The Real Employee Manual

Set Limits


When recruiters say they are looking for someone entrepreneurial they don’t mean someone used to calling the shots for him or her self. They usually mean someone who is ready to work endless hours for low pay and no recognition. It is clear that being the boss compensates entrepreneurs for the hours they put in and the risks they take. It is not at all clear why someone would do this for a corporate job. The antithesis of someone who is entrepreneurial is someone who is easily intimidated into giving more than s/he gets.

If you are going to take charge of your work and still remain an employee you must give value for value, but you must not allow your employer to take away from you one of the few good reasons you work for them and not yourself—regular hours for regular pay. You must therefore decide what your hours are and let them know.

You may think working at home will take you off the fast track. My experience is, the fast track usually leads nowhere. Taking time to do things right rarely derails you. Usually, productivity and your sense of well-being and control go up and down together. A day at home is well spent whether it is a mental health day or a day working hard.

Time, effort and imagination plus your store of skills are what you have to trade. Don’t make any of these low value commodities or you can be sure others will too. Making your time valuable requires continual investment on your part. Anyone not willing to allow for that time or who expects it for nothing is worth none of yours.

You may be surprised at how the world does not stop revolving if you just start arriving and leaving at the same time every day. As long as you can demonstrate that you are there when you are needed you don’t need to hang around. I believe face time, while important, is highly overrated.

You should put your phone down and/or shut it off for set periods each day. Email should also be done at a set time. Some say it’s best not to begin each day with email as this pollutes their most creative moments. Do NOT act like you are always on and don’t set this expectation. Even doctors and EMTs need down time even if they knowingly signed up for being on call much of the time. For the most part, anyone who wants your attention should be willing to schedule time that is mutually convenient to talk. If they can’t or won’t do this they aren’t worth your time. Respect their time and expect the same.

The myth of multi-tasking has been thoroughly debunked by researchers at Stanford University and elsewhere. They have found that people who say they can multi-task are the worst time managers. Everyone can do one thing at a time, some more quickly and in a more compartmentalized way which enhances speed and productivity. However, if you can’t focus you can’t work. This also means that seating everyone in a row without so much as a divider is counter-productive both to individual and group productivity and, some have found, even to any real sense of camaraderie. People need to work in groups. They also need alone time and at least the illusion that they are not being watched every second. In a truly diverse work place, there are different personality types who need to get along and collaborate but who are not in the same place mentally or emotionally. Totally open offices work great for nobody, but for some they are downright torture. The panopticon world is actually killing mental health and worker productivity simultaneously. You should avoid working in places and for people who foist this nonsense as though it were some kind of great family ethos. It is nothing of the kind.

The Panopticon is a type of institutional building and a system of control designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The scheme of the design is to allow all (pan-) inmates of an institution to be observed (-opticon) by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all the inmates’ cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that they are motivated to act as though they are being watched at all times. Thus, they are effectively compelled to regulate their own behavior.

I had a supervisor actually complain that I would not open my laptop and do other work while in a client meeting and therefore was not making efficient use of my time. That guy, and everyone who complies with this nonsense, deserves to lose that client’s business as well as that of every client who may have had to wait until they were available.

Alfred The Great managed to turn bickering barons into a unified nation and became the first real king of England. It was said that he practiced time management by dividing every day into thirds. The first third was for work and duty to others. The next third was for nourishing one’s soul and body through reading, meditation exercise and food. The final third was for sleep. This idea was promoted centuries later by Robert Owen, who was both an industrialist and activist and who helped create the 8 hour work day. Nobody who lived this way could go far wrong. On the other hand, being obsessive about work to the exclusion of all else is a disease and not an accomplishment. Even if we do know what we are best at this doesn’t mean we should stop living in a human way.

Nobody can afford to be poor at time management any more. You need to own this and be on top of it or others will control all of your time. If you need help organizing your time there are many tools readily available. Don’t forget that learning time is always at least as important as doing time.

By vitruvius1

Formerly an integrated marketing and customer experience consultant. Writer on moral philosophy and current affairs.

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