Making yourself look good doesn't mean kissing up.

Dr. Wayne Dyer is widely credited with the wise saying, "You teach others how to treat you."

Well, I'm a big believer in that statement. You teach others to regard you as important by respecting your own time and energy, not by always asking "How high?" when they say "Jump."

teaching respect

An executive in my coaching practice, "Stan", is a key account director for a global consulting company that works with big-name clients worldwide. His clients are very demanding and will call at all hours of the day or night with requests both large and small. Instead of telling clients that some issues should be dealt with during business hours or with someone else on the team at a different level, Stan's response is to be constantly available and to try hard to meet every possible need at any hour of the day.

Unfortunately, this is not sustainable, nor is it adding any value. Stan's belief system has always been that the customer is always right, and that great customer service means always making yourself available for any issue that might come up. This is an excellent attitude, but what about when that isn't actually serving the client anymore?

Stan is so exhausted that his mind isn't clear to address the big picture strategic issues with his client. Stan's challenge is that he has set up a dynamic in which the client expects him to perform above and beyond all the time. He has to set up a new relationship in which he teaches them that he can be the most useful when he protects his time and isn't always available to them for every small thing.

In sum, it doesn't make you look good to be constantly there, constantly say "yes" or constantly focus on one stakeholder above all else, be they your client, your boss or your project.

You have a choice:  sustainability or burnout

In order to function at our best, we need to work in a way that doesn't cause burnout or fatigue. Sustainable work practices support our ongoing role and responsibilities over time, not just in the heat of the moment.

I know something's wrong in my world when I'm concerned I can't handle one more question from my team or one more deliverable or I'll be crushed by the weight of my to-do list. This is a signal to me that I need to take a deep breath and set some boundaries around my time and energy.  One of the keys is to take responsibility for our own boundary-setting, and not to blame overwork on bosses, colleagues or the high-pressure systems we work in.

Author and corporate stress-reduction expert Doc Childre says, "One of the biggest contributors to low-energy fatigue is blame. Blaming a boss who made you work late or your impossible, overloaded life will only drain you.  Fatigue from emotional energy drain results in diminished presence during the workday."

We all have our moments of complaining, blaming or frustration, but in the end, we have a choice. We can choose when to go above and beyond, we can choose to set clear boundaries and we can choose to adapt or to leave our jobs altogether if they are not manageable.


Karlin Sloan is the founder and CEO of Karlin Sloan & Company, Ms. Sloan provides organization development consulting, training and executive coaching to clients the U.S., Europe, South America and Asia.  She is the author of Smarter, Faster, Better; Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2006) and Unfear (January 2011).

Original author: Karlin_Sloan