You work as an engineer (or some other employee) for Westin & Smith, a design and manufacturing company specializing in highway-construction equipment. You are a new employee and pleased you found work that pays relatively well.
You have mixed feelings about the email you just read. It’s from President Smith himself, and it asks if you will lead the company’s effort to partner with Habitat for Humanity. Specifically, he wants you to create a program in which employees will devote certain weekends throughout the coming year to building a complete Habitat house, which the company will then feature proudly on its Web site. Mr. Smith knows that you were instrumental in launching the company’s employee volunteer program, and he cites several other examples of leadership that you have shown. He believes you’re the perfect person to organize this important project. He promises all the financial and managerial support you will need.
His praise makes you feel great. But it also makes you feel even worse that you have to say no. As the proud dad of a seven-week-old girl, you have been stretched thin. You and your wife, who runs her own accounting services firm, have been getting up two and three times a night to tend the baby, who is not a good sleeper. Both of you are exhausted—and there’s no way your wife will support your taking on additional responsibility that will involve countless meetings, extra hours at the computer, and even weekends away from home. Your boss’s recognition and request couldn’t have come at a worse time.