"Work can't kill me and it can't make me pregnant"

A leadership tip for coping with pressure from the boss of Serco's prisons and immigration business.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 15 May 2019

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a person with responsibility for the day-to-day running of six prisons, and the welfare of their 5,400 prisoners and staff, would have little time for humour.

But it’s a trait Julia Rogers, managing director of Serco’s Justice and Immigration business, has had to call on a lot in her four years with the FTSE 250 outsourcer. It's not an easy gig, after all, trying to "fix" a private prison business hampered by financial stresses and high profile fraud allegations, all under the intense gaze of government and media scrutiny.

The key to handling the pressure, she says, is knowing how to put things in perspective.

"I have a personal mantra: Work can't kill me and work can't make me pregnant. What that means is I don't have to worry about the two things that would be really bad for me in a working context - death, clearly, and work making me pregnant, which might cause my husband to raise his eyebrows somewhat.

"My point is about remembering that the most important things in my life are outside of work and no matter how gruelling the job can be, it can never affect my relationship with my family and friends unless I let it.

"Those two things need to work together for me because although I love my job, I have a huge responsibility and I'm very fulfilled by it, I can ultimately replace my job but not my family. So those are the things that keep me grounded and keep me going.

"Being truly open and transparent with colleagues isn’t the easiest thing to do in prisons, but remembering my grounding makes it easier to be brave and honest when I need to.

"Even though you have this leadership role and it’s important that you’re consistent and visible, so your people can talk to you any time, when it gets really tough it’s just important to remind yourself that you’re just a person."

Image credit: Marakit_Atinat/gettyimages


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