Ambition and the Work-Life Balance

Going the extra mile can be a great way to get ahead at work. People who do tend to receive higher performance ratings and more recognition, improved salaries, promotions, and are given important projects.

It is tough though ‘going the extra mile’ and it can cause significant stress and indeed conflict at home (particularly in this age of ‘work from home’). It helps enormously if you can provide advance warning to your partner so that you/ they can organise the various things that revolve around the challenge but also discuss the significant benefits that the partner/ family might enjoy as a result of the extra work you are doing. This last point is absolutely crucial in setting the scene for your additional efforts – it answers the question your partner may have in their mind – ‘what’s in it for me?’

So, what should you do if your boss asks you to take on more work or an additional project?  You must make the ultimate decision of course and there are no easy answers, but here are four strategies to help you balance the conflict that might occur between work and home life:

Don’t forget that it can mean an enormous amount to a business when they get a price increase through. The price increase itself will fall through to the bottom line and as an example versus the current position (in effect the one you want to change) a 2% price increase on a £1.5 million business would add £30,000 to the bottom line over the year.

Given that is the case isn’t it worth thinking about perfecting your pricing sell? Getting expert help in putting a compelling pricing ‘pitch’ together may need you to invest a bit – but the return on the investment will be much, much greater.

1. See whether additional work is really required.
It might feel like additional work isn’t optional. But you should clarify whether the additional help/ work is required – is it an option or does your company really need you to do it? It is not necessary to jump at every opportunity for additional work, you have every right to ask your manager(s) to clarify which tasks are most important, which are nice-to-haves, and which are fully optional. This makes perfect sense.

2. Engage in organising extra work that suits.
Going the extra mile doesn’t have to mean saying yes to every request — in fact, it probably shouldn’t. Instead of feeling pressured to take on whatever extra work is thrown your way, employees should proactively find ways to go beyond the call of duty that still match personal interests, strengths, and needs. For those employees balancing work with family duties, that means finding ways to grow your career and support your company that will not create excessive problems at home.
As an example, if you have a young family and your boss wants you to entertain a client after hours which interferes with the chaos of putting the kids to bed consider volunteering to help introduce a new colleague or help with an extra project during regular working hours instead. Setting healthy boundaries and taking an active approach to growing your career on your own terms can help you achieve your professional goals in a manner that’s consistent with your company’s needs, your needs and the needs of those most important to you.

3. Communicate well.
How you communicate extra work to those who you need to support you is crucial.  Even if you don’t think of yourself as a great communicator, just using the right strategy can make a big difference. Provide early notice and frame the conversation around looking for support in taking on the extra work duties (rather than simply informing your partner).
Equally, no one should feel like they have to ask their partner’s permission to grow their career. For employees who are prioritising career growth, this approach may not be optimal. However, showing respect and appreciation to those in your personal life whose support you need can make a big difference.

4. Line up your communication with your goals.
We all go through phases in which we are more focused on our personal or professional lives. The key is to adapt our behaviour to fit our current goals. When your career is your top priority, it may make sense to use communication strategies that maximise your chances of taking on extra work (which may sow some discontent at home) – emphasise the payoffs associated with going the extra mile with your   partner. If the reverse is the case and you’re most concerned with keeping your partner happy, it may make more sense to focus on seeking support and providing early notice even though the former might mean the extra work is a ‘no go’.

Strategies that facilitate success at work may be less successful at home — and vice versa — so it’s important to determine what’s important to you and choose the best communication strategy accordingly.

We can’t hide from the fact that being a great contributor at work can sometimes come at a cost for both employees and their partners. However, how you communicate with your partner when such situations arise can have important implications for both the work-family conflict you experience and your partner’s satisfaction, as well as for the likelihood that you’ll end up actually taking on the extra work.

So next time you are called upon to go beyond the call of duty at work, take a moment to clarify your company’s needs, look for creative ways to support your employer without causing problems at home, and before breaking the news to your partner, take a moment to choose the best communication strategy to match your unique situation.

If you need some support ensuring you or your people are getting the right work-life balance, get in touch with us at or call us on 0116 232 5231.

Also have a look at our online learning platform provided by our sister company where you can find useful business tools, courses, articles, access to Experts and more.

Click here to access The Box Academy and see for yourself, you can join for free and if you like what you see, join as a full member giving your people access to a huge amount of learning and development material.

The Tinderbox Team