You might be thinking a different choice would have led you to being happier and healthier, a less irritable friend and relative. If so, you’re probably experiencing entrepreneurial regret – the sense that irrespective of whether your business is performing well, there’s a better life you could have been living.
For many of us, entrepreneurial regret can frequently stem from unmet expectations. We’re surprised to discover that starting our own firm attracts “long hours, a heavy workload, financial risk, irregular income and challenges in balancing work and family”. Even when things are going well.
That last passage is borrowed from a fresh study published in the Journal of Business Research, led by Associate Professor Dan Hsu. He and his team were intrigued by prior research which revealed entrepreneurs experience a range of consequences in far greater numbers when compared to salaried employees. These consequences include heightened job stress, health problems and burnout.
The scholars therefore analysed more than 500 business owners and found approximately 49 per cent experienced entrepreneurial regret even though a majority were satisfied with how their businesses were performing. As a result, they were significantly more likely to get out of self-employment and to have a poorer standard of health.
Making a decision, however, to exit a business is different when men are compared to women.
Among men, it was bachelors who were found to experience the greatest entrepreneurial regret and to subsequently give up being in business. The research indicates that’s because they don’t have a spouse who could be a “form of unpaid labour” and to provide the “emotional support outside the business” they desperately need. So, basically, if only they had a wife, business wouldn’t be so bad.
Among women, it wasn’t those who were single that experienced high levels of entrepreneurial regret but those who were married. That’s because “business ownership is perceived as a masculine career, requiring traits such as independence, aggressiveness, risk-taking, autonomy, and courage that are frequently associated with men … [and] may be perceived as inconsistent with female gender roles”.
The manifestation of that supposed incongruity is that when times get tough, when the family’s quality of life is impacted, “there may be pressure, especially from a spouse, for the [female] entrepreneur to seek an alternative”. And that alternative is to quit the business and get a job.
The scholars conclude: “It is possible that once a woman’s life circumstances change and she marries and possibly becomes a mother, the challenges of balancing family demands and business demands lead to experienced role conflict and regretful thinking about choosing entrepreneurship as a career.”
If you’re cringeing at that statement, I understand entirely. And I agree with you. The fact that women are compelled to make such a sacrifice is no doubt the greatest entrepreneurial regret of all.
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