How Women at the Top Can Renew Their Mental Energy

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For women with leadership ambitions, there is no shortage of advice for how to reach the top. By learning to lean in, speak out, negotiate, delegate, and a dozen other behaviors, women everywhere are launching themselves through the glass ceilings of their organizations, landing jobs at or near the C-suite level.

But what happens after the promotion? While top-level jobs are tough on everyone, the transition to senior management comes with extra challenges for women. Some are psychological, pertaining to gender differences in risk-taking and self-confidence. Others are structural; in parenting, for instance, childcare and domestic duties are still disproportionately shouldered by the female partner. While these barriers affect women at all levels of the organization, they are particularly pronounced in the pressure-cooker environment at the top, putting women at a disadvantage.

Dealing with this challenge is something I am deeply familiar with. I am a certified organizational

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You May Be a Workaholic If

Nancy Rothbard, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, draws a distinction between workaholism and working long hours. She explains the health consequences of being addicted to your work. She also gives practical advice for managing work addiction, whether it’s you who’s suffering, your direct report, boss, peer, or partner. Rothbard is the coauthor of the HBR article “How Being a Workaholic Differs from Working Long Hours — and Why That Matters for Your Health.”

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4 Ways to Deal With a Toxic Coworker

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Lately, we have been hearing a lot from our clients about “toxic” coworkers and teammates. This issue isn’t new; there have been bad coworkers since the beginning of organized work. But these days, their impact feels bigger and more destructive. Businesses need teamwork to function. And teams need to be more collaborative, adaptable, and proactive than ever. The days of top-down decision making are long gone in many companies and industries, as it’s replaced by grassroots innovation that’s unleashed through coworkers openly networking and sharing information across boundaries. Because of this new dynamic, dysfunctional teammates can damage the results of a whole team in a way that was much harder to do in the old, siloed models of working.

The most common and destructive toxic behaviors we see include:

Why Email Is So Stressful, Even Though It’s Not Actually That Time-Consuming

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Andrew Nguyen/HBR Staff/The New York Public Library

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the crush of email. In fact, one study showed the average professional spends 4.1 hours per day responding to work messages. During a recent time tracking exercise, I discovered I’m actually at the low end of the spectrum, spending about 1.35 hours per day on email. But psychologically, it carried a disproportionate weight: regardless of how much time I spent, it seemed like I was always stressed about the unanswered messages in my inbox.

To better understand why email had become so burdensome, I undertook an experiment. For two weeks, I tracked, recorded, and categorized every email I received, splitting them into categories like “messages from my assistant” and “client communication” and “networking or event invitation.”

I’ve already worked hard to optimize my inbox, including using a free service called Unroll.me to unsubscribe

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3 Tips for Presenting in English When You’re Not a Native Speaker

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As a coach and international business school instructor, I have worked with hundreds of current and future leaders who are accomplished, bright, and capable — and who quickly lose their confidence and competence when making business presentations. For a subset of these leaders — those who need to present in English when it isn’t their native language — the stakes and the stress can feel even higher. Meanwhile, the need for leaders to be able to present in English is growing at a rapid pace. According to Harvard Business School Associate Professor Tsedal Neely, author of The Language of Global Success, “English is required for global collaboration and global work.”

Nevertheless, being compelled to speak in your nonnative language can lead to feelings of frustration, pressure, and insecurity. As Neely reports, “When nonnative speakers are forced to communicate in English, they can feel that

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What Makes Entrepreneurs Burn Out

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By now we are all familiar with the risks of burnout. Research shows that it leads to work-related issues such as job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, inefficient decision making, and turnover, as well as health-related issues such as depression, heart disease, and even death. Research also reveals some of the common causes of burnout, such as lack of autonomy, engagement, motivation, and passion.

But since much of this research has looked at employees in large organizations, we know less about what burnout looks like for other types of workers. We wanted to study a group that seems to be more susceptible to burnout: entrepreneurs.

Some evidence suggests that entrepreneurs are more at risk of burnout because they tend to be extremely passionate about work and more socially isolated, have limited safety nets, and operate in high uncertainty. This has important consequences for economic growth — entrepreneurial firm failure and

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How Fear Helps (and Hurts) Entrepreneurs

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Fear of failure stalks the world of the entrepreneur, from losing key clients to running out of money. For entrepreneurs, courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to persist in spite of it. These fears are well-founded: Studies suggest that roughly 75% of ventures fail within 10 years (see U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on firm survival rates here).

Even success can provoke anxiety. We asked Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish-born founder and CEO of the yogurt company Chobani, whether he was ever afraid while building his multibillion-dollar business. “Every day,” he replied, “because if I had failed, a lot of lives were going to be affected by it.”

While “fail fast and often” is the constant refrain of the lean startup movement and many others, no one really wants to fail. Failure has many ramifications that it would be foolish to overlook

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When You Need to Take Time Off Work for Mental Health Reasons

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Personal health should be a private matter. But when you need to take time off work due to a mental health condition, often it isn’t possible to maintain that privacy. As a board member at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and a former managing director at two global banks (UBS and Deutsche Bank), I’ve been approached by hundreds of colleagues and clients over the past 30 years seeking advice for themselves or a colleague, friend, or family member on how best to manage professional life while dealing with a mental health condition themselves or caring for a loved one who is. Here is what I usually tell them.

First off, this is a common situation. Just because you don’t know of anyone else at your company who has taken time off for mental health reasons doesn’t mean there isn’t precedent. Diagnosable mental health conditions impact one in five

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How Being a Workaholic Differs from Working Long Hours — and Why That Matters for Your Health

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Hayon Thapaliya for HBR

Hanna, a finance director at an international home care retailer, works long hours. She’s usually in the office from 9am to 5pm, but at home, when her three children go to sleep, she’ll work another four hours, not closing her laptop until midnight. She sometimes also works on weekends. But even though she works 60 to 65 hours per week, she told us that she can “switch off” when she needs to, and that she still feels energetic every day. She hasn’t had to worry about her health.

Michael, the director of strategy for an American insurance company, does not work as much as Hanna. His workdays usually start at 8am and finish no later than 6pm, and he often leaves work at 3pm on Fridays. But even though he works an average of 45 hours a week, and is single with no kids, he has

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How Being a Workaholic Differs from Working Long Hours — and Why That Matters for Your Health

mar18_22_Hayon-Thapaliya
Hayon Thapaliya for HBR

Hanna, a finance director at an international home care retailer, works long hours. She’s usually in the office from 9am to 5pm, but at home, when her three children go to sleep, she’ll work another four hours, not closing her laptop until midnight. She sometimes also works on weekends. But even though she works 60 to 65 hours per week, she told us that she can “switch off” when she needs to, and that she still feels energetic every day. She hasn’t had to worry about her health.

Michael, the director of strategy for an American insurance company, does not work as much as Hanna. His workdays usually start at 8am and finish no later than 6pm, and he often leaves work at 3pm on Fridays. But even though he works an average of 45 hours a week, and is single with no kids, he has

Continue reading "How Being a Workaholic Differs from Working Long Hours — and Why That Matters for Your Health"

5 Ways to Counteract Your Smartphone Addiction

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John Holcroft/Getty Images

We are living in an era of technology obsession and smartphone addiction. I hear it all the time: “I  can’t go anywhere without my phone” or “I feel anxious when I’m not able to check email” or “If I’m not on my social feeds, I feel like I’m missing out.”

Not surprisingly, research shows that too much technology use diminishes our mental and physical health, our relationships and more.

Short of going off the grid, how can we build better habits around technology—preserving its benefits while minimizing the negative effects?  Here are a few research-backed strategies I recommend you implement at work and at home.

Use “cc” and “reply all” judiciously. Group emails, while helpful for team collaboration, are an increasingly problematic workplace distraction. After the second or third “reply all”—when most messages could be directed to just one or two people, rather than everyone—these chains

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To Control Your Life, Control What You Pay Attention To

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One of the best insights on what true productivity means in the 21st century dates back to 1890. In his book The Principles of Psychology, Vol.1, William James wrote a simple statement that’s packed with meaning: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.”

Your attention determines the experiences you have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live. Or said another way: you must control your attention to control your life. Today, in a world where so many experiences are blended together — where we can work from home (or a train or a plane or a beach), watch our kids on a nanny-cam from work, and distraction is always just a thumb-swipe away —has that ever been more true?

Attention Management

To be consistently productive and manage stress better, we must strengthen our skill in attention management.

Attention

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What to Do If Calls, Texts, and Coworker Drop-bys Are Stressing You Out

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Malte Mueller/Getty Images

Your back tenses. Your eyes dart. Your mind races.

No, it’s not caused by an impending animal attack or even a scary e-mail from your boss. It’s receiving a text from a close friend, seeing your significant other on your caller ID, or a coworker dropping by to chat during your workday.

Why this reaction? You want to connect with these people and maintain a relationship, so why does communication from them or requests like going out to lunch feel like a threat?

As a time management coach, I’ve found that these reactions happen because one of the main keys to managing your own time is managing expectations with others. In a society where people have the ability to communicate instantly, a quick response can become an expectation. But it’s an expectation that we can’t always meet, especially when we’re trying to get work done. This gap

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Metabolizing Stress and Anxiety

I woke up late this morning with a vivid dream in my head. I had shown up at my new house on the first morning of our occupancy. There were all kinds of people running around including a dozen schoolkids playing red devil on the patio. I didn’t have any clothes unpacked yet except some running shorts that I didn’t like and an old t-shirt. I went upstairs to go to the bathroom and take a shower. The bathroom floor was linoleum and the wallpaper was grandma’s English garden floral from the 1950s. I tried to figure out how to poop in the toilet but the toilet paper holder got tangled up in the seat cover and I couldn’t get the toilet open correctly, dunked the toilet paper in the water, and just gave up. I turned on the shower, which was a pink tub with yellow walls, miniature size, with a

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To Reduce Burnout on Your Team, Give People a Sense of Control

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There’s no question or debate that workplace stress levels are at critical levels and are escalating. The American Institute of Stress (AIS) reveals that 80% of us feel stress on the job and almost half say they need help in managing that stress.  The StressPulse survey by ComPsych, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider, shows the main causes of that stress are:  1) workload (36%); 2) people issues (31%); 3) balancing professional and personal lives (20%); and 4) job security (8%).

Team dynamics are also a big deal when it comes to workplace stress, in terms of the way teams operate and how team members interact with each other. The above statistics show that team dynamics directly affect a whopping 92% of what causes the most stress.  Being part of a team can be a quick road to disappointment, frustration, and burnout, especially when some

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Senior Executives Get More Sleep Than Everyone Else

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It’s no secret that most of us don’t get enough sleep and suffer for it. If you’re between the ages of 16 and 64, and don’t get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, your logical reasoning, executive function, attention, and mood can be impaired. Worse, severe sleep deprivation can lead to depression, anxiety, and symptoms of paranoia. In the long run, sleep deprivation is a main contributor to the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Surprisingly, one group that doesn’t need to heed these warnings is executives. In our assessment of 35,000 leaders and interviews with 250 more, we found that the more senior a person’s role is, the more sleep they get.

There are two possible explanations for this. Either senior executives, with the help of assistants and hard-working middle managers, do less and take more time for sleep. Or senior executives have had the wisdom and discipline

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Good Mentors Help You Work Through Strong Emotions

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Kenneth Andersson for HBR

When I was 25, during my annual review my (male) boss confirmed lots of positive things, such as how I exceeded my $26 million goal in sales. But he ended the meeting with his one big negative: “You need to smile more.” I was stunned. He explained that all the senior executives perceived my lack of smiling negatively.

Admittedly, I was rather intense and competitive early in my career, but apparently this smiling thing could derail my next promotion. At the time I didn’t realize that as a professional woman I was facing a classic double-bind dilemma — the trade-off women encounter where they can be perceived as either warm or competent, but not both.

The problem was I didn’t have anyone to talk to about this situation. I needed someone to help me process this feedback, put it into context, and figure out a

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To Handle Increased Stress, Build Your Resilience

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Wherever you live or work, stress is on the rise. According to the International Labour Organization, workers in developed and developing countries are facing increasing strain at work. The onslaught of mounting stressors include global challenges, such as climate change, terrorism, and political turmoil – as well as personal and professional challenges, such as illnesses, job changes, and organizational restructuring.

For many of us, the initial response to stress is to look for external fixes. We turn to productivity tools or apps that promise to help us manage mounting pressures or we look for ways to alleviate our discomfort: find a different job, hire a new employee to take on an increased workload, or switch careers. But these solutions are often temporary and ineffective. Managing stress over the long-term requires cultivating your own resilience skills before seeking external solutions so that you can turn changes, stresses, and challenges

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1 in 5 Highly Engaged Employees Is at Risk of Burnout

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Dorothea loved her new workplace and was highly motivated to perform. Her managers were delighted with her high engagement, professionalism, and dedication. She worked long hours to ensure that her staff was properly managed, that her deadlines were met, and that her team’s work was nothing short of outstanding. In the first two months, she single-handedly organized a large conference – marketing and organizing all the details of the conference and filling it to capacity. It was a remarkable feat.

In the last weeks prior to the event, however, her stress levels attained such high levels that she suffered from severe burnout symptoms, which included feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, depressed, and suffering of sleep problems. She was instructed to take time off work. She never attended the conference and needed a long recovery before she reached her earlier performance and wellbeing levels. Her burnout symptoms had

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If You’re So Successful, Why Are You Still Working 70 Hours a Week?

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“I really became a robot,” a manager at an accounting firm explained. She and her colleagues worked extraordinarily long hours, but, she said, “I thought it was normal. It’s like brainwashing. You are in a kind of mental system where you are under increasing demands, and you say to yourself that it doesn’t matter, that you will rest afterwards, but that moment never comes.”

Through my research, I’ve heard stories like this over and over again from people in accounting firms, law firms, consulting firms, and other white-collar jobs. We all know that chronic overwork is bad for our mental and physical health and can seriously jeopardize the quality of our work. We wish we could change the way we work, but we don’t really know how.

Long hours are most common in managerial and professional occupations. This is something of a recent trend. In the

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