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3 Smart Ways Leaders Can Discourage Hustle Culture

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Hustle culture is harmful and not good for the mind, body, soul, or for your family and friends. In the moment, hustling can seem like the only way to accomplish certain goals you’ve set for yourself in your personal, entrepreneurial, or professional pursuits. However, the long-term effect can be detrimental. The constant state of being on the go can only take one so far before the negative effects begin to set in.  Despite what we think, we are not powered by batteries like the energizer bunny. We’ll need to rest and recharge.

A viral hashtag that celebrates hustle culture #Teamnosleep is one of the many ills of this trend. Studies have indicated that sleep deprivation affects the brain and exhibits like one who is intoxicated. Studies out of the University of Central Florida have concluded that “sleep is essential for business leaders seeking next successful venture.” The study further states that “sleep plays an essentially important role in not only identifying a good business idea but in evaluating it and believing it is viable.”

According to CNBC, Goldman Sachs junior investment bankers are reporting working 100-hour weeks and fielding unrealistic demands from their bosses. This workload has affected Goldman Sachs’ team’s mental and physical health and is creating a culture of underperformance.

It’s not just Goldman Sachs. Elon Musk has shared his views on what a successful work week looks like, and it’s in the same range. This attitude of constantly pushing and an attempt to force more productivity is not authentic leadership and tends to diminish productivity. It’s the quickest way to lose key performers and build an unhealthy workplace culture. 

Here are 3 smart ways leaders can discourage hustle culture today.

1. Stop Engaging in Celebrating a Culture of Burnout

Leaders and influencers need to start taking responsibility for their role in the hustle as this will ultimately lead to burnout. Arianna Huffington best details this in her account of that fateful night that caused her to have a shift in perspective, “after my collapse from sleep deprivation and exhaustion in 2007 I became more and more passionate about the connection between well-being and performance. And as I went around the world speaking about my experience, I saw two things: First, that we’re facing a stress and burnout epidemic. And second, that people deeply want to change the way they work and live…”

Leaders in organizations need to start leading by example in the workplace. It starts with being intentional in simple things like when meetings are scheduled. For example, avoid setting up a work meeting at 5:00 pm that sends the wrong message. There will be exceptions but this should be a rare occurrence and not the norm. Leaders should also respect the lunch hour. Leaders should take a vacation and encourage this especially in the wake of the current pandemic. Even if it’s a staycation, a mental health break is beneficial for all.  When this trickles from the top down, employees are less likely to feel guilty for taking a vacation day. If at all possible, encourage time blocks where meetings cannot be scheduled, so employees can get work done and not feel the need to work after hours to catch up. 

“Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.” – Michael Gungor

2. Prioritize What’s Important

It’s not possible for anyone unless those that wear a cape to be productive or be at their optimal performance with an extended hustle mentality. It’s just not sustainable neither will it do anyone any good when the so-called hero burns out. Hustling affects our focus and actual productivity, so it’s better as leaders to prioritize what’s important for teams. 

When an organization’s yearly strategic initiatives are outlined and circulated, it is important teams adhere to these making it easier to prioritize any work and saying no to projects that don’t align; hence, removing the need for heroics by any one team or individual within a team. No leader or employee alike should feel like they should be turned on 24/7. Poor choices and decisions will be made as there is no room for prioritizing sleep, exercise, or healthy eating, which is needed to stay well and avoid the long-term effects of prolonged elevated state of cortisol experienced with the hustle culture.

3. Have An Open Door Policy

Employees should not feel that they are being measured by the hours they put into work; therefore, this should not come into play in their performance appraisal. If your direct reports see you grinding, it’s only natural that they’ll follow suit. It may not be your intention, but it’s unfortunately the outcome of the behavior seen modeled. Instead, make it easy for your direct reports to speak to you at any time, most importantly at times when they feel stress on the job. Granted this isn’t the norm and is a shift in most workplace culture, but could be very beneficial if these types of behaviors become the norm rather than the rare occurrence.  There should be no fear of a negative backlash for waving a white flag for help.  

Lola Salvador Akinwunmi is a writer, global consultant, leadership & reinvention strategist with a passion for helping professional women navigate the ever-changing leadership landscape. She brings more than two decades of corporate experience to her clients on their journey to uncover the next stage in their lives. As the founder of LolaSal, Inc., Lola elevates professional powerhouse women to their next level. Her award-winning clients have gone on to speak on stages; get awards in their careers and media features.

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