Don’t be the hardest worker in your job or in your job hunt

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If you work the most hours you look the most desperate. You shouldn’t look lazy, but don’t be the hardest worker. After all, why do you need to work so much harder than the next person? Are you not as smart? Not as organized? Not as confident in your ability to navigate a non-work world? In many cases all three are true for those who work the hardest.

The fact that the hardest worker is not necessarily the most successful rears its head before work even starts: A study conducted by Alan Krueger, professor of economics at Princeton University, shows that when it comes to workplace success, it doesn’t matter if you get in to an Ivy League school, it matters if you apply. In this case what matters is ambition and self-image, not getting the best grades or having the best test scores.

Nonstop work offers diminishing returns after graduation as well. Marita Barth is a student at MIT in biological engineering. She is at the top of her field yet she makes time to play ice hockey and volunteer at local charities. When she talks about taking breaks from her lab, Barth says, I could not maintain focus and energy if I worked nonstop. I would completely lose perspective.”

Don’t tell yourself that you work nonstop because you love your work: If you really loved your work, you’d take a break so you don’t mess it up. People who work longer than the typical eight hours a day start to lose their effectiveness quickly. “If you work all the time, you lose your edge,” warns Diane Fassel, CEO of workplace survey firm Newmeasures and author of Working Ourselves to Death. “Often these people are perfectionists, controlling and not good team players. The hardest workers are “not the best producers in terms of efficiency and creativity.”

Ironically, moments that elevate your level of success at work often require time away from work. For example, a grand idea that impacts your company's bottom line probably won’t come to you when your brain is entrenched in workplace minutia. Anyone can work the hardest, but only special people can sit on a rock and come up with a brilliant idea. In fact, even daily troubleshooting requires some mental space. Barth has found that, “It takes a lot of thought to see what’s going wrong and make another plan. And at some point, if I spend too much time in the lab without a break, I’m not efficient.”

If you can’t stop working, you might be in for some bad news: Workaholism. Kevin Kulic, professor of psychology at Mercy College, says, “With any of those -holics, you are one if it causes you or other people a problem.”

But some people purposely create imbalance. “For many people, workaholism is about perfectionism or avoidance,” says Kulic. The hardest workers have actually lost the self-confidence to stop working. They are either terrified of making a mistake or a misstep, or they are terrified of the world that lies beyond their work — for example crumbling personal relationships.

Kulic cites the Yerkes-Dodson law that says too much or too little stimulation is bad. We need a happy medium in order to perform best. And Fassel cites worker surveys that support this law — the happiest workers have a workload that falls in between very heavy and very light.

This rule for working less applies to a job hunt, too. Many of you will be happy to hear that, “The amount of time you work beyond five hours a day has no impact on your ability to land a job” — good news brought to you by David Perry, managing partner of the recruiting firm Perry Martel International and co-author of Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters.

Perry told me that a job hunt is like training for the 50-yard dash. “Everything is aimed at getting the interview. And you need to be mentally prepared.” Just as an athlete does not over train for the race, a job hunter will also experience defeating fatigue if there’s too much energy spent on the hunt.

Perry is adamant that the best jobs do not go to the smartest person or hardest worker but to the person who best reads his or her situation. So forget being the hardest worker because you need to be “bright eyed and bushy tailed.” Get out from behind that computer each day, he says and “enjoy the rest of your life.”


76 replies
  1. JOSE
    JOSE says:

    If you are white, you can get away with doing “just enough” work. This is the sense of entitlement that white people can enjoy. But if you are black or latino, doing “just enough” is not the way to go. Non white professionals aren’t scared, but rather making a point to prove to white people that they are not all that entitled to what they think they are. But, to be fair, there are also hard working white people who go above and beyond, and I tip my hat to them with the same respect I would to a nonwhite professional who goes above and beyond.

    • jc
      jc says:

      So not true. If you are white you have to work harder. This is thanks to affirmative action and the whole ‘white privilege’ idea. Truth is, there are no perks for poor white people; we have to work twice as hard to get half as much.

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      That is such utter bulls**t, there are plenty of white people at my office who get put upon more than other employees and sometimes straight up bullies. Why do you have to immediately pull the race card? Why not the gender card too then? We also have to deal with all the “boys clubs”. Wah Wah poor me, blah blah blah.

    • anonymous
      anonymous says:

      If you are white, you can get away with doing “just enough” work.

      Explain to me how whites built an incredible civilization in Europe, long before they had significant outside contact. Those aqueducts, cathedrals, hand built stone bridges, incredible works of art, etc, were all done by white workers who clearly did a LOT more than the minimum.

      This is the sense of entitlement that white people can enjoy.

      I’ll believe in white privilege when I no longer have to work 14 hour days.

      Then again, I’m a man. Perhaps Penelope (whom I adore from afar) can get away with doing less due to FEMALE privilege. It’s nothing to do with being white at all, because men don’t have it.

    • inDC
      inDC says:

      NOT TRUE, @Jose and @the rest of you! I think there are two kinds of people in the workplace: the favored and the others on Gilligan’s Island. If you lead a Professor and Mary Ann type of existence, you’re the person who got those punks off of the island OR you’re the one who did all of the blasted cooking–and you weren’t even mentioned in the original lyrics and ended up being an add-on in the revised lyrics.

      Regardless of race or sex/gender, people who are favored get away with doing zip! I work with a lazy waste of oxygen who doesn’t even merit a job. It pains me to know that someone without a job in this forsaken economy would do a better job, work harder, pull her/his weight AND contribute to the blinkin’ team a million times more and BETTER than this shiftless mass of sludge! Few people can handle favoritism–and MOST can’t. Remember the evil and ugly step-sisters? They were favored. It didn’t matter whether they were white, female or striped. They were favored. Cinderella did the heavy lifting b/c she wasn’t favored. So, ENOUGH with the race and gender/sex BS!

  2. Mark
    Mark says:

    Jose sounds like he doesn’t put in an honest day of work. Stop being a racist and whiner.

    * * * * * *

    I disagree. It makes perfect sense to me that white people don’t have to work as hard as everyone else. I don’t have hard facts for this, but there seems to be wide support for this idea just in this string of comments alone, so I would not be so hard on Jose for making this statement.


    • Di
      Di says:

      Dear Jose, for as much as I hate to admit it – I BELIEVE YOU’RE RIGHT.

      It is not only race but gender as well. And to those ready to pounce on this comment – have at it and prove me wrong.

  3. i_work_8_hrs
    i_work_8_hrs says:

    Thanks so much for this article. I am not able to work more than 8 hours a day (due to personal reasons), and there was a time,when I completed single handedly a task that an entire “team” could not complete. My ranking during that review period was far below what i expected and the reason i was given was that other peers put in many more hours than me!!. Now,I dont claim to be a genius or something, but there was no way I could better my earlier accomplishment and i slowly started believing that most of my peers would alway accomplish more in terms of goals at work and that I would never be able to rise due to my not being able to work longer hours.

  4. Farah
    Farah says:

    Great article. This hits home as at my previous company, I was in the Marketing Department for a number of years. There was no way to move up and so I started looking outstide. My supervisor really wanted me to stay at the company and then a Product Manager position became available, which we both thought might be a fit. I obtained the position and succeeded at the marketing-related tasks. Previously in the position, there were 3 people (1 PM and 2 other specialists). To learn the responsibilities and try to do the work of 3 people, I worked 70-80 hours p/week. I thought this would last for just a few months until I became acclimated into the position. However, it continued. Looking back, I believe it was my inability to say “no” to certain projects, especially if I had an idea for a new product, my new VP put it on the plate of things to be done. In any case, the end result was that I was let go (3 weeks after receiving a raise). So, the article is absolutely positvely correct that there needs to be a balance to be the best you can be at the current task at hand. I would be interested to hear what the author has to say about the current workforce reduction and “more is less” with 1 person do the tasks of what used to be a handful of people. Yes, in many cases, this is technology. In other cases, it’s purely a cost-cutting measure (especially at public companies) to make the bottom line numbers. Any additional insights? Thanks again.

    * * * * * * *

    Hi, Farah. Thank you for taking the time to tell this story. I think we all learn best from each others’ stories.

    It seems to me that you hit the nail on the head when you wrote that this was about saying no. We all need to be good at saying no so that we are doing a job that we want to be doing. The same is true with your question about cutting back workers and asking them to do the same amount of work with fewer people — each person needs o set boundaries at work. If someone is asking you to do more than you feel comfortable doing, and you’re doing it, it’s probably your fault, not your boss’s. After all, it’s not your boss’s job to mindread what your boundaries are — it’s your job to tell her.

    At any rate, it sounds like you learned all this pretty well in your last job. So maybe you will teach this to others — with your story and by example.


  5. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:

    I agree 100% with Jose. He’s not a racist, it’s the sad truth. We Latinos have much more to prove in the work-place, even if we have a college degree. If we don’t work extra hard, we won’t be considered for a promotion and we can possibly jeopordize our job.

    Keep the comments coming!

  6. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:


    40 hours a week for 15 years is nothing to brag about. I started picking fruit in the fields of Florida, where it’s extremely hot and you have to carry a 20ft. 50lb latter around and a bag full oranges, grapefruit or manderines, while walking on the hot sand. For all this, you get paid per container filled, not per hour spent sitting around. I also worked in contruction in Houston, right after I graduated from high school, at age 20 because of us having to migrate where the work was. While in construction, I felt the heat, cold, rain and humidity of this city and I always knew that I needed to save money to attend college, if I wanted to improve my situation, without any goverment help or loans.

    I graduated 12 years ago and now I’m a Supply Chain Manager because of my hard work and dedication. I know the value of work and our work ethic has pushed us to succeed at what we do, because we know that manual labor is much much harder. However, there’s people like you, that ignore so much and have so many priviliges that seems to think that we don’t even speak English, well I’ll tell you something, you’re absolutely wrong. You couldn’t be enjoying the prices that you pay, if it weren’t for us. I doubt that you’re bilingual, but I’m fluent in both English and Spanish. And finally, yes I do have a SSN. Please read and travel more, so that you can know what you’re writing about.

  7. Anon Ymous
    Anon Ymous says:

    While Jose might be right about racism/discrimination in certain circumstances, things are not that way at Wal-Mart where I work. White people can be dropped at a moments notice, but the company PR legion do not wish to be seen as discriminatory in any fashion, so for a colored/hispanic/asian/whatever it takes more to be fired, just so it won’t seem like they are dropped for being the race they are. In fact, there have been several instances where a non white is taken to the office for something, immediately mentions the word “racism” and all is well. There are far more social help programs for non-whites than whites in case they have no job to boot. Sometimes it is not fun being an european immigrant in this country.
    As for the main article, there is a mention of “The hardest worker is the one showing most fear” which in my case is true. The first time I worked at Wal-Mart I got an above average evaluation 2 weeks before Sept 11. 2001. Out of nowhere I lost my job two days later, as did every other immigrant at that store, of all colors. Back at the same store I now have a different position, but even though my job ambition is the same high standard, it is about 20% of my output. The other 80% is fear and desperation, making me work 5 times harder. There is little help for white immigrants. The family is all overseas, and since I have only been here 7 years I don’t have a solid social security fund. And Wal-Mart is looking for reasons to cut people, any excuse will do. For those thinking I should move up to a better job, my grades and schooling are all from overseas, and going through aptitude testing and refresher classes cost money and time, which I do not have. And here’s a funny fact for you people. One of my team mates is a mexican who doesn’t speak english, so she cannot be reached with the overhead speaker system, and the reason I have a radio is because I bought it with my own money. She has no radio. But when it comes time to choose whom to cut, she will remain, just so the company doesn’t get accused of racism. Perhaps it would be easier if I was hispanic, companies would hire me just to show they are not racist, and it would take an act of congress to fire me, and if I do get fired, I have a legion of activist groups and social workers handing me stuff. That might be exaggerated, of course, but when one of my white co-workers went to socials to get help, she was told that “If you had been mexican…”
    If there is a problem with the Anon Ymous name, it is because I don’t really need Wal-Mart to read this and do a database search on employees. Looking to cut, as I said. Fear… best whip there is.

  8. Dan
    Dan says:

    Contract employees set their own hours.

    The desire to have more control over when and where and how much one works is attractive to a growing portion of the work force.

    It’s attractive to employers because, while the per hour rate might be higher, the cost of fringe benefits is lower and the employer gets what they pay for in terms of production.

    For all the reasons mentioned, contract staffing will grow to become the majority of the workforce.

  9. Erin
    Erin says:

    I work in a field (medical scientist) where 50, 60, 70+ hours per week is considered normal. You have to “put in the time” to stay afloat so that you can produce results and get funding. If I tried to work 40 hours per week, I would get kicked out of my training program. This kind of atmosphere makes it hard for me to explain to my peers why I want to change fields just to be able to have the time for myself and my family.

  10. cmarie
    cmarie says:

    I love all the great comments. What I hate is when people twist other people’s words and turn an opinion on a SECTOR (which should have been clarified) of a very large work force as a universal truth for the ENTIRE work force. There is so much truth in what Penelope is saying in MANY work environments that are office like settings in CERTAIN industries.
    From 15yrs old until I got my first office job I worked various blue collar jobs in fast food, retail, and restaurants. I guarantee you I was greatly rewarded for my hard work, willingness to put in extra hours and great positive attitude despite the 60-80 hours a week was working to put myself through college (one full-time and two part-time. The key is to work SMART not HARD. I was many times disliked by lazy coworkers because I raised the bar at these jobs. Contests were offered to increase efficiency or output. AND IT WORKED. The incentive has to be right. I became management at many of these jobs. Now I have an office job and I see the emphasis on taking breaks when working long hours. They are important for focus and clarity. But I work in Finance and 40 hours usually does not cut it. It could have when I was at a large investment firm, but they have 26,000 people. They can afford to hire more people for detail intense jobs. BUT it took 60-70 hours a week as a TEMP there to get that job, to get noticed. I impressed them enough, by my dedication NOT skill, they helped me create a new position which they offered to me, in addition I changed the job description of the temp position I was filling. I eventually left that company because they weren't pushing me to grow. I now work for a small successful firm where I learn something new everyday. It definitely took 60-70 hours a week for a few weeks to close our most recent $1.1 billion deal. But moderation is key. The next few weeks were more like 50 hours.
    Hard work does pay off in the right industries. I recently moved to New York City where I am appalled at the work ethic in blue collar jobs. Many behave as if they have a right to get paid just because they showed up. This is shocking to me. Maybe they would find a not so blue collar job if they worked harder to get into management or tuition reimbursement programs as many of these jobs have. New York has a multitude of jobs on all levels and the Temp agencies are great tools to prove dedication and then get the on the job training and experience. BUT THEY WANT HARD WORKERS. The temp agency I worked for got me 17.50/hour, and I worked hard for it.
    Lastly, yes as a woman I have to work harder, especially in a male dominated field. As I have many minority friends, yes they also work harder, but they also work smart and recognize when they are recognized and rewarded for hard work or being taken advantage of or overlooked. It is your right to find a different company. …SMART NOT HARD…

  11. Hop
    Hop says:

    I started at a young age working at a fish bait shop putting red wigglers (worms) in cartons. Red wigs are a favorite live fish bait. The job went like this; remove lid from container, count out 100 red wigs and put them in the container with one handfull of cow manure, replace the lid and invert, stack on the shelf to be sold. The worms migrate to the bottom, which will be the top when inverted and opened.
    I can remember worrying about ” was that 99 worms or 101 worms”? An adult would have been more prone to worry about the germs, but of course an adult would most likely not have such a job as it paid $0.01 per conatainer back in 1952.
    I worked hard thinking about having my own money. My father, a university grad, ex military commander and top manager explained that people that make money do not have time to work. I learned and started working in a good paying skill trade, the office thing never appealed to me. At about age 25 Pop’s statements, and there were many, started to make sense. I did not gamble with money. What I did and still do is save and invest. I still work, save and invest. I have no debts, kids have degrees that are paid for. My returns are equal to and sometimes greater than my working income. I spend very little on me and the wife. I give away more than I ever thought possible.
    Many people that I work with want and need all the overtime that they can get. They just can’t make it on base pay. It’s sad to me that they never learned. I reckon they will always be “counting worms” and worrying.


    these are some good points.
    having been an employe of b&q i am used to most of these situations and have had firsthand experience of it but here in england its the opposite race card that has been discussed.
    we had various people that took 2 hour lunch breaks go home when they like and drop people in the s**t for their own gain and if anything is said its racism and nothing gets done.
    apart from being on of the worst run companys.the fashion for selection of managers and supervisors is that if someone is no good at their job or performs poorly then instead of addressing the issue they are made up to supervisor of duty manager and the racism is rife and the theft from employees is far greater than customer theft not that the store manager (givaway)cares as long as he is not directly someone who sloggs his b*****ks off it is soul destroying to see these minorities tearing the arse out of the industry.

  13. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Lol – racism! Give me a break. I knew this article was written by a women when I read the title : “Don’t be the hardest worker in your job or in your job hunt” – Pretty much sums up a WOMAN @ work. I only which I worked with only men @ work, so I wouldn’t have to listen to the continuous soap opera that is a modern woman’s life – I DO NOT CARE! Also, all of the women I work with put NO EXTRA EFFORT into learning anything and cry when they do not get their special way. I wish the west would collapse already so that we would not have to deal with the special rights that women take for granted.

    • Really?
      Really? says:

      You should probably not have become Deejay at a strip club then, bud. It’s not too hard to tell by your reply that you don’t work too hard at self-improvement either.
      I wish that more people would think before speaking (or typing, whatever the situation may be.)

      PS: Great article. Great site, all around.

    • Di
      Di says:

      Jeesh Kevin, dude lighten up your sounding a bit bitter. What type of work do you do? Just curious.

  14. Non-Military Bootcamp
    Non-Military Bootcamp says:

    The work & play balance is crucial to get right. Its important to work hard but not to burn yourself out. Its when you start getting fatigued that your work is effected.

    Its always important to take breaks in your day otherwise your mind will become numb with your work and you wouldn’t be able to enjoy your work as much since you would be living through it for such long periods in your day.

    Some great advice offered in this post. Thanks

  15. Hid Kit
    Hid Kit says:

    No doubt I agree 100% with Jose. He’s not a racist, it’s the sad truth. We Latinos have much more to prove in the work-place, even if we have a college degree. If we don’t work extra hard, we won’t be considered for a promotion and we can possibly jeopordize our job.

  16. cid
    cid says:

    Oh please, stop whining and using the race card. You are racist just saying this. Do you not think it’s difficult for women to get the same pay, no matter what their ethnic background. People in the US need to stop using their race as a reason to fail, step up, do the work and reap the benefits. If it isn’t happening, then do something and make change happen. The world owes no one. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what YOU can do for your country… Remember that, Do you? Or do you even remember who once said that? I’m so sick of whiners and their race cards..

  17. Chris
    Chris says:

    The people who say that the Latino commenters are “playing the race card” are straight white males, I (almost) guarantee it. I know it would be nice to think that you dudes got where you are by your dudely hard work and determination, but your genitals give you a privilege that is so taken for granted that you think it doesn’t exist.

    Jimmy, Jose, thanks for sharing your experiences. As a white person I appreciate being educated about privilege.

    There’s a great point being made about how making the choice to work smart rather than hard is not available to everyone. I remember a phrase I heard a few years ago about a woman having to work twice as hard to be considered half as good as a man for the job. Still rings true.

    Sorry for the late comment, I missed this post and the bigotry moved me to post and condemn it.

  18. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    Dear Penelope:

    I love this article (and many of your other ones), but this one particularly resonates with me, so I feel compelled to comment (and because I’m a bit dismayed with the direction some of the commentary is going in and don’t want you to be!).

    After just over 8 years with a top-tier global management consulting firm, I recently made a very big and serious decision to leave. I was consistently a top performer, an extremely (excessively) hard worker, and the hard work (and the smart work, to another commenter’s point) paid off. The year in which I left (last year), I was selected for a couple highly prestigious appointments for just a handful of upper management (< top 1%), and had all kinds of leadership folks investing in me left and right in all kinds of ways. I was put on partner track and was in an incredibly amazing, secure, and lucky place – in a word: rare. It was very difficult for me to leave, but I had to because my health was paying the price (I'm only 36, but my body is broken), and, equally as important, that zeal I had felt for about 8 years straight getting me out of bed every morning before my alarm clock went off had just faded a bit and it didn't feel the same. And I really wish I had discovered this article and your entire site at the beginning of my self-exploration because the range of emotions I felt and was trying to wrestle my way through is just so succinctly identified, defined, and elaborated upon in your writings. Luckily, the entire process probably only spanned about 1 month (give or take a couple months) – from the very first smatterings of introspection, to the ups + downs, to the hunt for my next big thing, to executing a speedy separation from the firm, to taking a full month off, and then starting my new job 6 weeks ago. Your stuff is so valuable and helpful for all these phases! Everything from the drivers behind those seemingly insane hard workers, the perfectionism, the balance – all those things are very viscerally, intensely personal things to grapple with! I so appreciate your abilities to cut through the static and provide helpful guidance that strikes a nice, credible balance between experience, opinion, trends, and actual data and analysis. Thank you! You are doing great work here – so great that I actually hesitated sharing your site with some friends/ colleagues because I find it such a place of solace and downright spiritual guidance – quite frankly: my secret weapon! So thank you and please keep up the great work.

  19. Stephen Howell
    Stephen Howell says:

    I’m in the real estate business, which means that I work 7 by 24. When a client finds a house, there’s no break until they’re under contract. As a professional real estate agent, it is difficult to balance downtime with worktime. I’ve been in the business for 11 years and still haven’t figured out how to take Wednesdays off and not be pulled back into real estate. It’s hard to maintain that resolve to “stay away on Wednesday” simply because when clients call, you jump and while you’re in the air you ask how high!!! After reading this, I’m more resolved than ever to take next Wednesday off. Ask on me on Thursday if I did!!!

  20. Over 60
    Over 60 says:

    Dear Penelope:

    I’m 60 years old and out of a job. In this economy and my location–city under 60,000–pulled up roots to move here, sold our house, bought another…it’s a pretty scary set of circumstances. I recently resigned from a job, which I held for almost 3 years. There were many things I loved about it, and some I did not. There had never been a full time person in this position until I was hired–I was part-time for 6 months in the beginning.

    I just read an article of your’s about quitting after two weeks, I suppose that might be a choice if I could turn back the clock 40 years. But, I have no such choices at this point in my life.

    I’ve been a creative person in communication fields for more than 30 years. I am a perfectionist, both to my credit and downfall.

    How does one manage an extremely demanding job when it’s expected to be at least mostly perfect, in a one person office, when your supervisor, who had no understanding of the time it takes to complete a job always attributes your being behind to time management — wait let me finish here…
    Being receptionist, producing two newsletters–writing, photography, layout and design, desktop publishing–each month; news releases, special projects–such as brochures and graphics–assigned on an emergency basis to complete; update webpages; and then say I’m argumentative if I say I’m unable to complete the amount of work?

    His tack was that I’m not a good time manager? I did my best, was never offered any “time-management” classes–despite his saying I needed them.

    I actually did almost everything in this office… he didn’t have experience in the software yet thought I just didn’t work fast enough. When I did at last turn people down, I was called abrupt on deadlines.

    I realize that I loved many things about the job– for two years I had a score of 4 out of 5 on my performance reports, but I was always unhappy that there seemed to be a complete disconnect on reality on his part. ONE person really can do just so much… and the IDEA of NOT working so hard was NOT an option. Very difficult. Just before I resigned/terminated for arguing (he said), I was finally taking time for 15 minute breaks, on his suggestion, then when I asked for an actual list of priorities, which I had never had, he phrased it as ” if you feel the need for a break, do so at the exact times…The the term “little Napolean” ring a bell.

    Bottom line now three months later, no job, very few job opportunities, facing possible job/age discrimination in the hiring process, no insurance, no money to pay bills. Oh, did I mention my husband was also let go two days after Christmas?

    Am I missing something here in your article? Or is it only directed at a younger audience. Your comments would be appreciated.

    • Over 40
      Over 40 says:

      I just have to put in an agreement with your reply. Even though my job is in the retail side and I am “just” the Store Administrator—your “little Napoleon” sounds just like my boss—but she’s a woman. The managers favored by her call it “perfectionism”. Ummm…No! It’s someone who decides things at last minute when you had brought up the topic 2-3 weeks earlier and told it’s not my place to ask/suggest anything. It’s someone who uses the caps lock key to make an uppercase and is too dumb to unlock the key than wonders why her password doesn’t work. It’s someone who wants X-mas candy in October for a project. It’s someone who treats me horribly and yet still has me “babysit” her granddaughter on company time while she is finishing something last minute. She is such a micro-manager, you can’t sneeze w/o her permission. Yes I do work more than the 8 hour day —- off the clock. Out of fear of losing my job because she needs it yesterday. Yes I do regret it and end up losing perspective on my priorities.
      I feel for you “Over 60”. I hope and pray for the very best for you and your husband.

    • alice20c
      alice20c says:

      Your boss wasn’t a perfectionist. If he was, he would’ve cared enough to hire you as a graphic designer and another person as a receptionist. Or hired you as a receptionist and contracted the design. Management that insists on bundling highly skilled duties with a lower position, like it was a free gift with purchase, either misunderstands the importance of them, or is willing to cut corners and call it “good enough”. That’s the opposite of perfection. He wasn’t a perfectionist; he was a jerk.

      My advice, if you want art production or graphic design work, make sure your skills are up to date, call yourself a production artist or graphic designer. You can bid freelance work online, while you look for another full-time gig. You can also look for an office manager position, but with a separate resume. Those duties should never have been entangled in the first place, so untangle them.

  21. Toena Ils
    Toena Ils says:

    I have about 10 years to go till retirement. At the mo, I work all of the hours God made. I need to start ‘practicing’ my leisure time so I don’t it home wondering what the heck happened on day 1 of my retirement.

  22. Z
    Z says:

    Am I the only one who disagrees with the “don’t be the hardest worker in your job”?

    To me, someone who loves his job, who is passionate about his work, extremely motivated and willing to do his best to achieve success, to help his team and to bring success to the company is nothing but highly admirable. It is so rare to see someone really give everything of himself, devote all his time to his job without expecting anything much in return. Unfortunately, such people are rarely appreciated by their colleagues. Most people would not work like crazy. They will not want you to work that much too, because they will look bad this way. Such people, who are often lazy and unwilling to work, who can’t wait for the 8 hours to pass by so that they can go home, who think that work is torture, who do the work just because they need the money, who think they would be happy if they didn’t have to work…well, such people would always tell you the following:

    “If you work the most hours you look the most desperate. You shouldn’t look lazy, but don’t be the hardest worker. After all, why do you need to work so much harder than the next person? Are you not as smart? Not as organized? Not as confident in your ability to navigate a non-work world? In many cases all three are true for those who work the hardest.”

    These people do not appreciate work. They do not want you to succeed. Instead of trying to advance in their career or improve themselves, they look for ways to make others feel down and push everyone else down, so that they don’t have to climb up the ladder, and can instead stay comfortably in their comfortable zone without making any additional efforts.

    Of course, the extremely hard working people are the bad guys for them. Instead of praising those hard workers, appreciating what they do for the company and for everyone else in the office, let’s blame them and put them down. If you cannot succeed, blame it on the others and try to make everyone else be on your side. I am sure there will be many who will be on your side. The best, the smartest and the hardest workers are a minority after all. Besides, they are busy working and achieving much, contributing to the success of the company, helping their team members, and improving themselves, instead of looking for excuses for not working and ways to gather everybody in the laziness circle.

    I agree, working nonstop isn’t the healthiest way of living. But those extremely intelligent and organized hard working people know how to plan their time in order to be able to do their workout, meet with friends, have a private life and still be the hardest workers of all.

    Yes, this requires a lot of discipline, even more strength, and most of all courage to go against the flow, to persist, and become the best of the best. That is why the best are so rare. This isn’t for the faint-hearted.

    • FemEagle
      FemEagle says:

      Dude, I have worked 15 years at a job and I’m one of the best workers my company’s ever had. And I feel like a fool. Working your ass off doesn’t make you rich, just OLD. When you’re a good worker, you know what happens? You’re given more work to do because the boss knows he can’t count on the slackers to do it. Took me a long time to come to this decision, but I will NEVER work my ass off again for my company, never go home exhausted again. I’ll do my best to do work right and on time, but that’s it. Most companies don’t deserve anything more than that.

  23. Student
    Student says:

    Hey penelope,

    i stumbled across your blog recently and i must say it is great!

    I am not american. I am typing this from further east-South East Asia. But i can sympathise with the latinos who have commented here. Minorities always have to work harder than the majority to get noticed in work..or anything positive they want to do. I am not playing the ‘race card’ here. That has always been the case and will continue to be the case. Sure there are exceptions here and there but that is the overwhelming truth. its a fact of life.

    Having said that, it is an observation of mine that for many of a minority race, they do play the ‘race card’ when they miss out on a promotion or an opportunity. They make excuses like ‘oh! its cos of my colour’

    it may or may not be the case but it seems that before they even cast a self-critical lense on themselves, they tend to shift the blame to outward factors. I guess sometimes its just denial eh?

    Well, just to give everyone a clearer picture of where i am coming from, i am an immigrant myself and a racial minority.

  24. Subu
    Subu says:

    What are the 10 main reasons people work harder than necessary ?

    – you’ve started with stupidity !! .. but can we list the rest ?

  25. Chris Hansen
    Chris Hansen says:

    Read the post about likeability.
    Read the post about Judgment and Profesional Criticism.
    Read the post about not being able to be successful as a solo artist.
    Re-read the post about likeability.

    Once, when Eddie Van halen was asked to comment why Sammy Hagar had just been ‘fired’ from the band, Ed’s comment was thaty he suffered from LSD – lead singer’s disease. when asked ot explain, it came out [rough translation] that it’s where the singer thinks he’s the bomb and the only actual musician [which in Ed’s case we know isn’t true].

    The point is, if no one wants to work with you because you make them look bad every time you’re part of the team, then you’re toast.

    This is why being an over-achiever isn’t a good idea in general.

    Just because you work a gazillion hours and come up with a better lightbulb or a cure for cancer every time you’re engaged doesn’t mean that everyone else enjoys the same results. That’s especially true if you collect all the glory points, but even if you give ALL of the credit back and take none, you still completely alienate everyone you work with because they KNOW you’ll push them to the limit just to keep up, and that means they’re at risk of failure when they work for you.

    Do that once or twice, and you’ll become everyone’s favorite workhorse, and, eventually, you’ll burn yourself out of a job.

    That’s because over-achievers aren’t team players if they can’t sense when they need to wait for the team to catch up. Sometimes that means allowing things to fail. That’s an incredibly tough lesson to learn, and also very important.

  26. Dave
    Dave says:

    White guy here. Im a roughneck on a oil rig in south Texas, and I work my ass off. Just reminding everyone its still racist to say white people don’t work hard. That’s the definition of summarizing an entire race by someone you’ve met. My Mexican co-workers are all hard working, as well as the blacks. But each has their dirt bags.

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    Tory Badeau says:

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  28. Betty
    Betty says:

    Be watchful when consuming too much beer because it may end up in alcoholism. Ofcourse if you are an enjoyer of life like i am then you may not care!

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    Catherin Mangan says:

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  30. Peter
    Peter says:

    This is what I see at work all day! There is the assistent of the boss who is the first in the office in the morning and the last one to go home in the evening. The boss thinks he is his best man because he is in the office as long as he is. Hopefully there will be a turn towards the people getting a job done rather than sitting at work long hours.

  31. P P
    P P says:

    I know this post is from a long time ago but I’m about to lose my job so have been reading your blog…

    Did it ever occur to anyone that minorities may have to work harder to prove themselves at work BECAUSE OF Affirmative Action? With a choice between a white and black person that both graduated from Harvard, an employer would assume that the white person had to have worked harder, had better grades, etc. to get into Harvard. And because of Affirmative Action, he’d most likely be right. In an Affirmative Action-less world, both candidates could be judged fairly on the quality of their accomplishments instead of the color of their skin. Imagine that.

  32. Kelsey
    Kelsey says:

    This post was eye opening within the first paragraph. I’m fresh out of college and just started a new job. My main goal was come in early and stay late- I am eager to impress. However, I didn’t consider how this could make me seem like I’m not smart enough to get my work done in the allotted time.

    My superiors say they want people who stay after and come in early. Penelope, what is a good balance?

  33. Trekker
    Trekker says:

    I have learnt that it’s not all about results but dedication is also important to factor in there. My work style may seem lazy but I get results yet when it comes to long term growth. I should have put more time into showing up and being present and less time on my own trying to do a finish a great project perfectly that wasn’t core to the business.

  34. Buy African Mango Plus Extract Online
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  35. Minni
    Minni says:

    White people aren’t privileged. I go to college and live on $16,000 a year in student loans, while all the immigrants & natives get funding from the government so we can “look” good as a multicultural country, (Canada). All the non-white people get to skip classes and put in half the work because they have the funding to sit at home and twiddle their freaking thumbs while people that don’t receive any funding because they are not aboriginal, have to show up, be on time, and deliver above the bar just to get the time of day. So shut it.

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