Work hard or hardly work?

Should you really go into work and do the best possible job at all times???

I work in a corporate setting (investment bank) and am thinking along those lines for the work environment. The problem with working hard, is it is seldom appreciated. Instead, the Man (Boss whatever you wanna call your superior) will come to expect that level of work and then want more. So you get more work while someone doing a crappier job get’s less work, becuase they want to give it to the guy who can handle it best. Then you do more work and get promoted to a job that’s more work than you can handle (Peter principal: – first paragraph) or want. The place ends up getting run incompetantly anyway. So I propose this as the ultimate working strategy in a corporate setting:

Do the bare minimum you can and still maintain the job. Add a couple minutes to how long tasks take you so as to avoid standing out as an exceptional worker. Take long breaks. Let things go as long as possible. Generally, have a slacker attitude about the whole thing. Be careful not to push it too far, but I would advise against doing your best.

Note: Doctors and such who have peoples lives in their hands are an exception. If you truly love what you are doing, or own part of the company, that also is an exception.

I just can’t see killing myself for a company I care nothing about. If I can pay my bills and not get fired, than I am not trying any harder. I’ll spend my real effort on things I love (art, music).


Cool, and when I come in to your company to help them with some process improvement and efficiency efforts, I’ll note how you work less than the guy next to you and have you fired. :slight_smile:

This speaks to what I think is the most unfortunate thing about society today–most people don’t like their jobs. The corporate structure of most businesses reduces employees to interchangable parts, and reduces the input of any single person to the bottom line (and, consequently, the rewards for success) to nearly nothing. It makes it difficult to care.

If you’re simply trading work for money, then you should do the bare minimum necessary to maintain employment. If you really care about the work or the customers, or if you want a raise or promotion and you feel that harder work will help you get it, then you should absolutely work harder. Otherwise, working harder than necessary is giving away something that you’re trying to sell.

Dr. J

Yes. always - even if your job is scrubbing toilets.

I don’t think you’re serious about adopting this attitude, dalovindj. I hope not. I’m a bit disgusted with this kind of attitude. It speaks of a general lack of character and personal responsibility. If you’re just skating by, someone else is picking up your slack. That’s not very fair or honorable is it? If you hate your job, QUIT. Find something else. Go back to school. Don’t waste your life this way. When you find something you like, or a job you can tolerate with good cheer, strive to do it better than anyone else. You’ll be a better person for it. If you discover that your efforts are not appreciated, then you need to work elsewhere. If it’s the corporate culture, work for a smaller company where your hard work is more important and noticeable. You just have to get out of your comfort zone and grow a spine.

While it’s nice to have money to pay the bills, personal satisfaction in a job well done should be its own reward.

That’s cool with me as long as you don’t bitch and moan when I show up at your office as a consultant. Do the job that normally four of you barely manage to do in twice the time it takes me to do it. Do it right. Earn 5 times your salary. Make your position and many more like it redundant and then move on to my next vic…er… client. But don’t feel bad… you’ve got employee benefits.

P.S. my wife and kids also wish to thank you for making it possible for us to live in the lap of luxury.

I think you should always do a good job, but sometimes it is a waste of effort to try to do the best possible job. This generally applies to low level work where you have little or no hope of advancement. For instance, if your job is to stuff envelopes (something I do all the time as a temp) it’s senseless to try to break the world envelope stuffing speed record – unless the last mail pickup time is fast approaching and the mailing MUST go out that day. Otherwise I’d say don’t knock yourself out, just set a steady pace and you’ll get the job done.

I don’t think there’s ever any excuse for intentionally doing a bad job, unless you’re trying to sabotage your employers.

If you work for me, you’d damned well better. If you don’t, when layoffs come around you’ll be one of the first names I’ll look at.

Screw it dude. I have been screwed over more than once by the company I was working for, so why should I work any harder?


Quite serious, actually.

Being fair and honorable does not neccasarily seem to be the standard for how corporations are run. It’s all about the bottom line, fair or no.

I don’t hate it. I just have seen that doing too good of a job serves no purpose but to get more work and less appreciation.

It actually allows me to do the things I want. I am trying to have a career as an actor/musician. Those professions do not come close to paying my rent (yet). But I am a temp and have lucked into gigs that pay quite well. These jobs also provide the flexibility to audition/rehearse/practice. I could care less about the companies I work for, but I am glad to have the job. Were I to just try and do what I love, I would end up in a deep hole rather quickly.

I have a spine. I need a job like the one I have to a tee. I’m not stuck here for life or anything (no long term goals of moving up or anything). There is no career I want that has anything to do with corporate america. It’s just a part of my life I deal with so I can pursue the other parts of life I do enjoy. Unfortunately, acting offers no guarantees as to the availability of work. So I must compensate . . . and having compensated, I’ve realized a few realities about how corporate culture works. I will not work hard for them. But for a play . . .

The reward for work is cash. That is the only one I’m after. I’ll achieve personal satisfaction in other areas of life.

And to all you effeciency consultants: I dare you to pick me out. The key to the philosophy is to come in under the radar. And even if I do get fired, my agency will find me another gig in another office in this big beautiful city (New York). Do your best: I’ll still find a job to slack off at while I think about spinning records and the bright lights of the stage.

By the way, the way I slack off most of the day is to post here!

I disagree. There’s always hope. Employers are always looking for people who show useful initiative or improve efficiency. Warning: personal, insprirational anecdotes to follow :slight_smile: While in college, I took a few menial summer jobs to cover tuition - including one light custodial job in a factory and warehouse that was only supposed to last 2 weeks. I made no mention of my education or future plans. My goal was to come in everyday and sweep the floors, get rid of the execss packaging materials, and organize the equipment and manufacuring floor for the workers. I took it very seriously. And it was noticed. Despite never having worked in a facility like that before, they let me have a shot at running the manufacturing division for a week after the manager quit. I quickly learned the ropes, discarded them, and ran the department my way for the rest of the summer. I had responsibility for 30-50 workers, the contracts for the 4 largest companies they did business with, and millions of dollars worth of inventory. I even saved them several million dollars in what would have been lost inventory, and rearranged their warehouse to reduce the time it took to load our outbound trucks. I had great fun doing it and they were sorry to see me leave. Not even promises of 6-fold salary increases could convince me to stay. I went from sweeping floors to multi-million dollar decisions in the space of a summer. I learned an extremely valuable lesson about the value of hard work that summer.

Okay, that’s an extreme example - not realistic for most people. How about this … The summer before that, I took a job crafting engine parts. It was hot, dirty, tedious, boring, and LOUD. I hated it. So instead of slacking off until the contract was up, I focused on making my little engine parts as exact to spec as possible. I got mad when I made a mistake. I learned every aspect of the machine and tweaked it until making the parts to within <1% of tolerance was no sweat. QA couldn’t believe that I could double my output and make such precise components. In fact, they thought I had “cheated” somehow. I showed them what I had done, and the managers put me on 5 other machines to see what I could do with them. In short order, I was expert at all of them and was spending most of my time HAND-crafting only the most expensive custom-parts (one blank was worth about $500 - screw it up and you had to throw it away). The old-time union guys and lifers working there resented it, but I got a large pay increase and my choice of overtime - and I always beat my quota by large margins.

If you treat your job as though it’s beneath you, you’ll never rise above it. I don’t work those kinds of jobs anymore.

Excellent. Just be sure to pass on that work ethic to your offspring. That way my kids will be assured of a solid future and good income when they start their careers as well.

I’m not disagreeing with you per se, but I don’t think this holds true in all situations.

I’m a temp. There is not a lot of room to move as a temp. If the bosses at your assignment like you they may offer you a permanent position, but this is not always something that the temp worker wants. I, for instance, only temp during the summer so I can pay for school. Were I to be offered a permanent position, I’d have to refuse it because I’m not going to drop out of school so I can work full-time.

On the other hand, were I working as a temp while looking for long-term office related employment I’d work my butt off in hopes of getting promoted to a permanent position.


Yes. That isn’t to say that you must go above and beyond what is required but you should at least make sure your work is satisfactory.


If good deeds go unrewarded at work that’s one of the signs of bad management. If going above and beyond is not going to help your career with that company then why bother? As a matter of personal pride I’d at least do a decent job.


People like this were generally the first ones to go when lay offs occur. At least in my experience. They’re also less likely to receive a raise during their yearly review. Unless they’re union or something.

I wouldn’t kill myself for a company either. Especially since they feel nothing about firing you should the time come. But like I said as a matter of personal pride I couldn’t slack off, do the minimum, or take extra long breaks. Granted there were times I did all three but as a general rule I was a pretty good employee.


Well said, Quicksilver - if everyone was dedicated to their job and sought out ways to improve it constantly in order to better the company, you and I would be out of work. Amen for slackers!


This is my philosophy as well. You don’t always need to go the extra mile (although sometimes it is in your own best interest to do so), but there’s no excuse for shoddy work.

I was confused at first. You rarely see this attitude at an investment bank. But then I read this:

Obviously as a temp, you can’t expect to reap the same rewards as a second year analyst with a degree from Wharton.

But forget a permenant job as an I-banker with your attitude. Anyone I know who works at Merrill, Goldman, Lehman Bros or any of the other I-banks on Wall Street put in ungodly hours. Their reward? Some of them will make ridiculous salaries in a few years. Either that or they’ll end up in their late thirties as burnt out, divorced alcholics. But I digress.

If you want a high paying job in investment banking, management consulting, or law forget it. The top firms recieve too many applications from motivated, ambitous people with degrees from the best schools to have to settle for someone who is just coasting along. If you are just putting in the minimum effort, you’ll look like your standing still by comparison.

Don’t kid yourself. We ‘process improvement’ consultants aren’t stupid. We can tell when someone is slacking off. The secret? If you aren’t on the radar then what you do probably isn’t that vital to the company.

We had a guy just like you at my previous firm. He was just there putting in time while he studied acting or something. He was ‘counseled out’ after only a few weeks.

And New York is not as big as you might think. If you start getting a reputation as a loafer, expect that your agency will drop you.
On the other hand, I don’t completely disagree with you. There are jobs where no matter how hard you work, you will never advance. I had a job like that while I was in grad school. My class mates used to joke that I had the same job as the guy from Office Space. IMO, if the company is going to spend the minimal amount of effort to keep you, they diserve for you to put in the minimal amount of work. Remember that you are selling them your valuable time and services. But if your job is like that, you shouldn’t stay any longer than absolutely necessary.

As far as I’m concerned, people with this attitude are half a step up from people who steal for a living.

When you take on a job, you and your employer make a pact. He will pay you, and you will work. When you slack on your part, you are dishonest and without integrity.

Imagine your employer decided to not hold up his end of the bargain and begain paying you half what you’d agreed upon. Clearly that’s theft, you’ll agree. Well, when you withhold the work you committed to do, the crime’s the same.

Shame on you for plotting to steal from someone who trusts you. The only problem with your scheme is that most employers are smart enough to watch out for thieves so they can fire them.

Isn’t that how it works in the music biz?

dalovindj: We are no longer working under the “Peter Priciple”, which basically says that workers rise to their level of incompetence. We are now working under the “Dilbert Principle” which basically states that an incompetent worker is promoted to get him out of the way so that the real work can be done.

We spend alot of our time at work and this is a part of our identity. How often in the course of meeting someone does the subject of “what do you do for a living” is asked. It is asked because out job is one of the major ways we define ourselves and others. But you may ask, what about homemakers, unemployed, students–to this I reply, that is your work. Being unemployed is a job.

Now, to take the idea that we should only do the minimum required tasks is to short change our own identity. This could, IMO, cause one to suffer from depression, anger and a lack of confidence about one’s job.

About the problem of when you are good, they assign more and more work to you, well that in itself is a compliment. When the tasks become too much, a simple no is needed. A response of “boss, I cannot do this because it will interfere with my family time.” A company that requires you to work so that the family suffers is not a company that wants to thrive and make money. A happy worker is a productive worker.

The hell it is. There is nothing about my job that my identity has mystically appropriated. No job that I have ever worked has somehow wriggled its way into my identity. My job is what I do 40+ hours a week to pay my bills. Nothing less, nothing more. I always find it irritating that in the course of casual conversation the first question asked inevitably relates to one’s occupation.

I do my job well. I don’t work an ounce harder than I have to. I do what must be done to satisfy the needs of the people I work with and to aid the clients who come to my firm for assistance. I do not believe in throwing myself into my work 110% merely because random chance has located me here. I prefer to save my efforts for the pursuits that have the most meaning for me.

But I’ll be damned if I am going to injure my employer or my employer’s clients. One does not have to swallow luck, pluck, and decency wholesale in order to be a professional.