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Breaking News: Workers Who Are Always At Work Don't Get Much Done

That guy in your department who always seems to be at work? The one the boss raves about for putting in 12-hour days? Yeah, that guy. Well, he might not be working all that hard. Just thought you might want to know.

It turns out that the "hardworking" employee who always burns the late-afternoon oil and seems ever-present at the office might be simply a productivity poser. It's true, people! Harvard Business School tells us so:

"So this one guy, he's in the room at every meeting. Lots of times he doesn't say anything, but he's there on time and people notice that. He definitely is seen as a hardworking and dependable guy."

In other words, this manager praised his or her employee not for the value that he added to the meetings that he attended, but merely for his physical presence. Given this structure of rewards, it is no surprise that we keep seeing unnecessary and unproductive meetings.

More broadly, many professionals use their time inefficiently because their firm's hour-oriented culture hasn't forced them to think rigorously about what's really important. Sometimes, this leads professionals to spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting one particular task — say, the formatting of an internal presentation — instead of spending time where it might be more useful.

Formatting internal presentations? That's amateur hour! Hey, those paperclips don't build a pyramid by themselves while you're chatting (again) with your girlfriend on the phone. Haven't we all worked with this person?

Of course, the question is what to do about it as a rank-and-file co-worker since the boss is so blinded by this employee's steadfast ways. No one really talks about that, though. Bummer. Psst, managers: the hours logged are not automatically equal to the productivity and output gained. Or talent level, for that matter. Focus on results instead. Otherwise, you might just project your management beliefs (e.g., the number of hours worked is THE MOST important metric ever in the history of the world) on to the office Chauncey Gardner who is praised simply for being there. Just thought you might want to know. Still a great movie.

All snark aside, working alongside a productivity poser -- especially in these times -- is one of the most soul-sucking work experiences any employee can endure. You're able to get a lot done in 40-to-45 hours per week and you think your efficiency should be rewarded, but your boss goes on and on about how so-and-so puts in 10-hour days and is always here and why aren't you? Sigh. At least your smartphone makes you available at all hours even if you're not physically present in the office, right? Right.


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