Harvard Business Review Special Issues Winter 2020

Harvard Business Review OnPoint makes it fast and easy to put HBR’s ideas to work. Handpicked by HBR’s editors to bring readers the most relevant ideas and insight on a single business topic, these collections include full-text articles, summaries of key points, and suggestions for further reading, plus content selected from hbr.org.

United States
Harvard Business School Publishing


beating burnout, especially now

AS THE CORONAVIRUS crisis continues, it’s becoming clear that the extraordinary pressures on our daily lives are not subsiding any time soon. Employees working from home have to confront the lack of a practical boundary between work and personal time. Working parents whose children are now at home must make impossible choices about how to split their days. Those choices are made more confusing by the rapid fluctuation of conditions as some areas reopen and as businesses themselves face existential crises and shortages of staff that call for more of their leaders’ attention, not less. How can you balance so many demands sustainably? Most work/life balance survival tactics come back to the basics, even if the basics look a little different now: Identify your priorities (we’re all a little more clear-eyed now about…

happiness traps: how we sabotage ourselves at work

LIFE IS TOO SHORT to be unhappy at work. Yet many professionals who are free to shape their careers are just that: disengaged, unfulfilled, and miserable. Take “Sharon,” a vice president at a global energy firm and one of my consulting clients. She’s smart and hardworking and has risen through the ranks by following the rules. She makes a lot of money, is married to a man she loves, and is devoted to her children. She had everything she thought she wanted, but she wasn’t happy. Things were tense at home, and work no longer gratified her. She was tired of workplace politics and cynical about the never-ending changes that would supposedly fix whatever was wrong with the company in a given quarter. She resented the long hours she was…

idea in brief

THE CONUNDRUM Why are so many of us who can shape our professional lives unhappy at work? And what can we do about it? THE TRAPS We often fall into destructive mindsets and ways of working that make us unsatisfied and ultimately less successful. Some of the most common of these “happiness traps”—ambition (win at all costs); doing what’s expected rather than what we want; and overwork—seem productive on the surface but are harmful when taken to the extreme. THE PATH FORWARD Finding happiness at work begins with honing your emotional intelligence to grasp which trap has ensnared you. Then you can foster three things that are known to increase professional satisfaction: meaningful work, enduring hope, and workplace friendships.…

breaking free from happiness traps

Three common traps—ambition, “shoulds,” and overwork—keep people from being happy and fulfilled in their careers. Courageously looking at the ones you’ve fallen into is the beginning of taking control. Start by asking yourself these questions: 1. Which happiness traps keep me in my comfort zone or make me feel safe? 2. Which traps keep me from pursuing my dreams for a better job, a great career, or real fulfillment in the job I have now? 3. Which traps do I keep others in? Next choose the happiness trap that most affects you. 1. How does it help or hurt you? 2. How does it affect your relationships? Other people may benefit (or think they do) when we are trapped, or they may be hurt. Who in your life benefits from the trap you’re in? Who is…

manage your work, manage your life

WORK/LIFE BALANCE IS at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth, today’s senior executives will tell you. But by making deliberate choices about which opportunities they’ll pursue and which they’ll decline, rather than simply reacting to emergencies, leaders can and do engage meaningfully with work, family, and community. They’ve discovered through hard experience that prospering in the senior ranks is a matter of carefully combining work and home so as not to lose themselves, their loved ones, or their foothold on success. Those who do this most effectively involve their families in work decisions and activities. They also vigilantly manage their own human capital, endeavoring to give both work and home their due—over a period of years, not weeks or days. That’s how the 21st-century business leaders in…

about the research

Since 2008 more than 600 students in Harvard Business School’s second-year Managing Human Capital course have interviewed 3,850 C-suite executives and leaders (of whom 655 were CEOs, presidents, or board members) at companies and nonprofits around the world. The goal? To gain greater insight into how today’s top leaders make choices in their professional and personal lives. This project has been a true partnership between the students and the executives. Everyone involved wanted to deeply explore what it means for leaders to manage their human capital in the 21st century—and more specifically, in the wake of the recent global recession. The executives were a diverse group (44% female, 56% male) and represented a wide range of industries, including finance, retail, energy, health care, and technology. They came from 51 countries, and 45%…