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Nobody Cares How Hard You Work

Human psychology has set us up to burn out. Too often, value is placed on whether someone has worn him or herself out with work—as opposed to just valuing the end result of work. In an article for 99U, Oliver Burkeman scrutinizes the problems that this discrepancy raises.

Work Smarter, Etc.

There are many examples of how overvaluing effort spent over the work accomplished leads to dissatisfaction. For instance, there is the story of a locksmith who got more complaints about his work as he got better at his job. The reason customers were upset was because the locksmith was finishing the work so quickly—“Why am I paying so much if he did so little?” In another example, one where people were using a flight-search website, researchers found that people actually preferred to wait versus not wait for search results to load. People felt like they were getting more accurate information when they had to wait (not true, of course).

When people spend a lot of time doing something, anything, and then feel accomplished because they are tired, this is called the “Effort Trap.” It is a trap because spending a whole day rearranging old files that nobody is using anyway is not nearly as valuable as spending two hours engaged in high-level problem-solving. In fact, spending time absorbed in challenging work can sometimes even be invigorating, meaning that a feeling of tiredness is in no way necessary to accomplish valuable work.

The ramifications of such realizations run both ways:

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?

It is time to stop fixating on effort. In its place, the simple question should be asked, “Have I produced the thing that the business needs today?” You can view the original article here: http://99u.com/articles/51908/nobody-cares-how-hard-you-work

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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