– Do we watch the clock or the work product we’re producing?

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I don’t wear a wristwatch anymore and, frankly, don’t really miss it. I never really liked wearing one and now consider it more of a status symbol as opposed to something practical for me to wear. When I need to know the time, I can get it from a number of places, such as my computer, cell phone, or in the car. I still manage to make appointments and am considered rather punctual. Other than a scheduled meeting, I am not very cognizant of time during the day other than knowing it is either morning, afternoon or evening. I tend to be more consumed with what I am working on as opposed to watching the clock which I think runs contrary to a lot of people today.

When I joined the workforce, it was made clear to me to concentrate on getting the job done, regardless of how much time it took. True, there were established hours of work which, in our case, was 8:30am – 5:00pm, Monday through Friday, but I don’t ever remember working such hours. You came in early, you stayed late, and coming in to work over the weekend was never considered unusual. This was the price you paid for being an exempt employee. I found I was not alone or unique in this regard. The many companies I visited on consulting assignments, both near and far, also had people who worked the same as I did. Maybe it was a generational thing.

Recently, I overheard a young worker lament to a friend how he had worked 50 hours for the week and was upset his boss asked him to come in over the weekend to finish an assignment. He was quite outraged by all of this. I just chuckled as I cannot remember the last time I only worked 50 hours in a normal work week.

I tend to believe exempt workers in this country are now more concerned with the amount of time they spend at work as opposed to what they produce. This signals a shift in our priorities and values. I realize we should be cognizant of both time and our work products, particularly for project management purposes, but if it is a choice between watching the clock and putting my name on something I produce, I will concentrate on the latter and not the former, at least that’s how I was trained to think as I entered the workforce. Over the last few decades though we have sacrificed craftsmanship for bean counting, and our perspectives have changed as a result.

To me, watching the clock means someone is not truly interested in his job; it is laborious and uninteresting. Conversely, not watching the clock and putting in extra time means a person is committed to his craft. In other words, the employee is taking his work seriously and considers it a natural extension of his personality. This is where our personal lives and professional lives become blurred and indistinguishable. This is hard for those who exclaim “Thank God it’s Friday!” on Facebook to understand. Workers nowadays tend to carefully delineate their personal and professional lives and keep them separated. To me, they are indistinguishable. Then again, this is not the first time I’ve been accused of being old-fashioned, and certainly not the last.

I am not so much concerned about keeping the boss happy as I am about producing something of value and quality. It is called “pride in workmanship,” something we traded in for wristwatches and other such status symbols a few years ago.

Originally published: February 16, 2011

Also published with News Talk Florida.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2016 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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