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They Work Long Hours, But What About Results? 285

Posted by timothy
from the management-types-prefer-inaccurate-precision dept.
theodp writes "HBS lecturer Robert C. Pozen says it's high time for management to stop emphasizing hours over results. By viewing those employees who come in over the weekend or stay late in the evening as more 'committed' and 'dedicated' to their work, as a UC Davis study showed, managers create a perverse incentive to not be efficient and get work done during normal business hours. 'It's an unfortunate reality that efficiency often goes unrewarded in the workplace,' writes Pozen. 'Focusing on results rather than hours will help you accomplish more at work and leave more time for the rest of your life.'"
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They Work Long Hours, But What About Results?

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  • Measuring results (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:30PM (#41577353)

    Judging employees by results is great, if you have a good way to measure results.

    This is notoriously difficult in creative, team efforts such a software development.

    • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:35PM (#41577395)

      Its not really. Specifications -> result. That does depend on having a manager sufficiently on the ball to have constant contact with sales and marketing though, and able to tell them that scope creep will cost more and slow things down.

      Really I'm amazed that results based metrics aren't standard everywhere, I've worked with companies where management doesn't care when people show up as long as they meet their milestones. A company that puts "time at your desk" before "results" will be eaten by one that has the two in the correct order.

      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:46PM (#41577459) Homepage Journal

        This is notoriously difficult in creative, team efforts such a software development.

        Its not really. Specifications -> result. That does depend on having a manager sufficiently on the ball

        In other words, yes it is.

        Or do you work at that place with nowhere to park your car, because it has a unicorn paddock in front?

        • That doesn't even make any sense. I mean, none. Unless you mean the manager isn't part of the team, in which case I'm not surprised you're throwing darts at a calendar for delivery estimates.

          • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @03:21PM (#41578481)

            That doesn't even make any sense. I mean, none. Unless you mean the manager isn't part of the team, in which case I'm not surprised you're throwing darts at a calendar for delivery estimates.

            Darts would be just as good a tool as the standard practice of "Estimate it'll be done by the time the sales guys promised it" . . .

            Actual meeting many years ago . . .

            Boss: How long will it take you guys to do this new feature? (This was the first time I heard of this new request.)

            Me: I just don't know. It's so different from what we've done before, my estimate is a wild guess now.

            Boss: Well, just give me that.

            Me: OK, I say two months at least. We don't even know what sort of unknowns we're facing yet.

            Boss: Really? You think it will take that long?

            Me: Like I said, I'm not sure. We'll have a better idea after we get into it a little and we see the kind of issues that come up.

            Boss: But really that long? I thought maybe it would take 2 weeks?

            Me: Well, I think it'll be longer than that.

            Boss: Are you sure?

            This question and answer are repeated and rephrased several times.

            Me: (giving up) OK. Two weeks.

            Boss: Are you just saying that to make me happy?

            Me: Yes.

            Boss: How long do you think it will take?

            . . . and so on and so on.

            I guess I could have told the boss we really needed to invest in a few days investigation and planning so he could have a better number to pass on up the chain. But I knew that the 2 weeks was the number that had been passed down to him anyway, so it didn't matter. And we had the culture: "If you're so smart, how come I'm boss and you're not?"

            • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

              Feature X is worth $Y. If it takes two months to complete, the value might not be there. If the manager thinks it is 10 man-days of effort, putting 20% down just to find out it will actually far exceed the budget might not be worthwhile.

              Of course, the manager gets into these issues by overstepping their own knowledge and committing to things beyond their own expertise.

              I do it all the time, and have no issues with it because I know I am hopefully accurate in a +/-25% range. You can't make "management" dec

        • by bosef1 (208943) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:59PM (#41578371)

          The guys in the unicorn paddock are fine; they just ride the animals in and lock the doors. It's the god-damned leprechaun valet parking attendents that are the problem. Half the time you have like ten "mystery miles" on the car, or a fresh ding in the bumper.

      • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:58PM (#41577543)

        Its not really. Specifications -> result. That does depend on having a manager sufficiently on the ball to have constant contact with sales and marketing though, and able to tell them that scope creep will cost more and slow things down.

        Really I'm amazed that results based metrics aren't standard everywhere, I've worked with companies where management doesn't care when people show up as long as they meet their milestones. A company that puts "time at your desk" before "results" will be eaten by one that has the two in the correct order.

        A number of real-world issues can and do stymie your proposal:

        • Specs change mid-project.
        • Developers are often given fewer resources than they say is necessary for a job.
        • Sometimes original project plans fail to anticipate technical problems that will be discovered as the software is being designed and/or validated.

        In my experience, the best "metric" is having a seasoned software development managers, who's well versed in the details of the project and knows the software developers, to rate each programmer relative to the expectations of that programmer's position.

        • "and able to tell them that scope creep will cost more and slow things down"

          Too few resources and unanticipated setbacks should have been padded out beforehand to be honest. As someone once said, if I had six hours to cut down a tree, I'd spend four hours sharpening the axe. If that doesn't happen, its a management failure.

          • "and able to tell them that scope creep will cost more and slow things down"

            Too few resources and unanticipated setbacks should have been padded out beforehand to be honest. As someone once said, if I had six hours to cut down a tree, I'd spend four hours sharpening the axe. If that doesn't happen, its a management failure.

            I suppose it depends on how one defines "unanticipated".

            • If its unanticipated enough to blow delivery dates out of the water completely, the team, and I include management, were inadequate to the task in the first place. There's nothing special about software development versus comparable projects, like say movie production. Once everyone (including the customer) knows what's going on, there shouldn't be any major surprises. This is why a good manager is rare and important - they can speak and understand the language used by customers, developers and sales guys,

          • Re:Measuring results (Score:5, Informative)

            by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @05:02PM (#41579121)

            I'm a manager and I find scope creep works both ways. My job is largely protect my team from customers and sales guys who want to change the requirements AND to protect the sales guys and customers from coders who constantly want to leave out or do a halfassed implementation of important features. As much as possible I tell customers and salespeople that their requests are not in scope and would cause schedule delays and cost increases and I tell employees to implement the features as they were originally agreed with customers or sales.

            Sales guys are generally a lot worse than customers. Customers generally know what they want and know they don't know what we can do. Sales guys don't know what customers want and don't know that they don't know what we can do.

            Of the development guys, the most dependable are the firmware guys, who almost always have a clear idea what they can do with hardware. Then the hardware guys, who are prone to mistakes but know very well how much time it takes to design hardware to meet reasonably well-defined specs. At the bottom of the barrel are the software guys. They can do amazing things but have absolutely no idea how long it will take to do them and can't communicate their status to managers and can't communicate with customers (with a few blessed exceptions).

      • by houghi (78078)

        A company that puts "time at your desk" before "results" will be eaten by one that has the two in the correct order.

        One also does not exclude the other. If you put results before time at your desk, that will end in people working double shifts for the same pay.
        Now this might be great for the company and the shareholders, but not for the people working there. Some will move away to companies that have a better work/home balance and others will burn out and become less productive.

        The other way obviously is al

        • One also does not exclude the other. If you put results before time at your desk, that will end in people working double shifts for the same pay.

          That's not putting results before time at your desk, that's busting your nuts to get results. If you deliver in half the time without negotiating a bonus structure beforehand, that's your problem. What I'm talking about is the cargo cult like behaviour of equating time at the desk with productivity.

    • by tomhath (637240)

      if you have a good way to measure results

      True statement. On the other hand, judging results by now many hours were worked is easy but notoriously inaccurate.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So what you're saying is that management has a real job to do, and that the managers need to have an actual clue about what they're doing?

      Yeah, I can see how this doesn't work out very well in most companies.

    • Teams and goals (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:58PM (#41577545)
      Why not just judge the team itself then, and let the immediate manager for that team decide who is valuable? A team will have goals that fit somewhere into the broader organizational goals; individuals on the team can advance those goals in different ways.

      Let's say, as an example, that you have two programmers on a team, Alice and Bob. Alice writes large amounts of code, which has few bugs and which works consistently, and she is an expert in the languages and libraries that are used by the team. Bob is not great at writing code and does not have the language expertise that Alice has, but he is great at solving problems and figuring out what code needs to be written. If Bob is not around, Alice produces less because she is not as good at problem solving; if Alice is not around, Bob tries to write the code and does a terrible job. Can you really say that one of these employees is "better" or "more valuable" than the other? What about Catherine, the person who is a mediocre coder and a mediocre problem solver, but who is great at keeping the team's morale up and who can help motivate people to meet deadlines (but who is not officially in a management position, and who maybe lacks the qualifications when it comes to organizing budgets or making tough hiring or firing decisions)?
      • by chthon (580889)

        +1 Insightful

        +a story everyone should read [leanessays.com]!

      • You forgot Chris.
        They suck, their work is lower quality, they don't solve problems well.

        But Alice, Bob, and Catherine are all working 50 hours a week.
        Chris takes a lower load of projects and they have bugs.

        But they were done and they do work well enough not to lose the customer.

        Sure- you'd like to have a superstar, or then alice, bob and catherine.

        But your job as a manager is to get enough out of Chris to turn a clusterfuck into a nuclear bomb. Because it's going to take 6 to 9 months to find an Alice, Bob

    • That may be the case but that doesn't mean we should just stick with a flawed method of judging people based on hours put in just because it can be hard to judge people based on results.
      • That may be the case but that doesn't mean we should just stick with a flawed method of judging people based on hours put in just because it can be hard to judge people based on results.

        Agreed. I think the best measure we've found is to have a manager who both is a seasoned software developer and is well-versed in the project on which the staff are working.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Sure it is. That is supposedly why managers get the big bux. If they want to just phone it in by using metrics like staying late or lines of code, they should take a pay cut and surrender their MBA.

  • Double edge-sword (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    While the author of the article seems to lean into this approach with the target of maybe working less hours, a results-based way of working can also have disadvantages: working more hours than the stipulated (to try to achieve visible results, or just better-looking results), burnout because of the latter, etc.

    Coding is just what it is: knowledge discoverability. Sometimes you discover it very quickly, sometimes you don't find it. The only good management technique I know is: hire the best people, and then

    • by tooyoung (853621)
      You're certainly right, but managers still form a perception based on how much they see people working. Case in point - I tend to work a 8-5. Many of my coworkers used to work 9-6. No problem with that at all, except my manager fell into the 9-6 camp. From his point of view, I was the guy who always left first. I don't think it ever occurred to him that I was always at work an hour before everyone else, including him. I remember at one point him making a comment like "yeah, you do get more done than e
      • Yes at the Dilbert school of management they teach that there are no diminishing returns to hours, and that all employees arrive at most :30 before the manager.
  • by edibobb (113989) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:34PM (#41577375) Homepage
    Measure performance based on lines of code put online. That should help efficiency.
  • by TheLink (130905) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:35PM (#41577381) Journal
    I know someone who some years ago started work in a Scandinavian company. He then started staying back late (everyone else left mostly on time).

    After a few days the boss came to him and asked him:
    1) Is there a problem with the project? Are there enough people and resources allocated for it?
    2) Does he need extra training to do his job?
    3) Is the job a good fit for him?

    So he stopped staying late just for the sake of staying late ;).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DoofusOfDeath (636671)

      Dear sir,

      If this company is till in business, please let us know its name, and whether or not they're hiring.

      Sincerely,
      98% of the programmers on the planet.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        I'm not that old, but all three places I've worked in the UK did this. (My university during a summer, a large electronics multinational, a scientific non-profit.)

        My manager tends to leave at about 16:30 on Fridays, saying, "go home everyone! Why are you still here?". She's also had to remind one of my colleagues that he's obliged to use all his holiday days (he was only 20, and a bit keen).

      • It's the norm in Scandinavia, so if you just pick a random company there's a good chance they'll be just like that. Also, we usually have a shortage of people with technical degrees (Preferably a masters or equivalent. Just a bachelors won't get you far.), but it's not so pronounced with the current crisis.

    • by houghi (78078) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:32PM (#41577775)

      This is basically every company I worked for in Europe. If you do 2-5 hours of overtime a week it will be much. That is 30 minutes to 1 hour per day.

      Where I work now, when I do one hour overtime, my manager comes to me and asks when I want to take that hour back and go home early or come in late.

      If there are 2 people working 60 hours a week, it could also be 3 people working 40 and most likely more efficient as they won't be burned out.

      Now you could say that if I would work 60 hours instead of 40, I could earn 50% more. (Not true, but let us assume that) I still would not be willing to do that, because I work to live. I do not live to work. This is also understood by all the bosses I have had and they do the same.

      Yes, most of the companies made money and some lost money, just like any other business in the world.

      • by oji-sama (1151023)
        A close friend was on a few working trips to the U.S. He described the way of working inefficient and hazardous to health. During one such trip they were literally prevented from leaving in reasonable hours, which reduced their efficiency after the first day. He got lucky and had a meeting elsewhere on fourth day and managed (with the permission from his boss abroad) to just rest during the evening. The next day he managed to solve several of their problems, but the local boss was still furious when he hear
      • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:59PM (#41578369) Homepage Journal

        If there are 2 people working 60 hours a week, it could also be 3 people working 40 and most likely more efficient as they won't be burned out.

        That depends on whether the task can be broken down into three pieces, and on the degree of communication required.

        The other option (and often the more realistic one) is to extend the schedule by 50% -- still two people, now working 40 hours per week, but for, say, six weeks instead of 4.

        This issue is the fundamental point of Fred Brooks' "The Mythical Man Month".

      • by greg_barton (5551) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [notrab_gerg]> on Sunday October 07, 2012 @07:20PM (#41580153) Homepage Journal

        This is the kind of management style that results when there isn't constant pressure to keep headcount low to avoid paying for health benefits. Nice,ya?

        • Oh! That's an eye opener!

          As a scandinavian I never though of that. The health system in the US is just that alien to me I guess.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:37PM (#41577805)

      Actually, I would say that this sounds like most Scandinavian companies. I live in Finland, and you're not expected to put in more than your 7-8h per day. Mandatory time tracking systems will not allow you to put in more hours than you're getting paid for, and if you do, you have to keep that time off work. The company can even be fined if you work too much overtime, so it is in the company's interest to make sure you don't work too much.

      Whenever we get new foreign people here, they think they can impress with working long hours. But they learn quickly. And working weekends, that's a completely unknown concept. For example, if you work on a Sunday, the company have to pay you up to 400% of your normal salary. I can count on one hand then number of times I've been called in for emergency work during weekends during the past 10 years. I'm a senior developer for a quite critical system.

      So, welcome! We have a quite advanced technology sector and practically everyone speaks fluent English here.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2012 @03:06PM (#41578423)

        Actually, I would say that this sounds like most Scandinavian companies. I live in Finland, and you're not expected to put in more than your 7-8h per day. Mandatory time tracking systems will not allow you to put in more hours than you're getting paid for, and if you do, you have to keep that time off work.

        I live in the United States, and at several jobs the mandatory time tracking system would not allow us to put in more hours than we were getting paid for.

        All this meant was that the bosses required us to lie on the time tracking system, and not record the 20-40 extra hours we were putting in every week.

  • by satuon (1822492) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:35PM (#41577393)

    A colleague of mine used to work for a company where he would be criticized for not staying late with the others when deadlines were looming, even though he had already finished his part long before.

  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:38PM (#41577415)

    With the constant meetings, phone calls and emails, how do you ever get some serious code written?
    Many of our group work either very early or very late, and often a bit on the weekend.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:06PM (#41578047)

      If you don't have time during your work day to do...you know...work, then that's a failure of management. Why are you donating time to the company just because the management they hire is an utter failure? People like you are the reason these worthless management people continue to hold their jobs in the first place, and it leads to some really warped and twisted expectations of what is to be expected of you and your peers.

      As one of your peers, I'm telling you to knock it off.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Because, as a manager, I have banned pointless meetings and phone calls for the majority of my team. My job, as a manager, is to handle that portion of the job and disseminate the information to my staff. This gives them the time to do what they are good at (development and QA) and not waste time doing what they are not necessarily as good at (dealing with customers, answering asinine questions repeatedly for the benefit of those who can't understand tech, and doing things other than development).

      Yes, this

  • here in america (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nimbius (983462) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:39PM (#41577421) Homepage
    I measure "the rest of my life" in special "vacation time" hours tracked in a database to which i havent any access. I withdraw "vacation hours" to enjoy my life, and in turn the company I work for doesnt fire me for "the rest of my life" on their time.
    these hours, due to the nature of my salaried employment, are however competely subjectively interpreted and at any time i can be called to work during them. The hours outside of $start_time and $end_time for my job are also rather nonexistent. In the literal words of my boss, "we can call you anytime we want." So the problem with "work smarter not longer" is the fact that it is entirely antithetical to the structural composition of "salaried employment."
    • Re:here in america (Score:4, Informative)

      by Kjella (173770) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:13PM (#41578093) Homepage

      We have salaried employment here in Norway too for leading and particularly independent positions, you just wouldn't qualify for one.

      If they're either a) counting hours or b) tie you to a partially or wholly fixed work schedule or c) expect you to be on call when they want you to work, you're disqualified. Of course they can expect you to show up for meetings or such, but if you're explicitly or implicitly tied to office hours the employer can find themselves at the wrong end of a lawsuit for back pay. In the same vein if you can only work at the office you're disqualified, if they don't acknowledge work in places they don't control you're not independent. Third and probably the biggest is that you choose your work, if you're assigned specific work instead of areas of responsibility you're not independent either.

      In the US, I have the impression that making you a salaried employee is almost unconditionally an advantage for the employers, a lot less employee rights and practically no extra restrictions. In Norway, it's a lot more that you can't both have your cake and eat it too. If you want to make your employees independent, you lose a lot of the control that employers normally like to have. Thus it becomes much more of a balancing act, is this really the kind of employee you'd trust to just do good work on their own? If so here's your paycheck, you're not getting overtime or domestic travel costs and you're off the corporate leash but we'll of course be following up on the results you deliver.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:42PM (#41577437) Homepage Journal

    Them Harvard guys don't miss a thing, do they?

  • by randalotto (1206870) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:45PM (#41577455)
    The incentives are even worse if you're a lawyer. Inefficiency not only makes you look better for working long hours, but it objectively is better from the perspective of your employer. The more hours you work, the more you can charge the client. You solved a problem in 10 minutes because you're smart, know how to research and/or have worked on something like this before? Well shit... we were hoping it'd take 10 hours of research at $400/hour. The billable hour is terrible.
    • by SuurMyy (1003853)
      Why not just go home or take care of your own business after solving the client's issue in 10 minutes? Don't take the billable hour too seriously.
  • by cptdondo (59460) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @12:46PM (#41577457) Journal

    I worked for a company that based your annual bonus on the amount of overtime you put in. Not productive, mind you, just hours. At the end of the year, they would tally up the hours you worked, and those with the most hours at their desk got the biggest bonuses.

    Being new to this, I asked my boss: "If I do everything right, and my project never needs rework, and my clients are happy, and all my projects are profitable, and I go home on time every day, will I get a bonus?" "No."

    "If I screw up, my projects are late and over budget, and I'm working a lot of hours because my clients are pissed at the low quality of work I do, and my projects constantly lose money because I'm an idiot, will I get a bonus?" "Yes."

    True to form, my bonus for the year was $50, in spite of being one of the most profitable employees in the organization. I left shortly thereafter.

    • Bummer that you had to stay there long-enough to get that check.

      • by cptdondo (59460) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:38PM (#41577825) Journal

        It was actually pretty funny. Our team had cultivated our clients and we were quite profitable. We got bought by this other company with the bonus plan. Pretty much all of us quit within a year.

        At bonus time, one of our more outspoken engineers opened his bonus envelope, marched into the manager's office, slapped it on his desk, and yelled: "What am I supposed to do with this? Take my wife to McDonalds?" I hadn't laughed that hard since.

    • I have a friend who doesn't work for a company that does bonuses like that, but still is a "moar hours = moar better" kind of place. My friend is a nice guy but... not as competent as one might hope. Back when we both worked at the same place another co-worker described him as someone who "Broke down big rocks in to little rocks and then glued the rocks back together." Basically he has a lot of enthusiasm, but ends up spending a lot of time fixing problems he created by not having a good understanding what

  • by being told to work harder as well.
  • The set of employees that has come in to work extra hours is almost surely more "willing to work extra hours when necessary" than the set of employees who have never worked extra hours (including, potentially, because they've never needed to.) On the other hand, the "extra hours" probably also contains a higher percentage of "people who can't budget their time well enough to finish things within the time planned." As a manager I'd certainly count overall productivity as one of my main concerns, but I migh
    • The set of employees that has come in to work extra hours is almost surely more "willing to work extra hours when necessary" than the set of employees who have never worked extra hours (including, potentially, because they've never needed to.) On the other hand, the "extra hours" probably also contains a higher percentage of "people who can't budget their time well enough to finish things within the time planned." As a manager I'd certainly count overall productivity as one of my main concerns, but I might value an employee with lower "average" productivity but who is better able to accommodate spikes than the employee whose average productivity is higher but who is unwilling to make any personal sacrifice during extenuating circumstances. And that seems perfectly reasonable.

      Have you noticed that the "extenuating circumstances" seem happen more frequently the more "people who can't budget their time well enough to finish things within the time period" are on the case? Is it possible that the "no personal sacrifice" folks feel that way because they don't want to pick up the slack left by the highly-valued-but-can't-budget people?

  • That is, most managers will focus on the metrics that are easy to measure (like hours worked, say) as opposed to the metrics that matter (quality, supportability, etc.)
    • ...and then people will learn to work to the metrics instead of actually being productive.

      Suddenly, the reports say everything is peachy, but in reality nothing is getting done. The managers sit in meetings scratching their heads wondering what has gone wrong, and try to fix it by setting more targets and measuring them with metrics.

  • I work in an open plan office. While this allows me to see what is happening, and make sure my employees are happy and productive, it means I get no peace.

    I have recently started to time the intervals between me actually getting any work done. Last Tuesday I went for 12 minutes without someone coming and asking something.

    While I don't mind answering and helping people, it means I get none of my actual own work done. Sometimes I just need an hour to get x done without interruption. Often times this leads to

    • by Todd Knarr (15451)

      Thought here: if you have that much of a problem with an open-plan office, do you really think your employees are any more satisfied with it than you are? I'm fairly sure they're having the same problem you have, with the same consequences for their work.

      • by gigne (990887)

        Absolutely. Don't get me wrong, though; I do like open plan for the most part. I just don't like how convenient it makes everyone.
        It would be nice if we had a walled off quiet zone where you could go and sit to get actual work done. I'm sure there are better alternatives.

        • by Todd Knarr (15451)

          I've always though the opposite: it'd be nice if the default were individual offices where people could concentrate on the work at hand without disruption, with open shared workspaces available when needed. Especially with things like webcams for occasions when you need face-to-face with someone and don't need to leave the office.

        • by mhotchin (791085)

          Don't we call those areas 'offices'?

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:07PM (#41577617)
    about the long or even short term well being of workers. If you subscribe to this line of thought you're looking at workers as an asset. That plays well with workers that want to believe they're irreplaceable. Fact is, there's so many people in the Global Economy that you can easily find a worker that can do those kind of hours productively. Sure, he/she burns out. But again, Global Economy. Supply and Demand. There's a huge over supply of workers in a Global Economy, and always will be. And you don't have to train. Desperate workers will train on their own time and their own dime. A lot (most) will be crushed but the debt and stress. But as an employer in a modern, high productivity workplace the 10% that survive are more than enough.

    I guess my point is, don't count on your boss caring about your productivity dropping as your hours increase. If you trip and fall there's 100 guys waiting to overtake you in the race to the bottom that is supply side economics...
    • but new workers still need to get up to speed on project / code base / how other internal stuff works.

      And just putting people in sink or swim can end very badly if some who does not know what they are doing messes up.

      • by rsilvergun (571051) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:41PM (#41578289)
        because if they don't they can't compete with the 100+ guys gunning for their job. If it ends badly you blame it on the worker and replace him. When labor's this cheap you can have a bunch of projects fail and not care. You're thinking like a worker, not an owner. An owner has twenty companies he owns. When they fail he writes the failure off on his taxes and moves on. If they all fail he uses his money to buy a bail out from the government (capitalism for the poor, socialism for the rich).

        That trouble is, the way the world works doesn't match up with the economics we're taught in school :(. We're taught that if you work hard and play by the rules you'll win. But the big guys. The owners. The 'Capitalists'. They make the rules. You can't win like that. You can't even stay out of the gutter.
  • by Kagato (116051) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:12PM (#41577645)

    In Japan white collar workers are expected to stay late, even if they are out of work and are just looking busy. It's the total opposite of the Japanese blue collar factory worker experience. A lot of folks think the faux productivity has kept them from getting out of their financial woes. The article focuses on hourly billable jobs like lawyers but a lot of it apply to poor eastern management styles. In particular the focus on reading and writing memo and BS paperwork. There's a lot of rote BS work that goes on.

    On the hand I quite enjoy working as an hourly computer consultant. I think my focus is results and I think things like iterative design really shift the focus from hours to what you got done. That brings a lot of value to the client in the end. But there are a lot of consulting companies out there where the focus is utilization and bill (mostly seen in creative services such as Marketing IT or off-shore consulting).

  • Because that would require management to do their job instead of trying to justify their 6-figure salaries. Personally, I'd say the reason why labor is exploited for overtime is because of the exempt salary [flsa.com] provision in the law. Remove the exempt portion of it so all employees are covered by the overtime rules and such. That way, if managers think you need to be there beyond 8 hours, they'll pay you for it. Right now, if management tells me that I need to "work until the job is done", they are free to do so
  • In Norway, work hours are 34 hours a week. And yet Norway have some of the highest salaries in the world, some of the least unemployment and they are amongst the happiest people in the world as well.

    Why? I'm pretty sure that is because they do reward efficiency rather than how many hours you put in.
    In Sweden it's the other way around, here they work 40-45 hours a week, and people sometimes feel miserable over the long working hours.

    Of course, this is a problem that relates to the country you live in. Take a

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:37PM (#41577815)

    As a member of the military, we do heavily take our cues from the Boss (Commander or Chief) When they go home everyone else feels safe enough to head home.

    I learned a long time ago that was a pretty stupid thing to do. I've had a lot of bosses that hated their home life or didn't feel like driving accross town during rush hour, or were just burning time to make some regular events so they would stay late for no work related reason.

    I get dirty looks when I head out the door on time or early to go to the gym, like I'm skating. The reality is my bosses know I'm a go to guy when things are screwed up, that I've been known to work 16-24 hour straight when they really go south, that I'll come in for however long it takes on the weekends, and can be packed and out the door to Krap-ic-stan on deployment without much fuss...if there is an actual reason to do.

    Otherwise I head on home when it's time, take my vacation time without guilt, and ignore the drones' in the office snide comments, who make their own lives missereable while blaming it on work.

  • by Nonesuch (90847) <nonesuch@@@msg...net> on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:42PM (#41577855) Homepage Journal
    I'm subcontracting for a major consulting firm, on-site at their biggest client. The consulting firm wants to look good for their client, insists on having warm bodies in the seats at the client site during the client's business hours (8-5), even though the nature of my tasks and of client's business means I can't actually implement anything during business hours.

    So I sit in a chair in front of a laptop for 8 hours writing "documentation" and dealing with change manglement processes, then another 1-3 hours actually getting real work done after the close of business. It'd be cheaper for them to hire a wannabe actor to sit in my seat from 9-5, and then just pay me for my 3 hours a day of actual productivity.

    • by TeknoHog (164938)

      It'd be cheaper for them to hire a wannabe actor to sit in my seat from 9-5

      I think some Asian companies actually do this. I've forgotten where the article was, but the point was that people are hired simply for good looks, manners and English for international business meetings.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:44PM (#41577877)

    I had the exact discussion with my boss the other day. She was inquiring on how to motivate me to work harder -- meaning, she has seen that when I am focused, I can get loads of non-stop quality work done quicker than anyone else in our team, however there are days when I accomplish little in terms of new functionality etc. This is the flow that we all know, you either can get there or not, it does not always come on whim.

    Anyhow, I replied that I am a simple being and I can be motivated easily -- if I coded harder, and more quickly, would there be a monetary bonus if the project was finished early? No. If I coded harder, and more quickly, would it be possible to use less than the allocated hours per week sitting in the office? No. Well, how do you expect to motivate people to code quick and hard on constant basis? Uhh.. *insert generic company talk here*.

    Anyhow -- if there are no incentives to work hard, why should I drain myself more? I do not get paid more, there are no bonuses for meeting the deadline, there is no extra time to spend for my own activities if I finish the job quicker. Why should I strain myself more than I have to, when the no-sweat approach brings me far above average in productivity?

    If anyone can help me here, I would be keen to know the solution. And so would my boss.

  • If employees had more free time, they might think.

  • "Fred Flintstones" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frightened_Turtle (592418) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:01PM (#41578013)

    One VP for whom I used to work referred to employees that left right at closing time as "Fred Flintstones." He made sure his derisive attitude towards these employees was well displayed in front of the CEO of the company at the end of the day as the line of cars left the parking lot. Most of the employees who stayed after the 5PM quitting time were there because they started their shifts later than the other employees.

    This VP's attitude blinded him to the fact that those be labeled "Fred Flintstones" were on the job first thing in the morning, well before he arrived to sit in his office for the day doing nothing engaged with production of product in the company. Never mind that these very employees were the engineers that developed and made the technology of the company's primary product. Ironically, the one engineer he praised for staying late each day was staying late for a very special reason: it was the only time he could switch out the sabotaged firmware he created into shipping machines and put non-sabotaged firmware into machines that were being returned for "repairs". He was sabotaging the firmware in order to ensure that his job of hunting down bugs in the programming would be too important to get laid off.

    This sabotage was discovered when the engineer was out of vacation and forgot to remove his secret code from his computer. The senior engineer on the project needed to double check the programming, logged into the saboteur's computer and discovered the two sets of code. Sadly, it was long too late for the many employees that had to be laid off because the company was struggling due to the problems the device was having. Most of the employees let go were the ones the VP had labeled Fred Flintstones. With the truly productive employees gone, it was pretty much game over for the company. They were able to float a little longer, but the lack of improvement and productivity stopped any possibility of growth in the company. When the sabotage was discovered, the laid off employees were no longer available. Eventually, the company pretty much closed their doors, being bought out by a competitor.

    The attitude that the people who left at the end of the day and didn't put in extra hours were substandard employees was dead wrong. They were the people who made things happen in the company. Once let go, no longer were there any doers in the company and everything ground to a halt

  • Just got let go from a company that's running its employees into the ground. Management there doesn't care about the employees one bit. To them, people are just cattle, easily replaced. Warehouse staff have been on 70 hour work weeks for months. Warehouse supervisors that want to take some days off? (and they do have time to take) They're literally laughed at. Many of the best and most efficient employees have either been run off or fired. Oh, the positions were filled with temps though, so that's go
  • by D4C5CE (578304) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @04:00PM (#41578721)

    95 percent of my assets drive out the front gate every evening. It's my job to bring them back.

    Jim Goodnight, SAS Institute CEO, in: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-550102.html [cbsnews.com]

    One hundred fifty years of research proves that shorter work hours actually raise productivity and profits - and overtime destroys them.
    So why do we still do this?

    Sara Robinson, http://www.alternet.org/visions/154518/why_we_have_to_go_back_to_a_40-hour_work_week_to_keep_our_sanity/?page=entire [alternet.org]

    "Management Summary": It's not Karl Marx ;-) who figured it out, but Henry Ford.

  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @07:18PM (#41580139)

    In order to place performance over the appearance of labor, management will have to develoop some metrics for measuring actual work done. In its own right, this is a difficult problem in engineering, CS and other disciplines that involve creative, self directed and non-repetitive work*.

    Problem: There are employees hiding among the ranks of professional who would never survive such a metric. They would push back against any adoption of actual performance criteria in favor of the status quo [dilbert.com]. Long hours is something that the untalented can achieve and keep their standing in the workplace.

    * A 'professional', as defined in the NLRA [nlrb.gov].

  • by shaitand (626655) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @10:56PM (#41581303) Journal

    All employees should be working at 100% of their ability during every hour and if employees are competent and giving full effort there shouldn't be drastic variations in work output. So the big variable should be number of hours worked.

    In general the idea is that anyone who isn't giving full effort every hour of every day is a bad employee waiting to be caught and fired no matter how "good" they are at the job function. If you are giving full effort and producing substantially less you probably would benefit from training by someone who is "good" at the task and be able to produce increased output. Working extra hours is a sign of commitment to the task. So the guy who works extra hours but produces low output you train. The guy with high output who does the minimum needed to not look bad vs peers you try to motivate. The guy who produces high output and works extra hours you give maximum increases. The guy who produces high output, works extra hours, and is always telling you about the work that needed doing that he found and just did or is in the process of doing before you can tell him about it, you promote.

    That is why this type of argument always fail with management. Why should producing more an hour mean you work less hours when it can mean you work the same number of hours and produce more?

    It isn't all bullshit. There isn't a one to one correlation but in general when the company is raking in profits it is a hell of a lot easier to get broken things replaced and fixed and to get pay and benefit increases. Even in a fortune 500 where nobody gets real pay increases without a promotion, the company being flush means expansion which means room to promote more staff.

Life would be so much easier if we could just look at the source code. -- Dave Olson

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