As we rely more and more on digital means of communication—like email, instant messaging, and facetime—the concept of a "work-life balance" becomes a bit more blurred. With the addition of digital devices like smartphones in our lives, it gets harder to leave work at work and not let it enter our personal life.
While a predictable nine-to-five work schedule used to be more of the status quo, a new generation of professionals are finding that they can be engaged in their work in a more flexible way.
Besides the generational component, employee approach to engagement and a work-life balance is influenced by whether they prefer clear boundaries between work and life, or whether they are more partial to moving easily between these two traditionally isolated aspects of life.
In her article for Quartz at Work, contributor Leah Fessler categorizes these two types of working personalities as integrators and segmentors. Integrators prefer to blend work and life while segmentors feel that mixing the two domains is inappropriate or distracting.
There is no guarantee that one working style is going to be more engaged and productive than the other, Fessler says.
Instead, what's more important is for managers to "honestly discuss where each person falls on the integrator-segmentor spectrum so as to most efficiently capitalize on individual strengths and avoid unnecessary tension."
By engaging integrators and segmentors in open, honest conversations--where they interrogate their realities and understand how to strengthen their communications--business leaders can facilitate the conversations that get results and enrich relationships at the same time.
The Potential Impact: Conflict
Due to the different ways that each style approaches a "work day," there is a potential that conflict may build up and that the dynamics of teamwork may be affected. This can result in attitudinal, behavioral, or performance issues that have a larger impact on the culture of a company as a whole.
Picture an integrator sending emails to a segmentor in the evening about a project they are working on, leaving the segmentor feeling like their privacy or need for a disconnect from the distractions of work is being threatened.
The integrator may feel like they are making use of some free time in the evening while the segmentor comes away with the impression that their need for a separate home life is not valued.
And—on bigger scale—team members who clash with each other can lead to disengagement, a negative workplace culture, and result in top talent leaving. And when skilled employees leave, the cost is significant. You can learn more about this top leading business problem in our eBook.
"It's not that segmentors feel it's their place to force other people to similarly segment work and life," Fessler said, "it's that they find integrator's willingness to mesh work and life surprising and often bothersome."
The challenge is not only to gain the skills necessary to communicate well with an integrator or segmentor, it's also important to "think more critically about establishing some of the semblance of boundaries that come so naturally to segmentors," Fessler said.
Another challenge facing both managers and colleagues working with someone who has a different working style than they do is to prioritize having open authentic conversations. How is your relationship being enriched by having the perspectives of a different working style? What are each of your realities and approaches to your workflow?
Here are some first steps to ensure that the right conversations are happening between segmentors and integrators and to create a workplace culture that is inclusive of both working styles:
Step 1: Confront the issue, not the individual
Start by confronting the issue (the miscommunication) and what the root cause of this is (misunderstanding). Name the results of this current state of miscommunication. Remain fully present until you reach a resolution that works for both of you and that takes into consideration each of your values and working styles.
Step 2: Create a shared language (no mokitas!)
Once you've talked through each of your realities, create a shared language that is empathetic towards each others working styles.
One of the conversations that we talk about in our Foundations program is the presence of mokitas in the workplace. These are the things that everyone knows about but no one speaks of. And they kill morale, weaken employee engagement, and can be the wedge between integrators and segmentors that neither wants to address.
One of the elements of a Fierce conversation is to address the mokitas. Express what you feel-- how does your colleague's approach to a work-life balance affect your ability to work together and communicate well? Do you resent that they call you in the evening when you're trying to relax with family or friends? Are they frustrated that you won't pick up their call or answer your text as soon as they send it?
Talk about these mokitas. They aren't going anywhere and neither will your conversation (or relationship) if you don't have a conversation about them.
Step 3: Acknowledge your roadblocks
Discover your roadblocks together. What are the pre-existing communication styles that have characterized your working relationship so far but haven't helped you achieve the goals you want or haven't enriched your relationship? Identify these roadblocks. Be honest. Recognize your DNA on the situation and what the impact of it has been.
Step 4: Operate from a growth mindset
Operating from a growth mindset will allow you to be open to what your colleague is feeling and how they approach a work-life balance. Be open to having your assumptions challenged.
Instead of thinking that your way is the only right way and that your direct report or colleague needs to adjust their schedule to accommodate yours, take a moment to recognize their reality and what is motivating their behavior. This is a change to develop not only your awareness of what motivates behavior but will also grow your relationship.
Think about you can turn this conflict into an opportunity to learn and see how it will impact your results when you're working as a team rather than as colleagues thrust together into the same room or the same project.
Step 5: Create an inclusive workplace culture
In some cases, you may be dealing with segmentors and integrators who represent different generations and different interpretations of a work-life balance. Facilitating conversations that are interactive is essential to creating an inclusive workplace culture where age-related silos don't have a seat at the table.
One of the foundations of this kind of inclusive work culture is to uncover shared values that transcend working style, age, or approach to a work-life balance. Narrowing down the shared purpose of your work can help everyone work towards a shared goal. You can read more about the importance of tapping into purpose in your organization here.
The end goal: Enrich the relationship
Both your integrators and segmentors can be equally engaged, and by sharing the same purpose, their relationship can be augmented. And this process of enriching the relationship occurs through honest, respectful discussion.
By operating from a growth mindset and coming out from behind themselves into the conversation, integrators and segmentors can boost their workflow, stay open to different perspectives, and sustain a culture of inclusion.
Get Started Today and Have a conversation with yourself
At the end of the day, every conversation you have is with yourself, and sometimes it involves other people. Being open with yourself about what your idea of a work-life balance looks like and how that can best help you achieve your desired results is important, but it's equally valuable to determine how you can realize the "balance" in work-life balance. Being engaged in both your work and personal lives may likely mean learning to incorporate some of the boundaries that segmentors are familiar with into your lifestyle or challenging yourself to embrace some of the flexibility of an integrator into your work schedule.
What is most important is not that one work-life balance is prioritized over the other, it is that integrators and segmentors learn how they can best work and communicate together. And that happens through fierce, authentic conversations.
Are you experiencing conflict or a lack of open, honest conversations between the integrators and segmentors in your company? You can create a shared language that helps facilitate the conversations that need to happen with a Fierce in-person workshop or virtual training.