Are We Working Smarter or Harder? Tomato – Tomahto…

The Wall Street Journal posted an article asking “Are we working smarter, or just harder?”

I say, “What’s the difference??”

Now before some productivity, process, or efficiency yahoo jumps all over that and rails against me for advocating “harder” as equal to “smarter,” let me explain…

We simply don’t work hard enough today. Many of us (self included) seek immediate ways to minimize effort; we use technology, delegation, process improvement, yadda yadda…

In other words, as we tell our kids, we “work harder at not working than we would be if we just did the damn job.”

Here’s how I view our current levels of increased productivity… amazingly, when people fear for their jobs, they seem to work harder. It stands to reason, then (if you believe “A,” then “B” must be true as well…), that if we don’t believe our jobs are in jeopardy, we don’t work nearly as hard.

Well, ouch… that stings a bit, doesn’t it?

Now I’m a self-proclaimed leadership guru. At a minimum, I’m an avid student of leadership and all that it can mean in the way of organizational success. I cannot, in good conscience, propose using instilled fear of job loss as a motivator in the workplace. My position is, frankly, that I shouldn’t have to.

If we would manage performance as it should be managed, all the time, then we wouldn’t have to wonder about this stuff. If we would insist that our folks simply come to work, work, then go home, we wouldn’t need to consider this fear of “being whacked” as a valid motivator.

In other words, if leaders would really lead, this “productivity stuff” takes care of itself. That we’ve allowed such a delta between performance required and performance desired (I call this “discretionary effort”), is as much a black mark on leadership as anything else.

So, are we working smarter, or harder?? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I do know we simply must maintain it…


Kevin Berchelmann


  1. nisha says

    I really appreciate the kind of topics you post here. Thanks for sharing us a great information that is actually helpful. Good day!

  2. says

    You've hit the nail on the head. The issue here isn't about working smart or about working hard. It's about getting results. In my opinion, this big delta between performance required and performance desired lies in showing me how what I do makes a difference & why I should care. Show me that and as you say, this "productivty stuff" takes care of itself.

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