The “working hard” trap

“I’m working hard” is how autocrats build fiefdoms.

They may not know it themselves. Who sets out to be a totalitarian or play politics in the workplace? “Yes, I love to play politics at work” said nobody, ever.

Yet politics are rampant, as are fiefdoms. So they must hide behind masks.

Hard work is one of the best masks. It makes it feel like if someone wants to challenge the tyrant of the fiefdom, they’d have to work (or look to work) harder than that person! It assumes all work is equal.

It’s a trap.

Effort has nothing to do with not being transparent, protecting your work, shutting others out, and not being accountable for results. We care about the output, not the input. That you have no boundaries with yourself means you aren’t getting creative enough with your inputs, so you just double down on sweat equity.

And that’s how Betty Busybody gets an entire organization around her finger. “But she works so hard!”

Professionals working towards results don’t even talk about how hard they work. They don’t build an image of huffy-puffy busyiness. They don’t bristle when you question them and say “do you know how hard I’m working on this!??!?”

They talk about goals and results, and invite others in because they want the result more than they want to be the one to achieve the result.

“Working hard” is crap, and the death knell of organizational culture.


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