Friday, January 02, 2009

Under the Wheels of Progress

I loved these 2 articles on Fast Company, a management webzine.

In the first one, the 4-day work-week is cheered. The author makes a case for an extra day off contributing not only to family health and bonding, but also to a greener and cleaner planet. Contrast this to the typical 60 hour work-week in cities like Bombay and New York and you see one reason for all the bad decisions that led to this economic crash. Unfortunately, in board-rooms across the world, this will be nothing more than idle sermonizing. Sharing doesn't come easy, especially sharing time.

The other article talks about recognizing bad managers. These are not just unpleasant people, but leaders that can lead their teams and even companies into ruin. Ironically, most of the symptoms mentioned by the author are what society generally upholds as good professional and workaholic attitude. Like junk food, we do not realize until it is too late that just because something claims to be "breakfast", does not mean it is healthy. Inaction and conventionality often provides a cloak of invisibility for incompetent managers to outlast achievers in any organization.

This post was provoked by this entry about an insecure boss. I have had managers gloat about never taking a day off, not taking coffee breaks and working through weekends.

What do you feel about the correlation between productivity and the obsession with long hours, procedures and Blackberries?


Vidooshak said...

There is an anecdote I recall about the "need" to appear serious and productivity.

During a crisis, while our team was struggling to fix an outage and usual pressure of customer threats loomed over us, I sat with my team, laughing and singing, while we tested various solutions in the lab. My manager walked in aghast. "How can you be so irresponsible? We have a crisis and you are laughing!", he said.

My reply: "Our not laughing and worrying will not help *you* come up with a solution. If we relax and enjoy this work, instead, there's a strong possibility one of these guys will come up with a fix."

That is exactly what happened, and the customer was more than happy to trust us in future.

Toonfactory said...

We need to ask such managers in a menacing whisper ALA Joker- Why so Seriousss?
Wish people can understand frowns don't solve problems...and a smiling face doesn't always means that the smiling guy isn't taking things seriously...
Keep smiling buddy...!!

Anonymous said...

The concept of work life balance is a sham at most companies, I was recently told at work about how going up the ladder means putting in more hours at the workplace. Hours spent at workplace are directly proportional to how many promotions one can fetch and how soon one can move to the next level. Which leads to a whole bunch of inefficient and procrastinating people at the top, who set up a bad culture at the workplace and makes some people abhor the jobs they love doing otherwise, thanks to the long hours. And yes 'appearing serious and looking busy' so common and so stupid.

Angel's Flight said...

Work life balance! bah...phele work tho do!

Btw check out my latest post...I am sure u'll recognize someone in the pics


The Comic Project said...

A 4-day work week? I don't know how good it is but the reason it is possible for some is because there are others working 60.

A good manager is one who recognizes what each person brings to the table and is able to leverage that accordingly. And turns into a good leader when he can get the same people do things beyond their own expectations and assumptions.

In a typical workplace, there is a good mix of both but sadly, working late is equated with productivity by many. At the same time, those who pack up at 6 PM under the guise of "I am productive enough" don't help either.

Those who want to get to the top, have no option but to work harder than the rest (yeah, there is the politics too) And I don't hear such people complaining. Those who don't want to work like they are crazy and maintain a good balance, strike a compromise with growth. Some rare ones get the best of both.

What sucks the most is 25 year olds talking about work/life balance when they haven't seen enough of either work or life.

Agree with most of the "Bad manager" indicators :-) And I am guilty of exactly ONE.

Great set of links. Thanks


Vidooshak said...

Agree with your comments, TCP. They add so much value and provide a more balanced perspective on what I attempted to say in this post. I just wish that by the time the Cub is grown up, we have moved beyond the mad rush to equate success and growth with "money". Life has so much more to offer, if you only stop to smell the roses. Unfortunately, today if you stop to smell the roses, you will probably get run over...

Mama - Mia said...

oh well! i keep telling bachelors in the office to stay back late to PROVE they are working harder because they end up ruining the culture of the company. and eventually they will whine about how they dont have time to have a life!

i have been asked in interviews about what do i think about working late as a company culture and have always maintained that i will work late if i need to, but NOT because everyone else is doing it and ir BECOMES culture!

great post!



Mama - Mia said...

@ TCP - while people who put in long hours and never take breaks grow and dont seem to complain, my problem is that their perception of hardwork is what THEY do. an efficient employee who takes his chhuttis and manages a balance, and yet delivers, still has a little chance to grow. Why? Because HIS iduiot "hardworking" manager thinks, its my way or the highway!

and i also feel that we should indeed start THINKING about work life balance earlier than after turning 40 and having missed the best part of family life!

25 might seem early, but 30 sounds like a great time to start implementing it!



Monika said...

oh now that stuck a chord... i would love to have a 4day week and work life balance is exactly me why N and me fight 90% of the time...

his is a company in which are considered no good and a easy going guy if u even talk of something like this and i for one believe in it strongly...

I guess it all depends on ur pr but cant be done if the company doesnt understand and i feel very sad to say that most of the indian companies dont whereas the MNC's pay a lot of imp to it...

Anonymous said...

I guess I have made my feelings clear felt about OCD afflicted bosses on my blog. But I don't really agree with the 4 day work week. Relaxing more at home does not mean that you will enjoy your 4 days at work more. One of the reasons why many European countries are growing at slow paces (and even shrinking) is their "forgiving" work culture. The world is hyper-competitive today - and one needs to work as hard as one's competition to succeed. Unless the entire world (your customers, your peers, your competition) suddenly decides to relax and take 3 days off in a week - I don't think you should either.

On the other hand, making the work interesting, giving employees at all levels freedom to innovate and contribute, giving them flexible options to preserve some semblance of a work-life balance - can make those 5 days, the best days of the week.

Vidooshak said...

I agree that the 4-day work week is an exaggeration. Most owners of Indian companies tend to believe that a 7-day work week is too less for the kind of money they pay. Brings me back to wondering about the success of Blackberry, what it implies. It is to promotions today what an "MBA" or "IIT" tag would mean, 5 years ago.

The 4-day idea is merely a device to force this larger issue into focus; the liability of "me time" and "family time" as a stumbling block in an otherwise productive and happy career.

Our generation already patented the 24X7 work culture. Imagine if we keep up this competition, what kind of lives would our kids have to lead, merely to "inch past" the peers, the competition...