Saturday, October 22, 2020

Managing The Work Ethic

The work ethic is a fact of corporate life. It's also a big part of Western culture, especially American culture. It's so highly valued that people believe something obtained through hard work is worth more than the same thing gained easily. Some of the magic of work and effort rubs off. Perhaps this is why there are crazy expectations of how hard it's necessary to work to be thought of as a hard-working person, especially a leader.

The Romans thought every one had a genius — a kind of innate allocation of ability and luck. Some people were blessed with the genius to be great leaders. The proof was simple: it came easily and naturally to them. If you had to struggle for something, that wasn't suitable for your genius. What would they have made of the modern notion that having to nearly kill yourself — and give up most other pleasures in life — is somehow required of anyone aspiring to a leadership position?

A willingness to work hard to get the outcome you want is admirable. But the work ethic, like all other values, can get out of control. When that happens, as it has in our society, it becomes obsessive. Instead of being a means to an end, it becomes an end in itself.

Slow Leadership is about finding ways to manage the work ethic for yourself and the people who work for you. To get it back in proportion. To recognize that sacrificing family time, leisure time and thinking time doesn't prove you're a better person. What kind of working life do you want? One that consumes every waking moment? Or one that's a natural part of a life that also contains fun, relaxation, time to spend with others, and time just to be alone and savor being alive.

Leaders have a special responsibility because what they do sets the standard for others. A workaholic boss usually means everyone in that team has to try to keep up. If the boss arrives at 6.00 am and stays past 8.00 pm, it's hard for others to keep the allocated office hours.

One approach to this problem has been the increase in people simply opting out. They give up corporate roles to start small businesses or work for a non-profit at half their previous pay. For them, it's usually a decision they believe is right. Few, if any, seek a return to corporate existence.

But is this "downsizing" the only way? What if you want to stay in the corporate world and still make a fundamental choice to get in better balance. Is this possible?

I believe it is. This web site is the place to discover how and share experiences with others on the same path.
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Anonymous said...

Actually, this is the kind of leader that I am. It gives me much more job satisfaction, and makes my people willing to work for me much more. Most importantly, it makes work FUN, and something people don't dread every day. (to a point. work is work, after all.)

The problem is, that MY bosses know I'm this way. I'm not a "hard charger" or a "butt kicker". And the perception is, that the adrenaline junkie next to me is doing a better job, because all his people are here until 9pm and constantly exhausted. Quality of work and planning capability seem to be forgotten in the face of the "obvious" - I'm lackadaisical and the other people are committed.

I'd like to see ways of combatting this perception, because, while I'm happy with the way I am, I'd like to get promoted from time to time as well.

1:18 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Hey Anonymous

I'm so glad you shared your experience. There are many folk out there just like you -- great leaders who feel "passed over" in favor of others who rush about and produce more noise than benefits.

Stick with your approach. We're with you all the way. The only way to make organizations and top executives change their ways is for a movement to arise that makes the benefits of choosing the right speed clear.

Over the next weeks and months, this site will, I hope, become a clearing house for the very best in ideas and solutions to winning promotion without becoming an adrenalin junkie.

9:12 AM  
David said...

I agree with you in principle. I think the problem is our culture focuses too much on work hours- the examples you give of the praise and recognition given to working til 8 or 9 at night. If we can learn to value what is actually produced by the effort (production), and not the time taken (work hours), the balance of life will come more naturally.

Unfortunately, so many in management positions seem oblivious to what people actually accomplish in a day, and often don't realize the wasted hours spent at the water cooler, drinking coffee, visiting, etc. that workers engage in often for no other purpose than filling a standard work week. The truth is there is no incentive for a worker to not waste this time when they are obligated to stay at work a predetermined number of hours.

I know the original post is a couple years old, but the idea is definitely something current. Good luck to you with the website.

9:40 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, David.

This is a topic I will be returning to before very long.

Keep reading, my friend.

10:05 PM  

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