The Happy Engineer Podcast

059: Q&A #2 with Zach White – How to Ask for a Raise and How to Deal with Peer Pressure that Leads to Long Hours and Burnout

You ask the questions, and host Zach White answers!  Enjoy the second edition of our new Q&A series for engineering career growth and leadership.

In this episode, you asked me to help you go to your leader for a raise (who doesn’t want that?), and how to deal with peers who are putting pressure on you to work longer hours (and you’re headed toward burnout).

Thank you to Matt, a Senior Engineer in Aerospace, and Kayleigh, a Technical Project Manager & Full Stack Developer, for sending me your questions!

Want to continue the conversation about these topics and more? Join our new and growing community of engineering leaders in a free private group! Our goal is to do more than provide ideas and information, but to help you put them into action. Check it out here:

We all have questions, and this is the place to ask ‘em!

So press play and let’s chat… it’s time to get some answers.


The Happy Engineer Podcast




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Previous Episode 058: Lies You Believe that Limit Your Wealth and Happiness with Robert Peterson




Zach White is a widely regarded coach known for changing the game in engineering career & leadership coaching. He has worked with hundreds of engineering leaders from top technology companies worldwide including Facebook (Meta), Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google, to industry leaders like General Motors, Nike, Lockheed Martin, Whirlpool, and many more to escape burnout and achieve breakthrough results.

Zach is the Founder and CEO of Oasis of Courage, known as OACO, a fast-growing company with unique and proven coaching programs exclusively for engineers. He also hosts a top rated show, The Happy Engineer Podcast, where listeners discover the steps to engineering success through expert interviews and Zach’s own transformational framework, the Lifestyle Engineering Blueprint.

As a coach for engineering leaders, Zach understands the journey first hand, holding a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, and a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. With over a decade of experience and top performance in a $20B organization, he is now a sought-after coach by engineering leaders around the world.

Zach is affectionately known by his Clients (and Mom) as the World’s Best Lifestyle Engineering Coach.

Connect with him online and schedule a call to build your career, balance your life, and BE HAPPY!





Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Happy Engineers! Welcome back! I am pumped for Q&A #2 and if you missed Q&A #1 back in Episode 51, then go check it out. But you’re in for a treat and Q&A time means I’m back with my good buddy, Daniel Powell. Daniel. What’s up, man? Hello? 

[00:00:21] Daniel Powell: Hello, Zach. Good to be here.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:22] Zach White:  Daniel is the master of all things, editing and sound for the happy engineer. Absolutely crushes it. So if you love listening to the show, you didn’t know it, but you love Daniel. He is the man and he’s gonna help MC and keep me on track for some really interesting questions that we got from you. All the happy engineers.

[00:00:42] Daniel Powell: And we got some good ones this week. Zach, I’m excited. 

[00:00:45] Zach White: Me too, man. These are great questions. Been waiting for this. So 

[00:00:50] Daniel Powell: Zach, something that you you love to do as a coach is celebrate wins. Ooh. So do we have any wins this week? 

[00:01:01] Zach White: Uh, you know, me, I could celebrate wins. All day.

[00:01:05] And every time we meet with our clients in the Oasis of courage, we share wins. But actually, it’s a great question, Dan, because in episode 51, Shaw asked a question around. You know, big company, small company titles and trade offs. And it was a really interesting discussion we had about that, but I’ll actually celebrate the fact that Shaw who did sign up for one of our coaching programs and worked through that challenge in his own career path, landed a dream job that, he’s super happy with.

[00:01:35] He got the money he wanted the vacation time he wanted, he got all the perks. He’s super excited about the technology and what he’s gonna be doing. And, uh, the guy. Absolutely on fire right now. And so kudos and a big shout out to Shaw for stepping up to the plate, living the courageous leadership lifestyle engineering life.

[00:01:54] And, uh, it was just really fun to watch him move through that journey wrestling with what decision to make, and then crushing it in the interview and scoring a big win. So kudo, haw T excellent. Excellent. Well done, 

[00:02:06] Daniel Powell: Shaw. I just want to ask you Zach, why do we celebrate wins? 

[00:02:12] Zach White: Ooh. So the mind has a negativity bias and we could get into a lot of theories as to why that is. But one of the simple ones that’s pretty widely agreed upon is this survival. Instinct that’s built into our autonomic nervous system.

[00:02:29] You know, your subconscious mind is wired for survival, not success, and it’s a lot more important to stay alive than to thrive. You know, if you’re really coming down to it, that system is. Paying attention to all the dangerous things, and we could categorize it as the negative things of life. Anything that causes pain, anything that could be a problem for you gets special attention in that automatic part of who you are.

[00:02:54] So it’s easy to fall into the trap of only focusing on negative things. Not to mention anybody listening to this. Man the media and the world around us is taking advantage of that with all the headlines and the click bait and the things, you know, they use those negative, voices to get your attention because you’re biased towards noticing those things more than a celebration of something going well in your community.

[00:03:20] You know, those really scary headlines are the ones people click. Training yourself to focus on wins, celebration, gratitude, these positive aspects of your life. It really is training. It’s a practice because if you’re left alone to your automatic systems, you’re gonna fall into a negative pattern. it helps you to get more of the results you want when you’re focused on positive outcomes, because then where your focus goes, energy flow. 

[00:03:51] Daniel Powell: I’ve also heard it described in this, this simple way that negative thoughts are like Velcro and positive thoughts are like Teflon. And if you don’t actively intentionally hold onto those positive thoughts, they’re 

[00:04:04] Zach White: just gonna slip away, man.

[00:04:06] That’s true. I like that. it’s a sad thing. I wish that weren’t true.

[00:04:14] Yeah. But, uh, I will say this the more you practice. The more sticky they become , you know, it starts to really hang on. But at the beginning, man, you couldn’t be more right. It’s it is totally tough long. It slides right off you. So, so, uh, kudos again to Shaw and everybody go celebrate a win today, whatever that looks like.

[00:04:30] So our first question comes from Matt and Matt’s a senior engineering aerospace, and here’s his question. I know I’m underpaid for my level in industry, but how should I be asking for a raise? When I bring it up to my boss, he keeps telling me that he’s working on it.

[00:04:49] Daniel Powell: This is the same thing he’s been saying for the last 12 months. And nothing’s happening. How should I handle the situation? 

[00:04:57] Zach White: There must be a dozen versions of this song and dance. And Matt, appreciate you asking. And it’s a really important question, you know, could be raises, could be promotions, could be, you know, special projects.

[00:05:11] I hear it all the time. Daniel, I’m asking my boss for X, Y, Z. and I’m getting the run around, like the constant brick wall. I’m just a very simple response. Like, oh yeah, it’s in the works. Or, you know, check’s in the mail and nothing’s ever happening. So this is a tough one. first thing I wanna quickly ask, something for Matt to go back to and for the engineer listening.

[00:05:34] Now, I just want you to get curious about the assumption that’s being made in this question that you’re under. and I’ll answer this, assuming that that is true, but it’s always important. Just a question. Where did you come to that conclusion? you’ve got tools out there like Glassdoor and places.

[00:05:52] You can go study salaries in your industry, but have you factored in your location? Have you factored in, the things related to your specific company? What if you’re the highest paid engineer on your team, Matt, and you just don’t realize that. And so be careful about making a bold assumption and.

[00:06:08] Taking all your actions based off of that when you might be wrong, because it could absolutely change the way you approach it. So coming into this with a bit of humility, that sometimes we make assumptions that we could be wrong, but, but I’ll go with it, Matt, that you’re underpaid. And frankly, it doesn’t matter, even if you’re fairly paid, but you want to get a raise, which looking at what’s happening in the world with inflation, stepping into a recessionary period, there’s a lot of people asking, you how do I get more gas, money with everything happening in prices these days?

[00:06:37] The first thing I’ll share. I hope it’s not, an aha or rocket science to people, but frankly, nobody cares about you wanting a raise, but you Matt, it’s not their most important thing. really at the end of the day, it’s not about what you want. It really isn’t it’s about what the company wants and needs.

[00:07:02] So if, if you’re gonna go in there, make a big ask for a raise or even a small ask for a small raise. If you’re gonna ask for more, the whole conversation needs to be framed in the context of what’s in it for the company. Why should the company give you that raise, right? That that’s the whole dialogue. It doesn’t matter if Matt wants a raise, frankly, I don’t care.

[00:07:23] Your boss doesn’t care. The CEO doesn’t care. Like, guess what? Your boss probably wants a raise too. And odds are, he’s not getting it. like, it doesn’t really matter what you want. It’s about what the company wants. So we always frame these conversations about promotion raises special opportunities around what the company wants.

[00:07:43] And so, okay. How, how do we do that? What does the actual conversation look like? and for me, this comes in, phases, it comes in phases. If it’s the first time you’ve ever asked or breached the subject. And I know Matt you’ve made it sound like you’ve been asking for a while, but I want to go through this for everybody just to make sure you’re clear.

[00:08:03] How might you approach this? If you could start over or the next time you’re gonna do this? So the very first conversation for me, Daniel is always. I wanna introduce the idea of me getting a race and get curious with my leader about what it’s going to take to make that. So Daniel, you know, we will role play here.

[00:08:24] You can be my boss to say, Hey, Daniel, we appreciate the time today. I know we’ve had a lot of topics to cover on projects, but I wanted to have a quick career discussion with you. and honestly, I feel like I’m at a point in my career now where I’ve really added a lot of value to the team. I’ve sharpened a lot of skills in the last two years as I’ve been with the company.

[00:08:41] And I feel like the value that I’m contributing on these projects. Really at a level above where my compensation is at, you know, versus where I started two years ago. And so I’d like to ask you, what’s it gonna take for me to show you and the company that I’m ready for a promotion or a compensation increase based on that value that I’m creating.

[00:09:05] So I’m just opening the door. To this idea. I’m not directly asking for it yet. I’m not coming in here with my ego punching you in the face saying like, I deserve this. I’m just opening it up. We’re gonna have a conversation together. Like we’re on the same side of the table going after this common problem of how I feel in the situation.

[00:09:28] And I use that word feel intentionally Dana, cuz at the end of the day, like this isn’t about what’s right or wrong. What is true or false? It’s just about. This is my values. This is how I feel about the situation. I mean, does that kind of vibe, how did that resonate for you, Dana? Like just being on the receiving end of that, what do you think 

[00:09:45] Daniel Powell: I don’t know how I’d respond to that. Right. outta context, but I just felt a spirit of curiosity for me. Yes. it wasn’t what a Z want. It wasn’t a demand. It was, this is where I would like to. I wanna provide value to get there. How do we bridge that gap? Totally. You know, it’s felt like a spirit of collaboration rather than, combat, 

[00:10:08] Zach White: you know?

[00:10:08] Exactly. And I love that. You said I’m not sure how I would respond because the truth is most engineering managers and directors and VPs also don’t know how they would respond and that’s okay. And that’s why it’s a, yeah, it’s a curiosity driven energy Matt, frankly, your. he doesn’t have a one click easy button to just give you a raise and it’s over, you know, this is gonna require some effort.

[00:10:31] And so we wanna be open to that reality that the first conversation’s probably not going to come to a clear conclusion, but now we’ve opened the door to it. Here’s the second piece about all of these conversations. That’s really important. We get lost in the. So when we’re talking about a promotion, we’re talking about a raise, we’re talking about something that we want in our career.

[00:10:53] We leave the conversation with our leader in the general, what’s it gonna take for me to get this raise? Or I want a raise. How, do we make this happen? And your boss will come back with a general response. Like, Hey, well, you know, we need you to really step up your leadership here or there, or, you know, if you deliver well on this next project, then we can talk about it or.

[00:11:14] You know, Hey, you’re doing great. Let me go check, with HR and just kind of figure that out,and, you know, budgets are tight right now and I’ll get back to you, right? This is that, general sort of like, Hey, we talked about an idea in the general sense, but we didn’t actually get to any specific next steps or actions.

[00:11:32] And so your responsibility Matt is to make sure that every time you have a conversation with your leader, that you’re not settling. For a generic non-committal type of response that you’re continuing to drill down to the specific next step. so what does that look like? Hey boss, you know, Daniel, I really appreciate that.

[00:11:54] You’re gonna go look at that. I would love to hear that feedback. So when can we reconnect next and talk about the feedback that you’ve gotten from HR? so I’m holding you to a commitment here. I’m like, all right, Daniel, if you’re my boss and you’re gonna go get some info about this, I wanna know when we can talk about what you learn.

[00:12:14] I wanna hold a, have a commitment there, or you might say, well, you know, we really need to see you contribute at a higher level in order to justify any kind of raise Zach. Okay, well, boss. Yeah, I appreciate that. So can you help me understand? Will that look like, how will we know that I’m contributing at that higher level?

[00:12:35] when can we talk about some specific, measurable outcomes that I need to focus on in order to get there? And you’ll notice I’m starting again with, when can we talk about it because Daniel’s not prepared today to give me that answer, right? He didn’t come into work this morning with how is Zach gonna get a raise already in.

[00:12:53] Zach White: Plan. so that early conversation is just about getting commitments, moving the ball forward, but be specific, right? Get into the specifics. Now I mentioned there’s phases. Phase one is this curiosity phase, but Daniel, we always wanna land on a, clear understanding between the two of us on what has to happen.

[00:13:13] Right. And if I keep getting that runaround, I’m gonna keep push. Hey boss, what’s it gonna take? How are we gonna get there? 

[00:13:19] let me tell you something else that I felt about phase one, with your example of your ask, I think the reason that I felt nervous about you asking me in this hypothetical, right, is because I felt the inability to give you that pat answer of, oh, you.

[00:13:39] Daniel Powell: Let me talk to HR. Right. And then just throw it outta your mind. I felt like, oh man, Zach’s laying it all out there. He’s passionate about what he does. we need to have a conversation about this, this demands a conversation. This doesn’t just demand a simple answer, Cause if you’re gonna take care of your employees, that needs to have a, uh, and 

[00:13:58] Zach White: odds are you are ready for that conversation today, right? It’s like kind of catches you off guard a hundred percent, a hundred percent. Okay. You said 

[00:14:05] Daniel Powell: there’s a few steps to it. Step two. 

[00:14:08] Zach White: so after we open up the topic, we get curious, we present our why that we wanna go after this.

[00:14:15] And we’ve presented our openness to the fact that we wanna understand, what’s it gonna take for this to happen? All right. And I’m looking for a response from you. I want to get clarity. so we’re in phase one until you and I have mutual agreement of what those things are gonna be. And I’ll just add in one little more asterisk here.

[00:14:32] That time is not a good. All right. If your boss says, Hey, you just need six more months in the role. Great. But go deeper and say, I really appreciate that that six months. So can we talk about what it is that needs to be happening during those six months? That makes sure that this is the outcome, right?

[00:14:52] Cuz time is, is nothing. Time is a proxy for activities that happen during time. So just be careful about getting the runaround with time. Phase two is where we switch from asking about the gap and we start demonstrating how we have delivered everything asked for. So Daniel, you and I get back together for our one on.

[00:15:15] I say, Hey, boss, I wanna revisit that career development discussion and the raise that I wanna see happen here in my career, we talked about a, B and C as being the key things that I need to demonstrate in order to make that happen. And I. After delivery of a feel extremely, good about having leveled up in my leadership, my skills, my capability, the value that we created for the company.

[00:15:39] And if anything, I think we’ve over delivered on what you ask for here. And I just wanted to ask you, is there anything else that you see. That is misaligned with our expectation on a so I’m no longer asking about the gap I’m demonstrating to you that I’ve closed all the gaps. and what I’m looking for is you to acknowledge and agree. Yeah. Is that great job on a you’re crushing it on B and yeah, you’re almost there on sea. Like, you know, it may be one more thing here, but we wanna get to that common understanding. That I’ve, knocked all these things outta the park, because once you acknowledge as my leader that I am at or above the level of all the things that we agreed need to happen, suddenly you’re without excuse to go to bat for me to make this raise happen, 

[00:16:25] That principle of consistency kick sent. and where a lot of, individual contributors or even managers, directors go wrong in these conversations is you keep coming back to your boss and saying, what else do I have to do to get a raise? What else do I have to do to get promoted? What else do I need to be doing to be a top performer?

[00:16:44] What else? What else? What else? Well, guess what, the questions you ask, you know, if you’ve listened to this podcast, you know, questions, lead answers, follow. well, that question is gonna trigger your boss to come up with more answers. And if I keep focusing Daniel on all of my gaps, or when I keep asking him, what else, what else, what else he’s gonna keep coming up with more answers.

[00:17:08] like, there’s always another answer. So, so we wanna quit asking about what else and phase two is just about, Hey, we already agreed. This is it. Mm-hmm check, check, check, check. Right. and a lot of times that’s all that, that it takes phase two, it ends up happening, right? Because when you’ve demonstrated the results, you know, your boss is gonna feel that reciprocity or that consistency principle of influence kicking in where it’s like, well, you know, now this is what I need to do.

[00:17:36] I need to go help this person get the race. Yeah. Phase three is you hope you don’t get there. But phase three is, you know, this is truly important for you. need to get this raised, but it’s for personal reasons for families, it’s just your own values. You know, if you’re not making progress in your career, you wanna move on or do something else because you’re hungry for that result.

[00:17:56] It doesn’t matter why, but if you’re there and it’s not happening, phase three it’s the relentless pursuit. Of the outcome. And this is where we, we level up in how bold we make this ask and we say, Hey, you know, Daniel, listen, you know, we talked about this, we agreed that a, B and C is what needs to happen.

[00:18:13] And I’ve already over delivered on a, B and C. I need to understand what’s really happening as to why this raise isn’t getting done. you may hear the excuses. Hey, my hands are tied. the budget is, is frozen hiring freeze. Okay, well, Daniel, if it’s out of your power to make this happen, who do I need to talk to, to understand what it’s gonna take?

[00:18:38] this is a tough place to be, right? You’re basically saying to your boss, look, if you’re powerless, I’m not gonna accept that as the barrier to the growth that I really feel. is absolutely merited based on the value I’m creating. And so who needs to get involved right now? Again, these are choices.

[00:18:56] Zach White: You’ve gotta make Matt based on how important this really is to you in the full context of your vision and values, but just in terms of how I coach people through this, if you’ve already had that shared. Curious conversation. You’ve got a commitment for them on what it’s gonna take, and you’ve delivered that value and you’re delivering those results day in and day out.

[00:19:16] Then if it’s still not happening and you want to go push and make it happen, the courage to have those hard conversations is where you gotta go. that’s my suggestion for you, Matt. I hope, uh, I hope it helps, but most important thing, I’d say just hearing the question, being in that 12 month runaround, I’m getting the same answer from my boss every time.

[00:19:36] We gotta approach this with a whole new lens and say, Hey boss, I know you’re working on it, but what’s the next step. When can we talk about exactly what needs to happen here and really pushing for a specific commitment. 

[00:19:50] Daniel Powell: I got chills when you’re talking about phase three, Zach, I’m like, whew, that’s some space to grow right there.

[00:19:57] Like if that happens, whether you get the raise or not, you’re gonna. You’re gonna test yourself. So it’s like, there’s some opportunity 

[00:20:05] Zach White: there. , it’s a courageous conversation. I’m pushing the uncomfortable situation. Yeah, it really is. It’s gonna take you outta your comfort zone. It’s a courageous conversation, but listen, if you’ve been in integrity the whole time, and you’ve really been honoring your leader and, and going through this and you’re truly adding the value to the organization, then you have a great place to stand on.

[00:20:25] to go have that conversation and ask, and frankly, a lot of times, Daniel, it only takes one of those as soon as you say to your leader. Well, listen, if, you’re powerless to make this happen, I understand that. And I respect that, but I’m not willing to accept that as the final answer, who do I need to talk to?

[00:20:41] Zach White: And with your permission, I’d like to go talk to them about this. A lot of times that is all it takes for them to kick into gear and say, well, hold on. I don’t wanna send you to someone else. let me go handle it. And now they’ll go have the courageous conversation that they have not been having with HR or the VP or whatever about you as a talent.

[00:21:02] Oftentimes, it has a much more positive outcome than people think you’re afraid that it’s gonna ruin the relationship, but I can tell you, 99% of the time, these conversations actually strengthen the relationship between you and your boss and you and the company, because you’re, you’re being very.

[00:21:19] Zach White: courageous, but in full integrity. Yeah. Right. It’s not like you’re being an, asshole. , that’s not what this is about. It’s not you coming in guns blazing, it’s you taking a stand and people respond to that leadership. There’s 

[00:21:32] Daniel Powell: one more thing we need to address in this question, Zach. And that’s, that’s the frustration, asking for a raise for.

[00:21:40] Months. I would be totally frustrated at that point, from my personal experience, situations like this among others in life, that’s a tough spot to be, especially when It’s easy to get together with friends and complain. I’ve never really gotten any good value on actually getting a raise from a friend, right.

[00:22:04] I’m underpaid, you know, like too, too much time and not enough money, right? So you need a mentor a coach, a counselor, somebody where he can really offload. That frustration about, about feeling underpaid, About feeling underpaid, not about being underpaid, right? Mm-hmm yeah. About feeling underpaid.

[00:22:23] Cause if you don’t do that, There’s so much baggage that you bring in. You’re not even having a negotiation. Right. You’re trying to get clear by talking to your boss. Mm-hmm that’s work that needs to happen. Before that conversation so that it is truly a different person who is negotiating for that raise.

[00:22:43] Yeah. Instead of asking for validation, 

[00:22:45] I agree with you a thousand percent. If you step into the room for that conversation with your boss, from an energy of frustration, you’re not gonna make the progress you wanna make in the result. But what I will say to Matt, just outta love, brother, , you’re actually not frustrated enough.

[00:23:04] Zach White: If for 12 months you’ve been getting the runaround and you still haven’t taken different action to actually go do something about it. so sometimes we get. In a comfort zone of frustration, which sounds weird, Daniel, but it’s, it feels good to go vent to our friends and have something to be angry about and feel justified and vindicated in our unfair life in existence.

[00:23:26] and as long as you have a good, thing to be angry about, over a beer after work on Friday afternoon, then all is well. Yeah, gosh, sometimes I wish people would just get a little bit more angry so that they would actually step outta that place and do something. Take action. Now, to your point, you don’t wanna take the action with your boss from a place of anger.

[00:23:47] Zach White: But sometimes you gotta push people to that point of total dissatisfaction to get them jostled out of that comfort zone and actually do something. So, Matt, we love you. I hope that doesn’t, uh, push you over the edge here, man. But I just want you to know, sometimes we sit in discomfort thinking my life is so miserable, but in reality, that is your comfort zone.

[00:24:08] So it’s time to get outta that. 

[00:24:09] Daniel Powell: Hey, Zach, I know the, the magic that you work when people are in frustrating situations. I know how you help people get unstuck. what just reinforce for me, your offer for engineers. You do like a, what? A 60 minute intro coaching calling. 

[00:24:25] Zach White: I think that’s like podcast.

[00:24:26] If somebody. Especially, if you feel stuck or you got 12 months of beating your head against the wall, you know, let’s chat about it. what we do is a, a quick 15 minute clarity call where we’re gonna understand really what’s going on and make sure we’re aiming at the right challenges and, understand where you want to go.

[00:24:40] And then my team will get you set up on my calendar. I’ll give you a 75 minute coaching session free. Where we will unpack everything going on and really lay out those initial steps of the roadmap on how you can break free from that situation and, and get the results you want, whether that’s a raise promotion, new company, new industry, or maybe just to be happy again, reignite your passion.

[00:25:03] So yeah, highly recommend anybody listening. Take advantage of that. If you feel like Matt in any context. 

[00:25:09] Daniel Powell: That is valuable space. 

[00:25:11] Zach White: let’s step into that. And link link is in the show notes, career clarity, Just click it, grab a time and, uh, we’ll make it happen. 

[00:25:20] Daniel Powell: All right. I’m not trying to promote you.

[00:25:21] I just believe in you, Zach, I believe in your ability to help. So all right. Next question is from Kylie is a technical project manager and full stack developer. And here’s her question. I work in a small company. And I love my work, but I feel a lot of pressure from the founding team members to put in a lot of hours.

[00:25:45] It was fun at first, but now I feel out of balance with my ideal lifestyle and I feel I’m headed towards burnout. What’s the best way to restore my work life balance without hurting my reputation or opportunities on this team. 

[00:26:01] Zach White: Hmm. You said the name was Kylie, is that right? Yeah. Kylie huge acknowledgement to you.

[00:26:09] For noticing that you’re headed towards burnout before you get there. I can’t tell you how many times, my heart is broken when people get on the phone with me and they’re already in that rock bottom place of burnout, depression, and despair. So kudos to you for reaching out now and asking the question.

[00:26:30] And Danny, I don’t know if you can relate to this, but man, I resonate with the question because when you show up. In any context of life, a certain way. And then you realize that that’s not working anymore and you need to change it, but you’re gonna be hanging with the same people and doing the same things.

[00:26:49] I think about one of my buddies, Craig, and he made a decision in his life that he wanted to stop swearing. And he used to swear like a sailor. every sentence had an F bomber two in there and he, he just kind of got called out on it and he wanted to make that change and suddenly. He was gonna stop swearing, but everybody knew Craig as the guy who swears all the time.

[00:27:08] Zach White: And when he stopped doing it in front of all his buddies, they were like, dude, what’s up? What happened? Like suddenly, you know, I’m swearing and you’re not. And the holier than th questions started popping it. Like, that’s just an example. But anytime you wanna show up in a context as a different person, that is tough because that consistency in our identity pulls us towards.

[00:27:31] Staying the same. And so Kylie, if you’ve been putting in long hours, these 60, 70, 80 hour weeks with that startup culture, and you’ve been doing that for a while, and everybody expects you to do that because that’s the way it’s been. I really get it. Why that is not only hard, but it’s, it can be terrifying.

[00:27:49] Like what if they reject me? They, they don’t respect me. They, believe that I don’t care about the company anymore. And I get fired and our mind will play a lot of tricks on us for all the negative outcomes. again, kudos to you for asking the question. And I just, I wanna acknowledge you that this is really, really hard to change how we show up in a familiar place and be a different person.

[00:28:13] let’s talk about that word reputation and Daniel, can you read the question again because I heard the word reputation used. In the question. Can you say it again? 

[00:28:21] Daniel Powell: I’ll read that last part.

[00:28:23] What’s the best way to restore my work life balance without hurting my reputation or my opportunities on this team? Yeah. 

[00:28:32] Zach White: What is reputation? I love a simple definition of formula for reputation from an amazing leader named Rory Vaden and Rory talks about reputation equals results. Times reach reputation equals results multiplied by your reach.

[00:28:56] We can talk about what that means here in a second, but I just want you to notice Kylie right away that reputation has nothing to do with how many hours you’re at the office. Okay. Nothing, no correlation. Now it takes time hours to deliver results. Results are a part of the formula. So let’s start there.

[00:29:21] The first thing that you wanna focus on in making this shift is get really clear on which results are the ones that matter in your role and on this team, in this company. Because what you don’t wanna do is accidentally by cutting your hours and setting a boundary. That’s gonna keep you in balance and keep you healthy and keep you energized and engaged, do something by cutting the wrong work out of your schedule.

[00:29:54] You know, you’re doing something in all those hours. What is it? Well, before we start removing things, which is what needs to happen. Let’s get clear on exactly which results are the important ones. And I’ll remind you of the 80 20 rule Kylie. There are 20% of the things you’re doing. That’s driving 80% of the value, get clear, which ones is it?

[00:30:15] Which results matter. Okay. We need to know that so that you can prioritize the 40 hours that you are going to work. Maybe it’s 50, whatever the number is for you. So that’s step one. Let’s get clear on the results because as we make this shift, if you wanna keep your reputation intact, we need to keep our results intact.

[00:30:37] Now, if anybody’s listening to this and their first thought is, well, if I was working 80 hours and now I’m gonna work 40, there’s no way I can deliver the same amount of results. And I just wanna challenge that mindset right out of the gate. And I’ll tell you, it is absolutely possible. I’ve seen it time and time again, because when you work 80 hours, a lot of those hours are UN product.

[00:31:01] And a lot of those results that you’re delivering are not actually the ones that the company cares about the most. And don’t matter for your reputation or could be delegated or could be procrastinated on purpose. And if you get serious about a 40 hour week where every hour is at your peak energy and best work, I’ve seen engineering leaders deliver more value in 40 hours than they did in 80 before.

[00:31:27] I don’t know your situation. Everybody has an excuse and a reason that they’re unique and different, but I just wanna challenge the assumption that you can’t do it. Okay. It can be done. I’ve seen it done. So Kylie number one is results. Let’s get clear. Number two, look at that reputation formula. It’s reach.

[00:31:44] Reach means, who knows about the results. And it really does lend itself to what I think is crucial in boundary setting, communication, communication, communication, communication. We’ve gotta let people know what it is that needs to change, how we’re gonna change it, what that new boundary is, and just be abundantly clear.

[00:32:06] So I’m going to my leader. And I’m communicating, Hey boss, Daniel’s been my boss this whole episode. So you can keep being my boss, Daniel Daniel. Hey, I wanna let you know, I’ve been having a really hard time in my personal life with the long hours. I feel like I’m getting burned out and I really don’t want to get to that place because I know that I’ll be of no use to the team if I hit a rock bottom here.

[00:32:29] And so in order to take care of myself, I need to set some tighter boundaries around when I get outta the office. And so starting this week on, Thursday and Friday, I’m gonna cut out at five o’clock and I just wanna let you know, this is really important for me, so that I can be at my best.

[00:32:46] And I’m gonna decline any meeting invites after five on Thursday and Friday. And I just wanna let you know, that’s my plan. And I wanted to ask you if you have any questions or concerns about that, and if you’re willing to support me on this, cuz I, I wanna be a team player. I want you to know, I wanna see the company succeed.

[00:33:02] I just feel like this is something that I really need to do to stay healthy and stay engaged.

[00:33:07] Daniel Powell: That’s heavy.

[00:33:12] you know what happens there, Zach? There’s this concern about, hurting, your reputation, that’s changing your reputation, right? That’s changing your reputation from somebody who’s going to be, slave to 60, 80 hour weeks to somebody who’s. Gonna have a work life balanced for a season. It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but Daniel, here’s what I’ve actually found. Even in those startup cultures where people work long hours, et cetera, it’s really common that lots of people are.

[00:33:46] Zach White: Suffering in a trend toward burnout and are not talking about it. And when you are the first person who comes in and says, Hey, I love this work. I love this team. I wanna be a contributing member of seeing this whole thing succeed, but I’m not well at this pace. And I need to get outta here and take care of myself.

[00:34:10] You know, I can’t do this. All the. I’ve seen it time and time again, where, when you’re the person who goes first, you’re the tip of the spear on that. A lot of times other people actually respect you and see you go higher in reputation. Like your reputation grows within the company as a person who was willing to be honest, tell the truth and take a stand.

[00:34:33] and I’ve seen a lot of instances where somebody will. As a boss, like, Hey, I totally get that. Your health and energy is a priority for us that’s aligned with our values, take the time you need and we’ll make it work. and it’s not a problem at all. Okay. Here’s the other thing let’s say it doesn’t go that way.

[00:34:52] Zach White: Daniel, let’s say Kylie goes and has this conversation and her boss’s response is Kylie. That’s not gonna. If you wanna be on this team, the only way you can do that is if you put in 80 hours, like if we’re here, you are here. And if that doesn’t work for you, then you’re in the wrong place. 

[00:35:06] Daniel Powell: I wanna rewind and, and revisit one thing.

[00:35:09] Sure. Go ahead. Real quick. So I would have to rewind and hear exactly how you said that, but something that you’ve told me frequently, Is to lead with gratitude. Yeah. And I think that applies here strongly, For sure. I felt like your response as the boss. I felt like your response teetered, right? On a little bit of gratitude, but a lot more self priority. And I feel like the most important thing to lead that conversation with is gratitude. Say, I love this work in authenticity. See, I want to absolutely bring my full self to this work and.

[00:35:44] I need to take care of myself too, though. And right now I’m 

[00:35:46] Zach White: not doing that. It’s it goes back to what we talked about with Matt earlier. Like we’re still framing this in the context of what’s in it for the company, you would think like what’s in it for the company for Kylie to work less. Well, guess what if in six months Kylie’s gonna be so burned out that she quits.

[00:36:02] It is absolutely in the company’s best interest for her to work less and stay a high value, high contributing member of this. so it’s still in the company’s interest when you frame it that way. And I love what you said. Yeah. Leading with that gratitude, just St. Boss. I really do wanna be on this team.

[00:36:17] I love this. I wanna be a high value, high contributing member. I love my job. This is great. This is, what’s not working for me. And I wanna make this change. now back to the everybody’s biggest fear, it doesn’t actually happen very often at all. I don’t have any clients.

[00:36:34] Who have had this hard conversation about long hours and been told, sorry about you. This is the only way I’ve never had that happen, but I’ve heard stories. I’ve heard rumors that it does happen. So let’s, let’s just play that out for a moment. Kylie goes to her boss and gets the response that we’re all afraid we’re gonna get.

[00:36:52] Hey. Suck it up buttercup. this is an 80 hour a week team. This is a startup. This is a, you know, series a venture backed like you’re either here, fall in or get out. Okay. That is a win to have that conversation come into the light because what was an unspoken, unclear values system of the company that was not working for Kylie.

[00:37:17] Now it’s a clear. Simple boundary that you can make a decision. Kylie now knows I have a simple choice to make what’s gonna work for me. Am I gonna stay on this team and put in the time, or is this misaligned with my values? And it’s time to start looking for a new role. That is a huge win versus that being unclear and just suffering in silence that whole time are constantly trying to manage something that is a misalignment of values between you and the company.

[00:37:48] and if those things are misaligned, frankly, in my mind, you’re in the wrong place. get outta there if you wanna work 40 hours, and this is an 80 hour culture and that’s the only option in this culture, then you’re in the wrong place. So having the courage to have the conversation in my book, only results in a win every time it either gives you the clarity to make the hard decision or you get what you need to make this a great situation, win, win.

[00:38:17] it’s not comfortable. It takes courage. But Kylie go have the chat and here’s the last piece. Then one boundary at a time incremental changes. A lot of times we get way outta balance. You know, we’re doing 80 hour weeks consistently. We’re burning out. It’s really bad. And what we wanna go ask for is a massive shift.

[00:38:38] I wanna go back to 40 hours. I wanna stop doing any late night stuff. I’m never gonna check my email after 5:00 PM. Like we wanna change the whole thing in one bite. It’s just like what? Going on a vacation. Oh, I need to go on vacation. I, I need to unplug for a week, but then you come back from vacation and nothing’s changed.

[00:38:56] one boundary at a time so that you can start ratcheting towards what is gonna be the ultimate balance for you. if you go change everything at once, your team and the systems around you and what’s been working, it’s pretty disruptive. And honestly, Kylie, it’s not just for your teammates.

[00:39:12] Zach White: It’s also for your. And the whole question about results. you don’t wanna change too much at once because we need to reach a new equilibrium, understand. Okay. This is working. Okay. Now here’s the next boundary. I would like to draw, establish that. Okay. This is working. Okay. and move yourself back one step at a time.

[00:39:31] Um, I think where we can tend to go wrong in any new habit building or any new boundary setting in our life is we, bite off way more than we can chew in one big, step. I’m a big believer in to be fair to the company and not be too disruptive in that whole thing. Let’s just start with one piece at a time and eventually we’ll, find the place.

[00:39:52] That’s a good rhythm aligned with your values and the boundaries you need.

[00:39:56] That’s all I got. That’s great, Zach I mean, I’m just gonna leave it right there. you rocked my world with the last response. If you ask and you get the worst case scenario. Well now, you know, and that’s valuable data. 

[00:40:07] exactly. That’s good. Exactly. the courage. To take something unspoken and make it spoken is a quality of all successful leaders.

[00:40:17] Every engineering leader, listening needs to pay attention to this. We know from our engineering studies, six Sigma lean, everything you’ve gone through in your career and in school that what cannot be measured cannot be managed. So, so if we don’t have a measurement system. In place in our engineering systems and in our products and in manufacturing, if we can’t measure it, we can’t manage it.

[00:40:45] We need to have a measurement system to manage things. Okay. The corollary is not necessarily true, just because it’s measured, does not necessarily mean that it’s managed you can measure a lot of things and not manage it, but for sure, if it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed well. Here’s the social and emotional intelligence equivalent of.

[00:41:03] What can’t be mentioned, can’t be managed. If there are unspeakable, unmentionable, taboo topics or things, you don’t have the courage to bring up with your boss or with your peers or with your direct reports. If you don’t have the courage to say it, if it can’t be mentioned, then it can’t be managed. And so if you have a problem, With the people that you work with, which by the way everybody does we all have this.

[00:41:33] Okay. People problems are all of your problems at work, but if you can’t mention it, you can’t manage it. So having the courage to mention those things, you know, bring it up, have the courageous conversation. It’s huge. it’s not optional. I will tell you it is mandatory to be a great leader, to be willing, to have the hard convers.

[00:41:53] Daniel Powell: Excellent. All right. Well now is a great time to call for more 

[00:42:00] Zach White: questions. No doubt. I love doing this questions. And if you have anything, you, the engineering leader listening right now, I’m talking to you, not for Daniel. Daniel’s got too many questions. I’m not gonna answer his questions.

[00:42:12] We wanna address any gap, any barrier, anything going on for you? Submit those questions and a great way to do it is to jump into the happy engineer community, our private Facebook group. That’s totally free. Jump in there. You can engage and ask questions or. Just email it to me directly. I’ve got an email address.

[00:42:32] I’m happy to share it at Zach Oasis,, Z a C H Oasis, and just share what’s going on. Shoot us your questions. And I just thank you again to everybody who submitted. And for those who we didn’t pick for this round, don’t worry you’re in the queue. Uh, we’ll get you, into these and start doing ’em more often as well.

[00:42:50] Yeah, send us your questions. I’m gonna 

[00:42:52] Daniel Powell: make a plug here, Zach, if anybody sends in their question in the form of a voice memo, an audio recording, I’ll prioritize those as the editor, so, Ooh, there you go. If you want, if you want an insured response there, if you wanna move to the top of the list, send an audio 

[00:43:11] Zach White: recording.

[00:43:12] Yeah, that’d be perfect. We can feature your beautiful. In, uh, in our episode, that’s a great idea. So, yep. You’ve heard it from Daniel. He is the boss. So if you want to go first, next time, shoot us an audio memo and, Daniel, thanks for being here, man. This is super fun.