Men Are Great At Looking Busy, Study Shows, Which Really Isn't All That Surprising
Americans are notorious for our workaholic lifestyle; in many professions, it's encouraged to stay late at work, skip family functions, and sacrifice social lives for the Good of the Company. Apparently, however, it's possible to reap the benefits of the lifestyle without actually having to put in 90-plus hours every week: according to a recent study, men are great at looking busy while maintaining a livable, non-soul-sucking schedule. How? By following the footsteps of slackers everywhere, a.k.a. making sure to appear busier than they actually are, and sometimes by teaming up with other like-minded coworkers. Looks like your middle school gym teacher was right after all, and teamwork really does make the dream work.The study, published in Organizational Science, was conducted by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University's Questrom School of Business, Jezebel reports. She chose to study employees at a consulting firm, which was known for its long hours, intense workload, and pressure to perform at all times. "When the client needs me to be somewhere, I just have to be there,” one consultant told Reid, according to the New York Times. “...You know it’s tough to say I can’t be there because my son had a Cub Scout meeting."According to Reid, everyone was forced to deal with superhuman expectations, but people tended to fall into three groups in terms of dealing with it. Some took the pressure to heart, putting in 80 to 90 hours a week, and were regarded highly for it. Others publicly spoke out against the workaholic culture and requested lighter schedules or flexible hours, and they tended to be negatively reviewed. The third group, however, managed to enjoy the best of both worlds, finagling a way to work fewer hours without ever flat-out asking for lighter workloads.
To make things even more confusing, the fakers (or at least the successful ones) received performance reviews as high as their coworkers who actually lived the workaholic lifestyle. So how did they manage to do it? By prioritizing their other aspects of their lives and structuring their work schedules accordingly. These employees reported making sure to find local clients to reduce travel, and some parents with young children banded together to make sure they could all have more flexible hours. They didn't bring it up when they bailed on work to spend time with their families or friends, and one consultant said he made sure to rise above expectations so nobody could find fault with his work, despite his fewer hours. "I know what clients are expecting. So I deliver above that," he told Reid.
It all seems intuitive, if you think about it, so why are men disproportionately reaping the benefits of the fake-workaholic life? As it always seems to when talking about women in the workplace, the difference is due to child care. Women tended to go through official channels when asking for fewer hours, and as a result, they lost their chances at stealth-slackerhood. As mentioned above, employees who asked for fewer hours received less favorable reviews than the real workaholics. Men, on the other hand, seemed to be punished for paternity leave; male employees who asked for it saw their performance reviews suffer. The New York Times points out that this could be why they feel the need to unofficially lighten their load.
The study is based on just one firm, of course, so it's not necessarily applicable to every situation. However, the Times writes that Reid claims that other industries have spoken to her about similar workplace environments. Don't take the study as a sign to start watching Bob's Burgers every day instead of actual work, but it's a clear indication that quantity of work does not equate to quality. If you can get stuff done in less time than your coworkers, don't feel the need to stay late to keep up appearances. (...Well, maybe you can sneak in one episode if you really want to. Slackers unite!)