Sunday, January 25, 2009

Let's hear it for the lazy guy

(This is the text of my That's Men column in The Irish Times on Tuesday 20th January 2009): I have hinted more than once in the past that when I was working for a salary I was far from being the most diligent employee on the floor.

That's when I was on the floor. More often than not I was to be found wandering around bookshops in the city centre, looking for the answer to everything.

Now that I am self-employed I actually have to work in order to get paid. Unfortunately the HR Department neglected to mention that little point when it put up a voluntary severance package that had 200 of us charging out the door.

Now that the jobs are vanishing and we're all going to live in caves, emerging now and then to be heckled by David McWilliams, I'd like to celebrate the world of the not-very-good worker.

I came across a few examples the other day in reports of a heartening survey by an American management consultancy called Caliper (now there's a name to conjure with).

One woman, on her second day in the job, was found fast asleep in the CEO's office. Anybody can fall asleep on their second day at work but to do it in the CEO's office takes a lot of class.

Actually, women can be a bit of a pain in the neck about doing a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. We men are better at slacking off so I'm a bit disappointed that it wasn't a man who chose the boss's office for his nap.

But fair play to the guy who, after starting work, looked for a week off for a trip to Florida. The employer said no so he went sick for a week and came back with a tan. I bet this man remembers his week in Florida with more fondness than any week in the office. Good luck to him.

Then there was the new guy who came to work late and went home early, explaining that he was going to be sick tomorrow. He has many brothers and even some sisters here in Ireland.

What is heartening about the Caliper survey is that it found that most managers will keep a worker who is not very good because they don't want the hassle of hiring someone new.

Nearly seven out of ten managers said they would persevere with an existing worker, according to a report on

Thank heavens for that, whether you're an underperforming bishop, bank manager, politician, or drone.

By the way, Caliper don't necessarily think this is a good thing, judging by their website which contains frightening sales pitches like "Get the most out of every interview and hire more people like your top performers." Tell you what - I wouldn't be too keen on seeing those guys walk in the door.

Talking of interviews, one of my most dispiriting tasks as an employee was sitting on interview panels. Somewhere around Day Two, the thought would hit me: If I was applying for this job, against this opposition, I wouldn't get it.

Assuring myself that all job candidates exaggerate their energy, dedication and commitment to the point of fantasy did not help to dispel the dark cloud that would hover over me until I finally escaped back to my bookshops and my long lunches.

I like the attitude of Alexander Kjerulf. He speaks all over the world about making people happy at work and, I suspect, makes a happiness-inducing truckload of money out of it.

On his blog, Chief Happiness Officer, Denmark-based Kjerulf suggests bosses tell their new employees: "My most important priority is your happiness and productivity at work. If there's anything I can do to make you happier and more efficient - tell me right away. This isn't idealism, it's good business, because happy people are more productive."

I couldn't agree more and don't be bothering about measuring productivity either.

"Life is more than work," he suggests new employees be told. "If you're regularly working overtime, you're just making yourself less happy and more stressed. Don't join the cult of overwork - it's bad for you and the company."

This great man has a book called Happy Hour is 9 to 5. It's available in many languages including Chinese. Laid-back Chinese workers - now there's a novel idea.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the nice mention in your column.

And here's to hoping we'll soon see more laid-back and happy Chinese (and who knows, maybe even Irish) workers,


Alex - the CHO