Boss writes letter telling employees to stop feeling guilty for having lives

In a time when so many of us still feel guilty for calling in sick or leaving the office on time, one boss’s letter is all too needed.

Ian Sohn, a single dad and the president of marketing and advertising agency Wunderman Chicago, wrote an open letter to his employees that’s been flooded with praise on LinkedIn.

In the letter, he tells workers to stop feeling terrible for having lives outside of work – and it’s a message we all need to take in (or send to our bosses).

Ian says he doesn’t need to know what his employees are doing outside of work, because it’s their time. He’s fed up of workplaces not putting their trust in people to manage their lives.

He wrote: ‘I never need to know you’ll be back online after dinner.

‘I never need to know why you chose to watch season 1 of “Arrested Development” (for the 4th time) on your flight to LA instead of answering emails.

‘I never need to know you’ll be in late because of a dentist appointment. Or that you’re leaving early for your kid’s soccer game.

‘I never need to know why you can’t travel on a Sunday.

‘I never need to know why you don’t want to have dinner with me when I’m in your town on a Tuesday night.

‘I never need to know that you’re working from home today because you simply need the silence.

‘I deeply resent how we’ve infantilized the workplace. How we feel we have to apologize for having lives. That we don’t trust adults to make the right decisions. How constant connectivity/availability (or even the perception of it) has become a valued skill.

‘I’m equally grateful for the trust/respect my peers, bosses and teams show me every day.

‘Years ago a very senior colleague reacted with incredulity that I couldn’t fly on 12 hours notice because I had my kids that night (and I’m a single dad. edit: divorced). I didn’t feel the least bit guilty, which I could tell really bothered said colleague. But it still felt horrible.

‘I never want you to feel horrible for being a human being.’

Ian later added that in addition to not needing to know what his employees are up to every minute of the day, he doesn’t want them to apologise for their lives outside of work, ever.

Ian’s letter has received thousands of comments from people thanking him for his words, and sharing their own stories of feeling guilty for being human beings.

A founder of a marketing agency commented: ‘I have a wonderful employee who still asks “can I take off 30 minutes early today” for whatever reason, usually kids. I have told her so many times, never ask for my permission, just tell me you are leaving. I can’t imagine a work environment when the answer to her would be no.’

Another comment reminded us just how important it is for senior members of staff to make it clear that work/life balance is key: ‘It gets easier and more important the higher you are on the ladder.

‘We need to make it the norm. We don’t [own] another human’s life because they agree to work for us. Trust them to do the right thing, and your odds are so much better that you’ll get it.’

And business executive John had a suggestion for anyone keen to lead by example.

‘This is spot on,’ he wrote. ‘A few years ago a very senior executive asked what I was doing after our mid afternoon meeting.

‘I told him I was coaching a soccer game.

‘He asked “what does your team think you are doing?” I replied “I don’t know. I guess they assume I am working.” He responded “do me a favor and just send them a quick note letting them know you are spending time with your kids. That way when they need to spend time with their kids they will see you leading by example and know it is really okay.”

‘That lesson really stuck with me. While his directive kind of contradicts your specific suggestions, your post just takes that same commitment to trusting professionals to also be good humans one step further. Thank you for sharing.’

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