By Marta Garayoa
It seems that big companies nowadays tend to value their employees’ performance not only in terms of results but also in terms of hours and dedication to the matter at hand; and I’m not referring here to the concept of efficiency, quite the opposite actually. Apparently a great employee is no longer one who successfully finishes the task quickly and thoroughly, but rather an employee who stays at the office well past the closing hour and looks busy all the time. When did this happen? When did efficiency become a minus for the employee? When did Europe become Asia?
Congratulations, you’ve suddenly passed from mediocre to the employee of the month just by warming the seat, reading The Huffington Post and looking very busy all the time.
We all have lives outside the office, or at least we should, but you can easily walk in at 11pm on a Friday to a big corporation or consulting firm (we all know what I’m talking about) and you will find a bunch of “losers” pretending to work. For me, that scene looks like a fool’s contest, where interns battle to get hired by staying prolonged hours warming the chair and looking busy. If the boss sees this situation s/he will be amazed at the intern’s dedication and thrilled at the fact that s/he has the power to make a 25 year-old keep typing and “saving the day” at 11pm on a Friday, when s/he could be hanging out with a girlfriend or boyfriend, watching a TV series or having a beer with some friends, and all that sacrifice just for a pretty low monthly sum. Congratulations, you’ve suddenly passed from mediocre to the employee of the month just by warming the seat, reading The Huffington Post and looking very busy all the time.
Another thing I don’t get is how these “seat-warmers” love talking about how busy they are, complaining with a sort of fake humility of how miserable their lives are, how late they get off work every day… We all know the hidden message behind all that: My job is so important that my company wouldn’t make it without me and the countless hours I have to spend there. BULLSHIT! Nothing is THAT important, especially in big companies where absolutely everyone is dispensable, so chill, honey.
The easy rider is probably smarter than average and values his/her leisure time, not caring about appearances that much but rather caring about doing the job effectively.
At the same time, we also have the “easy rider”, the wild spirit that ended up on the dark side by accident and is going with the flow refusing to engage in the fool’s contest. The easy rider is probably smarter than average and values his/her leisure time, not caring about appearances that much but rather caring about doing the job effectively. The easy rider will leave the office as soon as s/he’s done the job and won’t waste one single minute outside the assignment spreadsheet by checking the latest sports news or gossiping with the colleagues over Link or the company’s chat.
Having these two clear examples of employees, between whom land a good part of the company’s intern contingent, it might be easy to say that a good boss would hire the smart and efficient intern (a.k.a. the easy rider) rather than the inefficient one who needs 13 hours a day to complete all the tasks required (a.k.a. the seat-warmer). But that’s not always the case. Some bosses force their employees to stay those prolonged hours at the office so, in that case, no matter your attitude, efficiency or the kind of employee you are, you’re forever stuck there, but that’s another story.
Apparently, efficiency is losing its status in favour of exaggerated dedication
Apparently, efficiency is losing its status in favour of exaggerated dedication; even if that dedication is just a façade and lacks consistency, because we can all guess what happens with the seat-warmers: they explode. None can handle that amount of pressure, lack of sleep, lack of free time… especially if all those sacrifices are not accompanied by a great amount of money, so they end up suddenly exploding, leaving the company, reconsidering all those lost hours spent warming someone else’s seat, all the missed plans, beers, potential relationships… And all that just so you can brag in front of your friends and family and get a powerful and successful company name on your CV that validates you as a person. Maybe it’s time to reset, start again and become the easy rider. Happy International Worker’s Day!
Marta Garayoa is from Madrid, Spain and a graduate in International Relations and Translation and Interpretation. She is a defender of lost causes and is currently innovating in the banking sector (yes, apparently that’s possible).