What's your problem?

I've worked my way up the career ladder and I'm now the lead specialist of my team in a pharmaceutical company. Given the nature of the work, I was aware that promotion would come at a price, but didn't foresee the drastic consequences on my personal life.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I am in the lab until 8pm during the week, and have to come in most weekends. I see my girlfriend less often, and when I get home, all I want to do is sleep. I do have an assistant, but don't trust them enough to delegate some of the workload. What should I do?

A: This is your life - and you're in charge. No-one else is going to help you. If your company was supernaturally saintly, they'd see what you were doing to yourself and step in. But I bet they won't. You're working all the hours God gave you and systematically ruining the rest of your life - but from their point of view, you're doing a great job.

The only encouraging thing about your question is the fact that you've asked it. Unless you take charge of your life, you'll begin to believe that this is how all glittering careers have to be. From that moment on, you're dead in the water.

You won't delegate to your assistant because you're terrified that any inadequacy will reflect badly on you. Well, cross your fingers and start an experiment in trust. There'll be a couple of early glitches, naturally, but don't panic. Your company will understand, your assistant will learn, and so will you.

Stop behaving as you thought you had to behave when you were working your way up that ladder. I imagine it still has a few more rungs you'd quite like to mount? Well, you'll only climb them if you demonstrate a cool ability to pick excellent lieutenants, to train them well and to trust them implicitly. You'll feel a bit sweaty-palmed to start with, but if you can't shake off your compulsion to do everything yourself, you'll not only screw up your private life for good, you'll also condemn your career to a full stop at its present level - or even a rung or two down again.

Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of the Guardian Media Group; he is a non-executive director of WPP. Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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