THE BLOG

Gave Us a Break!

18/11/2014 16:15 GMT | Updated 18/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Council chief executives and hard-pressed local authority staff should bend it like Raheem and recharge their batteries rather than accept physical and emotional burnout.

Raheem Sterling drives strong emotions at the moment, but maybe he offers some guidance to the rest of us.

For those that don't know, he is a young and talented 19 year old footballer, a rising star for his football team, Liverpool, and a potential saviour for his national team, England, who are still recovering after a dismal performance in the 2014 World Cup.

Just before a recent and important international match for England, he had the bravery or temerity to tell the England manager that he was too tired and exhausted to play his best and so asked not to be played in the match - or at least not from the beginning of it.

'Outrageous', cried many and complaints abounded. Some were about being incredulous that the young were ever tired, mixed with a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders about young people today: 'A 19 year old tired? I used to play 3 games a weekend when I was that age/was down the mines at his age/was fighting in the trenches at 19'. Others focused on the wages of the 'spoiled generation' and the decline of patriotism as they see it: "A footballer, paid a fortune, not prepared to give his all for his country even if not fully ready in a physical and emotional sense. Get over it Raheem!"

But maybe Sterling and his manager, the crumbled and unthreatening Roy Hodgson, came to the right decision in not playing him in the starting line-up (after all, England did, in the end win that game). And maybe we all need breaks a bit more often and a bit more honesty about the fact that we do.

Look at leading politicians. At national level, if you are high up the greasy pole, you are always on duty, always making decisions, always at the beck and call of constituents, MPs, and especially the 24 hour media. Yet sometimes you know you are jaded and only operating at half speed. What you really need is a weeks' break - or longer.

Council leaders may look like they are under a bit less pressure, but being a council leader today means making unpalatable decisions over which services aimed at vulnerable people to cut and which to preserve, all the while trying to keep your political colleagues on board. Chief executives know that their shelf life is often not that long these days, especially if a child protection scandal ever touches down in their patch. So they have to be 100% focused all the time - even though in truth there are times they know they are just not up for it.

What about a social worker, having gone through several tough cases, many of which are emotionally draining whatever the outcome - take the child away from the family or leave it there, knowing there is a risk. Are you going to look at the next case with your attention firmly focused, your energy fully pumping?

But you can't say, as Raheem did, I am not at my very best, I need a break boss.

Of course you get your annual leave and you can use some of that to help recharge your batteries.

And if you are in a very bad way most employers these days would give you time off - although I doubt the electorate would. But we are not talking about the meltdown moments, just the times when you know you need a bit of time away from the job to get yourself really humming and doing your very best.

It's hard to feel that sorry for young Raheem - especially as a non-Liverpool fan. He is already on £30,000 per week, is young and fresh, only has to kick a ball around (not the end of the world if he kicks it less well one day - nobody dies) and his career will probably only be 10-15 years.

But maybe we should thank him for making us all think about where we go next on this agenda.