People who work 9-5 and take an hour for lunch

Posted on by Nancy Slessenger This entry was posted in Management Skills, Time Management and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

If you read this last week, you’ll remember that I was told by someone that you couldn’t write meaningful objectives for people who just work 9-5 and expect to take an hour for lunch.

I dealt with the first part of that statement last week. This week I’d like to address the concept of people who “just work 9-5 and expect to take an hour for lunch.”

The true story of a 9-5 worker

Many years ago I had the pleasure of working with a delightful client at a university.
One day he asked me if he should give his secretary a pay rise or not.

She was a very senior secretary, responsible for the running of his office and at least four other secretaries. I asked him what his concerns were. It was just one thing:
“She never stays late.” He told me.
This was true. I had never seen Avril in the office after 5pm. So I asked:
“Has anything ever been late or unfinished because she would not stay late?”
“No.” He responded immediately with absolute certainty.
“So are you saying she is so efficient that she gets everything done during the normal working day and never costs you any extra money in overtime?” I asked.
“I think I’d better give her that rise.” He responded.

Political overtime

I came across this phrase when I worked in a company where it was seen to be a good thing to stay late. People thought it correlated with commitment. That may have been the case. In my view it also correlated with poor efficiency, low levels of organisational skills and a need to impress the boss.

My colleagues would sit around chatting about all kinds of things during the day and then start doing serious work at about 5.30.

The trouble with this kind of behaviour is it leads to massive inefficiencies. It’s a system where it is in the interest of people to stretch out their work.

What you need is the complete reverse: a system that encourages exactly the opposite kind of behaviour.

People who just work 9-5

Now, when I hear someone describing colleagues in this way I regard it as more of a comment on their own failings. It usually indicates that they think long hours in themselves are beneficial, no matter what is achieved (or not achieved).

They are often incapable of measuring achievement and find it easier to measure value by the amount of time people spend on the task or keeping a seat warm. The more you think about that the more stupid it is.

Who are the people who work 9-5?

I have worked with many of these people and they are the salt of the earth, in my view. Many of them are skilled, highly committed employees and members of a team.

They often have to leave at 5pm to pick up children or catch a bus. This does not make them any less committed. And it often makes them more efficient.

A question for you

Imagine you need to have an operation. You have the choice between Sam and Charlie. Sam’s operations take on average 8 hours. He always stays late and works long hours. Charlie usually completes her operations in 4 hours and, although happy to stay late, rarely has to do so.

Do you want a surgeon who is tired, inefficient and possibly incompetent? I imagine not.
I know of one surgical unit where the situation I have described exists (I have changed the names.) The reason Charlie is so much more efficient is that she has spent years improving her technique and learning better and more effective ways to carry out her operations.

It is not surprising that she is much more popular as a surgeon than her colleagues (who have put in very little effort in this area).

We should be rewarding people for finding quicker, easier and more efficient ways of achieving their goals, not for incompetence and the lack of willingness to make improvements.

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    6 Responses to “People who work 9-5 and take an hour for lunch”

    1. April 3, 2012 at 10:55 am

      One of my very best consultants ever worked 8-5. She was incredibly focused, squashed all her admin stuff in to before 9am or lunchtime so she could use the most productive part of the day on the fee generation part. When we had snow, she, a mother to 4 young children, trekked through snow drifts to catch an infrequent train and made it in to the City from Southend whereas a single girl who lived locally did nt manage to get in.

    2. Anne
      April 3, 2012 at 11:27 am

      yes, but how efficient is she when she needs to work through lunch…also, Admin is a very important part of any job and the time should be factored in to your working day, not ‘squashed in’. this implies that it is not valued in the organisation. And four young children, what would have happened to them if their mother had been in a snow related accident to or from work? Surely ‘working from home’ in this case would have been advantageous. In my view this is not a good example of an efficient role model.

      • April 3, 2012 at 3:39 pm

        Hi Anne and Lyn
        I too see admin as part of the job. Even if it’s a bit hard to relate to the bit that apparently is the ‘fee generation’ part it is still vital that the admin is done well and personally I think it needs to be counted as such. If you are doing admin during your lunch break and after 5pm then you are not really working 9-5 and taking a lunch break.

    3. Heather
      April 3, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      Anne, you make some good points about working from home – but that’s a different argument. I have to agree wholeheartedly with Lyn, from personal experience of both cultures: an added bonus of the 9-5 culture is that people co-operate and collaborate rather than compete and complain. Much more satisfying for the business and its staff!

    4. Zak
      April 3, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      Excellent post thank you. I enjoyed the comments too – “cooperate and collaborate” – What? That will never catch on in the corporate world ;o)

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      August 23, 2012 at 4:08 am

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