“Don’t Work Hard, Work Smart” Can Make You Lazy

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

“Don’t work hard, work smart”, says the production worker after I applauded him for doing something “smart”.

He initially introduced to me the idea of getting the same result with less effort.

You may not be a productivity nut but I’m sure you’ve operated under the “Don’t work hard, work smart” motto in a similar way, shape or form. It carries the essence of optimization. I was a big fan back then but now I’ve gone 180.

Today, everyone says it as if “working hard” is dumb.

This reminds me of the discussion I had with a coworker. I initiated the idea that “Don’t work hard, work smart” makes people lazy. As expected, he totally disagreed. Then he goes on to explain how that motto is about getting the same result with less effort. In my head, I was like “No shit, Sherlock”. I felt a little offended because I knew that. Everyone does!

What I want to point out is that everyone says it to avoid work or accountability.

You’ll notice this when something fails or a problem surfaces. It shows us the “gaps” within the company’s work procedures. But instead of taking responsibility, we react by saying things that avoid responsibility for the problem:

This wouldn’t have happened if this individual did their job properly.

I had no choice. I’m just following orders.

The problem has more to do with our inefficient work process.

If you’re not accountable, then you don’t really need to do anything on your end. It’s ok to stay as-is.

However, if you stay as is then you prohibit yourself from improving. And if you’re not improving, then it’s only a matter of time until your value within the company fades. Sooner or later, you will be replaced by someone who gets paid less and yet, does more than you.

“A chain is as strong as its weakest link”

Understanding that the efficacy of each member contributes to the overall efficiency of the group.

However, more often than not, our improvement solutions do not address the real problem, it just transfers the ownership of the problem:

That person is already doing this, why can’t we just add one more to his/her bucket?

That department needs to change the way they do things.

Why bother trying to understand this? Let the experts figure it out.

This goes unnoticeable because these solutions reduce the individual’s chances of failing, which is seen as an improvement. However, the reduction of responsibility from one individual causes an increase in responsibility for another individual.

It would be more beneficial if you take ownership of the problem and figure out what you can do to prevent it from happening again. I’m not talking about just coming up with ideas and solutions. I’m talking about being part of the solution to the problem.

“If anyone can refute me — show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective — I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone.” — Marcus Aurelius

When you take ownership of the problem, you improve in the process. That’s where growth comes from. You become more capable of handling other problems. This does not only benefit you, but it also benefits the group as a whole.

It is the difference between a team of 5 skilled members and 20 mediocre members and a team of 25 skilled members.

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” ― Alexander the Great

So c’mon…take one for the team.

An office employee who talks about how to stand out at work. Other times — on personal finance. Sometimes — on creating another source of income.

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