It's an epidemic. An epidemic SO BIG, the CDC should be called in with their Hazmat suite and an antidote found. What's so hard about closing your laptop and going home at 5 PM? Nothing. But we've all be indoctrinated to stick around, stay late, be visible, show management 'You Care'.
And it's not a 'Top Down' behavior — it infects the entire marketplace. So what do you do? Here are a few tips to help you better understand the aberrant psychology behind this modern phenomena:
You're hired and paid (by law) to work 40 hours a week. It's your choice to work longer hours. Every hour you add to your work week, subtracts from your salary. Here's the math:
40 hours x 50 weeks = 2000 hours $100,000/2000 = $50/hour
Now if you work through lunch and stay 1-2 hours later each day, that adds 15 hours onto your 40 hours each week.
55 Hours x 50 weeks = 2750 hours $100,000/2750 = $36/hour
$14 or a 28% drop in pay. They don't pay you any more money (unless you get overtime pay). Why would you do that? What happens when you don't take your full vacation, work at home, or on the weekends?
That's right — your hourly wage plummets even more.
It forces you to procrastinate.
Instead of filling up your 40 hours each week with 40 hours of truly dedicated, hard and powerful work, you spread it out during the additional 28% of time during the week. What happens?
You attend more unproductive and boring meetings. You schmooze more with the wrong people. You read TOO much unnecessary email. You surf. You IM. Instead of calling someone, communicating information, and hanging up, you spend precious time blabbing. You push items, calls, and activities out which should be worked on NOW. We all do it.
You become part of 'The Herd'.
You see others stay late, so you do too. It's psychological. You begin to feel a pull to be the same as the rest of your peers. Add in the subtle digs from your 'friends' when you do leave on time: "Hey Susan, are you working banker's hours?"
So we stay later. And later. And later. If Tom, Mary and Steve are working late, I need to work late too. Whoops, my boss is still here, I need to stay late until he leaves. Maybe I should walk around the office with some papers looking frustrated to show them I really care about my job and I'm working hard (this was told to me years ago by a colleague — he used to do this to look busy — I'm not kidding).
So what do you do?
1. Analyze your performance.
Are you getting good reviews? Accolades from your boss, peers, and superiors? Getting work done on time? Then you are a good worker — industrious, deadline-focused, dependable. So why do you stay late and act like you aren't this way?
Because we're nervous to break from the herd. We're afraid of looking different, standing out, being seen as someone who doesn't 'care' about the company. We are indoctrinated over time to give our blood, sweat, tears, and life to the company. Be comfortable in who you are — a valued member of the team.
Doing this will not only set your mind straight about what you deliver, but will give you ammunition for the next step.
2. Prepare for 'The Talk'.
If you start closing your laptop at 5 PM and leave, someone is going to notice. Maybe it's a peer or your boss. Initially, they might not say anything, but soon, they will. If it's a peer, tell them to mind their own business. Or just smile and say 'See you tomorrow!'.
If it's your boss and they call you in to talk about this, do what I did many years ago:
Boss: "Rich, I'm a little concerned about your work habits here at the office." Me: "Wow, Tom, what am I doing?" Boss: "You're booking out on work. Early." Me: "Booking out? When I started here, you said 5 PM was quitting time. So I'm doing what you said." Boss: "I know what I said — but there's work to be done." Me: "Is there anything I'm late on?" Boss: "No." Me: "Do I not stick around if there's an emergency? Don't I ask for more work?" Boss: "You do." Me: "Have I ever missed a deadline? Did I drop the ball on any project?" Boss: "No." Me: "So why is it important I stay hours later every day?" Boss: "I don't know. But we all do it."
So I said: "Tom, let me put it this way — if I am not doing my job, or dropping the ball, or letting the team down, let me know. And I'll immediately ensure that I'm around here after hours to rectify that problem. But if there is no real problem, no issue, no drop in production, I'd like to continue to leave at 5 PM. Is that okay?"
My boss then said (and I quote): "I understand Rich. Can you teach me how you get all of your work done and leave by 5 PM?"
Catch Part Two of this series HERE.
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