“It’s All About Finding That Balance”

This article was inspired by a conversation with my team in my last role. It’s not to be taken seriously.

You’re sitting in a meeting. It’s been a long day and you’re not as present as you ought to be. You’re in your own head, thinking about your personal life, or maybe brainstorming solutions to your current task. Someone else in the meeting breaks your immersion:

Boss/Coworker: “Michael? What do you think?”

You weren’t paying attention. What are your options here? You could say, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t really paying attention. Could you repeat that?” (pro-tip: this is what you should say).

But that’s not a great look. Fortunately, there is a phrase that makes sense as a response in business situations almost 100% of the time.

You: “Well, I think it’s all about finding that balance.”

They nod in agreement.

Boss/Coworker: “Good point. Nothing is ever as black and white as we originally think. I do need a ballpark estimate for this feature though. We can go with the worst possible scenario for now. What do you think?”

Ah. So that’s what they asked. They wanted an estimate on a feature. You didn’t give them the best answer, but they seem satisfied. It also encouraged them to elaborate. You combine their elaboration with the context of the meeting, and you can give a proper answer. They have absolutely no idea you weren’t paying attention.

You: “Let’s go with a week for now.”

Boss/Coworker: “Sounds great!”

“It’s all about finding that balance” is the perfect tool for escaping the embarrassment of acknowledging you weren’t really paying attention to a superior or coworker. It’s almost never the best response, but it’s also almost never a nonsensical response. Let’s look at some examples.

Boss/Coworker: “Have you finished feature X?”

You: “It’s all about finding that balance really.”

Boss/Coworker: “What do you mean by that? Is feature X in production? Or at least in code review?”

Ah. There’s the elaboration. Again, combine this with context.

You: “I could submit it for review very soon here. There’s a few functions I haven’t decided whether or not I want to write additional tests for. I’m on the fence about adding a section to the documentation about Y as well. I think it’s pretty straight forward but I did run into one small snag. I’ll submit it for code review before the end of the day.”

Boss/Coworker: “End of the day, got it. Thank you!”

Boss/Coworker: “I’m taking Friday off.”

You: “It’s all about finding that balance.”

Boss/Coworker: “You’re right. Work life balance is definitely a priority. Let’s not all lose sight of what’s in important in life. Well said.”

You: “No problem.”

Boss/Coworker: “Can you stay late tonight to work on feature X?”

You: “Well, there’s a balance here, and we need to find it.”

Boss/Coworker: “You’re right. Odds are you’re not going to be very productive tomorrow if you don’t go home to your family and decompress tonight. It’s a zero sum game at that point. I can push back the deadline by three days. It’s not great, but it’s not the end of the world. Thanks for your insight.”

Thank you very much for reading, and enjoy being the most present employee at your office!

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Michael Faber

Michael Faber

Working in software is one hell of a ride.

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