How to avoid 3 mistakes knowledge workers often make

by | Aug 21, 2019 | Blog | 0 comments

Do you know anyone who belonged to an “early exit club”?

An “early exit club” was a benefit for long-service employees. Individuals who had completed 25 years or more at their company automatically became members of their employer’s early exit club.

The major (maybe only?) benefit of membership was the ability to clock out ahead of everyone else at the end of the workday. Typically, early exit club members could exit 6 minutes before closing time, that is precisely 4:54 pm – as I remember reading in the old employee handbooks, which was one of my job duties as an entry-level consultant.

This early exit allowed club members from the office (the “white collar” workers) and the plant (the “blue collar” workers) to get out of the parking lot ahead of everyone else to start their journey home.

Talk about an archaic membership club from a totally different work era!

Back then, all work took place at the company location using company equipment in well-defined shifts. No BYOD (bring your own device). No checking email and texts before breakfast or after dinner, or even reading or drafting emails. There was a definite divide in your work and personal time.

No longer in our VUCA volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. Our work and personal time blend together, especially for those of us who are knowledge workers for global organizations.

When Peter Drucker coined the phrase back in 1959, knowledge workers were differentiated by their ability to do complex problem-solving on the job, to focus more on quality than quantity, and design their own work processes.

Over time as our world has become faster paced, more technology-driven, more and more workers are being paid to use their brains, even manual laborers who historically used just their brawn.

Yet, without prescribed breaks and stops, such as the “early exit club” (even though it rewarded staying power over performance), some individuals have a tendency to keep on going. That can hurt their productivity and well-being.

So many of the individuals I coach seem to be running on empty – even those who have autonomy and flexibility over their schedules. They push through their days, going from meeting to meeting, often double and triple booked. Mid-day they alternate between eating at their desk and skipping lunch. And they never seem to inhale a breath of fresh air during the workday unless they have to attend a meeting in another building or off campus. And as for sleep? Always less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours a night.

Humans are not machines; you need to rest and recharge so you can sustain your energy levels. (For more about this, check out The Energy Project, which helps individuals and their organizations take care of their four energy needs: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.)

And it’s not just self-care that you may be neglecting or devaluing.

Some of my coaching clients also ignore the importance of two other key necessities of being a successful knowledge worker: focusing on professional development and relationship building. They concentrate on their immediate job duties and deadlines rather than taking time to look up and out on the broader horizon. This behavior is also unhealthy.

For example, if you rest on your education laurels, you’ll soon fall behind due to the velocity of change. You not only need to keep learning, but also orient your studying toward how to solve wicked problems and deal with dilemmas. In other words, you can’t just learn rules to follow; you’ve got to improve your critical thinking to address new challenges you – and others – have never faced before.

As for building relationships, you always need to be expanding your circle of friends and colleagues you can call on to collaborate. The age of the single subject matter expert is long over. Peers of all ages, backgrounds and types of experience are an excellent source of knowledge, support, and camaraderie.

Always be learning. Always be checking in, involving and listening to others. And always be sustaining your energy.

When you focus on these three topics – self-care, professional development, and relationship building – you’re better prepared to stay healthy and sustain yourself and your career.

And if you need clubs, groups, gyms or other membership associations to help you (in addition to individual coaching), go ahead and join – assuming you agree with the intent and focus of the organization.

Early exit clubs are a relic from the past; however, other organizations provide powerful services that lead to friendships and memorable experiences.

What are you doing to help yourself with self-care, professional development, and relationship building?



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *