Aug 21, 2022Liked by John Warner

This topic resonated with me. I too was told I was working too hard when I had a part time job at a marketing research firm when finding people for studies. When later in life I became a Director of IT, I had a great group of employees. They knew what needed to be done and I let them work the hours they wanted. No one took advantage and the work got done. Other department heads thought I was too lenient but there were never any complaints about my department or my team. They've all gone on to higher positions and all liked working with me. I hate this idea of measuring productivity! If the work was getting done I didn't care if they sat all day and played games on their computers.

Expand full comment
Aug 21, 2022Liked by John Warner

Thank you.

Expand full comment

"in which workers are monitored moment-to-moment"

Unfortunate that such narrow-minded viewpoints (based in fear and ignorance, at least) are adding to the burdens of already-hard-working workers.

For a couple of summers during college, I worked in a large hospital kitchen -- a wonderfully productive and eye-opening experience (also delightful). We were surrounded by numbers -- the dietitians with their clipboards calculated calories, sizes of portions, numbers of meals, varieties of menu items, quantities of various foods to order, etc. -- very much by the book.

The chef and the cooks, on the other hand, worked as artists -- following the menus, yes, but cooking from long experience, casually measuring ingredients, eyeballing the items on the grill or in the oven -- and, with practiced ease, transmitting that "old school" way of life to us summer fill-ins.

The place was open from 4 am to 7 pm, seven days a week, and must have served thousands (of visitors, staff, and patients) each day. Productivity was measured by the results -- the cafeteria lines had to be amply and accurately supplied for breakfast, lunch, supper, and late supper -- seven days a week. The hot and cold cabinets with bins of food for the patient floors had to be appropriately stocked and dispatched upstairs on time -- three times a day, seven days a week.

The tried-and-true rhythms of the place (as a summer fill-in, I got to see those in action across various work schedules) were the real measure of productivity as obligations (to the lines and to the patients) were consistently met. In between deadline times -- well, there was an honest recognition that there really were in-between times and excessive scrutiny was neither useful nor welcome, even by those with clipboards.

This all worked, I think, because of deep competence on both sides of the kitchen (dietitians and cooks), a high degree of mutual trust and support (however tested it might be at certain moments), and compassionate leadership.

The head dietitian's reporting chain reached very quickly up to a high level of the hospital administration -- to the VP of something or other. The counter-balance to excessive hierarchy, though, was the person of the elderly chef (the only one entitled to wear a toque). Some problems were settled because of numbers and some because of relationships. And the kitchen worked, and people were fed, day after day after day.

Would that publishing returned to a similar working model....

Expand full comment
Aug 21, 2022·edited Aug 21, 2022

Love how you think and your eloquence in sharing it. This article in particular so resonates regarding the lack of mutuality in the workplace of trust, respect, and partnership between employees and employers and might I add, the lack of caring about something other than looking good and ego-driven competitiveness? I am working on a book, Rearchitecting Work . . . Unlocking the power of HR to unleash the potential residing within each of us to produce the results that matter to all of us. So appreciate your writing. Much care, Dianne Michels, HR Futurist, Possibility Partners, LLC

Expand full comment

I blame the Puritans for this, as for many other pathologies of modern American life. >:-{ They had this manic need to prove to everyone else how "favored" they were and so they imbued society with this slavish (intentionally used) devotion to productivity. As an old friend of mine used to say, "There are some people in this world who like to get up early, drink a lot of coffee, go to work and work real hard, and that would be OK, except that they insist that the rest of us do likewise, instead of being allowed to live as we want to."

Expand full comment

Great piece, John. Everything rings true. I, too, have dodged the disease thus far, so long as we don't count my college jobs, where I ran around like a madman as a food runner in a restaurant, but that was the nature of that job.

I find the topic of "real productivity" especially interesting. What the hell is it!? I get a lot done for the company I work for, but I do it in such a way that, I'd guess, wouldn't be considered "real productivity."

Whether a disease, or a trap, it's something that must be called out. I've encountered far too many people that drive themselves to the ground because they think that's simply the way it is.

For some, it really is this way (I'm thinking of construction workers, Strawberry pickers in Salinas, etc.). For white collar, it seems to be a self-awareness problem. For blue, a management problem.

Expand full comment