Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Look, I’m not going to tell you what to do, but I am going to ask you a question: Do you really think you work hard enough?
Yes, I know you hardly ever see your family, you’re always tired when you get home, and if you didn’t have delivery pizza, last week’s mac 'n' cheese, and Lean Cuisine, you’d fit through a crack in a door.
But seriously: Are you working hard enough?
I only ask because, as ABC News reports, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush believes that “people should work longer hours.”
The full quote he offered to The Union Leader in New Hampshire was: “My aspiration for the country, and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, work force participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours.”
His campaign has suggested he was merely referring to those who are underemployed.
However, I fear there might have been an element that you see in many business leaders: They expect their workers to work the same number of hours they do.
There’s Only One Way to Succeed. Be Like Me.
Jeb Bush was known to be an extremely dedicated governor, who worked if not every hour God sent, then at least two-thirds of them, with another quarter up for grabs.
He clearly believes that worked for him.
Long hours don’t necessarily work for everybody. It isn’t the case that if you put in another two hours of time, that’s the equivalent of two hours of work.
How many hours do you spend that are entirely, painfully unproductive?
Humans can be depressingly human. Their brains and their talents can work along extraordinarily haphazard lines. Just look around your office. How many of those faces, those brains, would you call “normal.” Two? Less than two?
If more hours was all it took, half the authors of business self-help books (many of which don’t take long to write) would need to find alternative work.
There’s something especially, painfully American about working long hours.
Statistics show that Americans work 137 more hours per year than their counterparts in Japan, 260 more hours than those in Britain, and a fulsome 499 more hours than French workers. One index shows that America is the happiest place on earth. Wait, actually, it’s the 105th happiest. Another index puts us at 15th happiest.
But we’re always so “excited!”
I Am the Hardest Worker in the World, and It’s Making Me Miserable.
These figures will no doubt incite a glib response or two. However, when I lived and worked in Europe, I was astonished at how American executives would think nothing about making work calls on a Sunday morning or late on any evening that suited them.
Did this truly make them better? Or is there some collective fear that if you take any time away from business, you will lose your place on some magical ladder?
Technology has made things worse. On the one hand, workers fear being replaced by it. On the other, it enables employers to follow their workers around to utter distraction.
A couple of months ago, a woman sued her former employers because she claimed that the employer was angry and fired her after she’d removed an iPhone app that allegedly monitored her even when she wasn’t working.
One can’t help thinking that some people in the U.S. are so intimately attached to their work that they have no perspective on it.
It’s like a relationship in which they’re clueless as to their own role in it.
They call a long weekend a “vacation.” Seriously.
I Work, Therefore I Am.
Jeb Bush hasn’t only heard criticisms from obvious opponents like Democrats. Even fellow Republican Ted Cruz offered: “The problem is not that Americans aren’t working hard enough. It is that the Washington cartel of career politicians, special interests, and lobbyists have rigged the game against them.”
He just might not be entirely wrong.
The work-life balance is indeed a game of risk.
You want to like your work and be good at it. But you want to like your life and be good at that, too.
Does America need to work longer hours? Or does America need to be a little more honest about its work culture and the intelligence buried within it?
I Want to Be Successful. But I Also Want to Live.