA, his father cautioned him against getting consumed by work. “Don’t get sucked into work and lose your sense of freedom,” Father has said. With that advice etched deeply on his mind, Dhawal tried to give an equal priority for life and work and at home. Things did not seem difficult at the beginning since there was no conflict between the two. For, Dhawal was not married, and he was too junior at work to be shouldering a big responsibility. So, things are all right, he said to himself. He also learned to laugh at his office colleagues who struggled to maintain a decent balance between the calling of the two dimensions. At times, his laughter turned to derision, which was, of course seemed natural to his age.

However, as new job became old and a couple of promotions came, Dhawal got married as well to a girl from rather a traditional family. For a few months, Dhawal lived on Cloud Nine. Thereafter, however, one more promotion came, claiming a little more time than usual at work. Father also retired and started expecting Dhawal to shoulder bigger load at home. And there started a conflict between family and work. It was then that Dhawal, a 30-year-old middle-level manager, realised how two things were stretching him in two different directions.
The first reaction was understandable. Dhawal started experiencing anxiety and a silent mental irritation all the time. When he was in college, he was known to be a good sportsman. But now, he felt the pressure and also felt as if he was on a short fuse. He snapped at people at work, and did not mind snapping at his pretty wife Sudha and old parents. Sometimes, his 18-month-old son too got the taste of his bitterness.
The result was obvious- Dhawal was getting stretched at home as well as at work. His work-life balance had got messed up. Dhawal’s was thus a case of an unmanageable mix-up from which he could not emerge.
Then came help from an unexpected quarter — Sudha. One evening, Sudha asked Papaji and Mummyji to take care of the kid and took Dhawal out for a walk and dinner. As they had a long, carefree walk along the riverside and settled for a dinner at a restaurant, Sudha talked to him openly and clearly. “Dhawal, you are messing things up unnecessarily. At home, you are edgy. At work, you are snappy. This is happening because you are not able to decide your priorities. But I can help you if you listen to me calmly without getting irritated”. Then she waited for Dhawal to look up questioningly.
Taking that as a nod, Sudha asked Dhawal to take a few steps to take care of things.
She said, “Dhawal, you must understand that at home, your priority is home and family. And at work, your priority is professional tasks. So, when you are home, do not think of work, and when at work, do not think of us.
“Secondly, step up your efficiency at work manifold. Take refresher courses if necessary. Do some exercise at the company’s gym. Eat your ‘dabba’ in time. Work out a neat time-table for the tasks at hand, on a daily basis. All these will step up your efficiency. Follow all and you will know the positive difference.
“Thirdly, at home, focus fully on all of us and the house. I will help you with most of the tasks. Papaji and Mummyji, too, would. All of us will see to it that you are not burdened beyond a point. But Dhawal, the first rule at home is: Smile. Then smile again. And keep smiling. We are not your enemies. We are your nearest and dearest ones. We love you. And we all know that you also love us. So, let this love show. I am sure all your anxieties will go away. Listen to me, please! You are such a sweetheart!”
For Dhawal, this straight and warm talk by Sudha came as a godsend. He listened to her advice with fullest focus, and followed it to the hilt. Of course, it was easier said than followed. But a few months later, Dhawal found himself in a better position to handle the conflict between home and work. In fact, he realised that the conflict arises only when one mixes up the priorities.
Of course, for this realisation to arrive, Dhawal had had to go through a couple of tense years.

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