Company President Urges People to Stop Apologizing for 'Having Lives'

Ian Sohn's viral essay was written from the point of view of a hard-working single dad of three, who knows too well how important a private life outside of work is

Jun 22, 2019

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Striking a healthy work-life balance is a constant challenge in today’s hyper-connected world. Generally speaking, most workplaces (especially corporate) are not exceptionally compassionate, flexible, and sensitive to the personal needs of employees, especially parents and single parents.

However, president of digital agency Wunderman Chicago, Ian Sohn, has decided that as a boss and a single parent he refuses to replicate the unhealthy “infantilizing” behavior that has become mainstream.

In an open letter to his employees that he shared on LinkedIn, Sohn writes that he does not need to know how every employee micro-manages his or her own life. And that the tendency of bosses to make their employees feel guilty for having a personal life is unfound.

"I never need to know you’ll be back online after dinner,” he writes.

“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."

He ends the letter with a personal anecdote about being made feel bad for refusing to fly on short notice because he had to be with his kids.

“I never want you to feel horrible for being a human being."

Within a week, the post received over 800 comments from workers and parents who were grateful that he expressed what they have been feeling for so long.

Sohn’s letter encourages bosses to be more trusting and understanding of employees - not to pry into unnecessary details, and to remember that everyone is entitled to a healthy personal life.

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.