Deeper Thoughts
The Battle Between Work Expectations and Balance

It’s a debate that seems to erupt at least once per generation. Where is the line between “work ethic” and “balanced life?” When do employer expectations become too much or unhealthy? At what point should employees step back and examine their own situations?

With the rise of quiet quitting, it seems the latest generation is now taking its turn to discuss. 

Where is the line between personal life and work?

This question has been with us since the Industrial Revolution, and likely before that in some form or another. Let’s face it. The Big Bosses always want the most they can get out of their employees for the least amount of money or effort. And it’s human nature to want to do the smallest amount of work possible to receive the maximum reward. Somewhere in between is that line or balance. One person’s “slacking” is another person’s “healthy balance.” As the late, great George Carlin put it: “Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”

There’s no doubt that success requires hard work. There’s also no doubt that all work and no play will lead to burn out. We, in the mortgage industry, tend to fall among the “old school” professions like law or other forms of financial or insurance services. The rule is to applaud the senior executive who hasn’t taken a vacation in 10 years or the ambitious manager who works seven days a week and answers emails in the wee hours of the morning.

There’s some room for that. But it also leads to the burnout culture some in our industry have long cultivated.

It’s not always that simple.

And yet, not every situation is so cut and dried. If an employee responds to a few emails from the beach on a week’s vacation, is he a “workaholic?” Does an infrequent Zoom meeting on a Saturday intrude on an employee’s rights? Is business travel to another city, state or country on a Sunday asking too much?

I think the real issue lies in the matter of setting expectations. Many times, especially in burnout cultures, we’re told one thing but quickly learn there are “unspoken expectations.” Yes, you have 10 days of P.T.O. But are you really going to take one just as that big new project kicks off? Sure you have maternity leave. Just be sure you get everything—and I mean everything—done before you leave. And we may email or call you a few times while you’re on that leave if we have any questions or need a hand.

It starts with clarity and communication.

It starts at the top, and falls on the remaining tiers of a business’ leadership to say what they mean and mean what they say. Clearly enunciated expectations should be reinforced on a day to day basis, rather than being contradicted regularly by raised eyebrows or surprised reactions when an employee is behaving within the rights set out for them. It means not expecting instant email replies after regular working hours. It means clarity, consistency and communication.

For owners and decision makers, it’s important to understand that you can’t expect the same level of commitment to your business from people who don’t have the same potential reward or stake that you do. Those that do come to, and live by, that realization tend to have happier, more productive workforces, and a lot less anxiety as well.


We at LodeStar are grateful to all of our clients, friends and colleagues who take the time to view Deeper Thoughts. Please consider having a look as well at some of our other great content, including our podcast, “LodeStar’s Lending Leaders,” and A Tale of Two Mortgages: an original webcomic for the mortgage industry, presented by LodeStar.”

As always, your feedback is welcomed and appreciated!