I used to be one of the first into the office in the morning and one of the last to leave in the evening. There’s not a culture of staying really late here, but now that I need to leave bang on home time most days since becoming a father, I feel that everyone is watching me thinking I’m not working as hard as them. What should I do?
At workingdads.co.uk we’ve brought together a team of experts to answer your questions. We call them….The Dadvengers.
We know working dads have concerns. It might be a HR query about applying for flexible working. Or maybe you find it hard to switch off from work and give your family your full attention. Maybe you’ve taken some time out to raise your kids and you’re looking to get back into the workplace. We know people that can help, so get in touch.
In our first feature David Willans of BeingDads helps a new father who is feeling under pressure.
This used to be me. Pre-parenthood, I loved getting in the office at 7:30am, blasting the music out and getting through some serious work before anyone walked in the door. Leaving at 6 or 6:30 was the norm. I was also the first to have kids in that place too and over time I changed the culture to one where people, including myself got out on time to do whatever else they wanted to.
Enough of me, let’s get onto you. There are a couple of things to tease out in what you’re saying. The first is the reality, the second your perception of that reality.
The first is about trust and delivery. As you’ve been there a while, I assume you’ve built up a good stock of trust with your colleagues. That should give you confidence. Are you still delivering everything you need to? If so, that’s great. If not, then that will be something to address. There’s a solution, which I’ll talk about in a minute, but first we need to cover the second point.
This second point is about your perception. You think there’s an issue, but do you know it’s true? Have you actually asked people?
Our interpretation of events shapes our lived experience of them, so we need to be careful with how we interpret them. There’s a useful hack here, called the MRI, the Most Reasonable Interpretation, which says simply assume a reasonable, rather than negative interpretation, and your life will be better. Applying the MRI here takes us to the conclusion that it could be everyone else is thinking what a lucky sod you are to be so on top of everything. Perhaps they’re glad you’re getting back to your little one. Or perhaps they don’t care either way.
It could be that you’re right, they think you’re slacking, but in reality you’re still delivering – their perceptions and the reality don’t match.
Or it could be that you are not delivering and they see it, and your feelings are correct.
The only way to find out what the expectations, and reality, are is by talking to people. Take a few trusted colleagues aside one on one and ask.
If it turns out you aren’t delivering, or people think you aren’t, then the next step is to get on the front foot with work. Prioritise and focus on what needs to be done and, respectfully work to cut out wasted time.
If meetings are a bane, chair them. Open by letting everyone know you’ve got to get back for bedtime so need to be focused, joke that it means they can go to the pub earlier to lighten the load. Then run the meeting like a boss, keeping it focused and making sure it gets done quickly. Apply this mentality to everything you do in the office. At key points in the day, check in with people who you’re depending on, or who depend on you. See where they are at, or what they need from you. This little act will address both a reality of under delivery, and the perception.
Doing that means you’re taking responsibility for yourself and the work. If you weren’t delivering, you soon will be. If you were but they didn’t think so, the proactiveness and visibility you’re bringing will change their minds.
One final thought. You’ve got to remember, people are inherently selfish. That’s not a bad thing, it just is. We want the best for ourselves. If you can deliver and get out bang on time, so can they. Then they can enjoy more of life. How can you help them do that? When you approach it from this angle, you’ll earn their trust and respect and they will see you as a leader not a mickey taker.