• Wed, Apr 4 2012

Sheryl Sandberg Was Scared To Talk About Leaving Work At 5:30

Sheryl Sandberg has left her office at 5:30 PM everyday in order to have dinner with her two young children. She first did this at Google and now at Facebook, where she is currently the COO. She had her first child in 2005, but she said it was only in the last year that she was able to talk about her exit time publicly. She had been too scared of the judgement.

“Now, I certainly wouldn’t lie but I wasn’t going around giving speeches on it. I was showing everyone I worked for that I worked just as hard. I was getting up earlier to make sure they saw my emails at 5:30, staying up later to make sure they saw my emails late. But now I’m much more confident in where I am and so I’m able to say, “Hey! I am leaving work at 5:30.” And I say it very publicly, both internally and externally,” said Sheryl in a new video for Makers.com, a joint initiative by PBS and AOL highlighting stories from important women. Watch the video below.

Sheryl isn’t the only one who struggled with this. The fact that Americans are giving up 226 million unused vacation days this year, shows she is not alone. Americans are not only obsessed with work but they are also obsessed with the appearance of working hard. It seems that being busy at work is proof that you are important. Debra Safyre said when she worked in Corporate America her company competed on the “busy” scale. “Your “busy”- ness was a measure of how valuable you were to the organization. If you were able to manage your “busy”ness you were considered a leader.

Sara Martin, an architect, told The Grindstone:

People one-upping eachother’s stressful work habits is an epidemic. Time spent is the easiest metric we have to measure our commitment to our jobs. Other metrics such as insight, creativity, and productivity are nebulous and subjective. Time is quantifiable: did you spend 5 hours more than Mary? Or 20? Time comparisons give the illusion we’re comparing apples to apples with respect to effort.

But if you’re just trying to look busy or you resent the fact that you are working late when you would maybe rather work early in the morning or on weekends, then you need to be honest like Sheryl. As fellow Silicon Valley icon Marissa Mayer says, burnout is really a result of resentment. If you resent the fact that you don’t eat dinner every night at 8 then you will get burnout and your work will not be as good, she said. Marissa always tells her employees to find their rhythm. She talked about one young man who needed to go to Tuesday night potlucks with his friends in order to feel good. Another woman would take a call at 1am but if she was late for her kid’s soccer game, she couldn’t take it.

Sheryl hopes her coming forward about leaving work at a not terribly late time will help other women and men become confidant enough to do this. In the meantime, Ron Ashkenas, managing partner at Schaffer Consulting, said when it comes to staying late you need to ask yourself the following questions:

    • How does staying late at work impact your personal life: It is up to you mainly but you may want to discuss your goals and priorities with the people closest to you. “Find out the extent to which their expectations match yours. Without this dialogue you run the risk of constantly disappointing eachother.”
    • Be honest at work: Make it clear to your boss that you are absolutely willing to stay late but make sure you are working smarter and not just longer. If you are staying late at work because something has gone wrong everyday then you need to discuss with your team and upper management what needs to be fixed.

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