Does Anyone Care How Hard You Work?

Published by Chris Oestereich on

And too many workplaces still subtly communicate to employees the idea that intense effort, usually in the form of long hours, is the best route to a promotion. In fact, though, if you can do your job brilliantly and still leave at 3 p.m. each day, a really good boss shouldn’t object. And by the same token, you shouldn’t cite all the effort you put in when making your case for a raise. Why should a results-focused boss even care?
Oliver Burkman “Nobody Cares How Hard You Work” – 99u

Maybe (hopefully) I’m one of the unfortunate ones, but I’ve dealt far more with effort-focused bosses, than results-focused ones. Sure, they pay attention to the results around major events, but all too often the day-to-day focus is on effort. I recall a discussion wherein I was told that I couldn’t be required to work more than 40 hours a week, but that 50 was the desired minimum for that group.

[bctt tweet=”What do you think happens to bonuses, promotions & assignments if you don’t donate those extra hours?” via=”no”]

I think the problem here stems from the desire of wanting to get a good deal on the labor dollar, rather than a good return on that investment. So, the goal becomes “work hard,” rather than “work smart.” The company gets what it asks for by having people around for more hours, but do they get what they need? Sarah Green Carmichael addressed this in a recent HBR post which found damning evidence against the practice:

  1. Managers could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to.
  2. Overwork and the resulting stress can lead to all sorts of health problems, including impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory, and heart disease.
  3. Increased costs in the form of absenteeism, turnover, and rising health insurance costs.
  4. Greater difficulty with interpersonal communications, making judgment calls, reading other people’s faces, or managing your own emotional reactions
  5. Burnout leads to a greater tendency to get lost in the weeds.

I’d add one point to this list. In the era when “innovation” is the business buzzword which seemingly cannot be killed, why do we stretch our people so thin as to obviate any opportunity for creative thinking? I think the problem comes from focusing fully on the daily minutiae, instead of keeping one eye on the big picture. When we’re ever looking to squeeze just a little more blood out of the rock to make this quarter’s numbers, the need to invest in the future gets pushed off “for now.” But the longer you play that game, the harder the fall when the music stops.