How Overworking Can Damage Teams

I recently read this great article from Smashing Magazine on “Dealing With Workaholism On Web Teams”.


Other good articles on the subject:

Here are a few takeaways…

  • Workaholic companies are machines that burn people out. They don’t care about creating teams. They exploit the enthusiasm of young people and dry them up. One indicator of a workaholic company is that its contractors rarely stay with it for more than a few years.
  • Workaholics can be identified as the people who urge everyone else to work more, who can’t have a good laugh during working hours or who constantly talk about “the good of the company.”
  • “Workaholism is often confused with hard work. Some people who work on the Web seem not only to disregard its dangers, but to actively promote it. They see it as a badge of honor—but is it really? On the contrary, it’s a serious issue that can damage Web teams.”
  • Putting in a few extra hours to meet a critical deadline doesn’t usually result in workaholism, provided that those sprints are rare and justified.
  • Productivity depends not only on working hours, but on intensity of work. Here’s a magic equation: work accomplished = time spent × intensity of focus
  • Pushing people to work more hours is a superficial solution, not a viable one.
  • Once a team finds its pace, that rhythm must be protected.
  • The glow of a workaholic’s perfectionism is false. These practices are only temporarily fruitful, and they can eventually result in disaster. The reason is that workaholism is a shortsighted strategy, one that encourages people to express the worst parts of their personality. Why is it shortsighted? Because they are unconsciously hurting his team’s spirit.
  • “Simply outworking other people can have a negative effect on others: that 5× improvement may create a -2× impact on everyone else: if the star demoralizes others and goes out of his way to embarrasses them with his talent, morale and productivity are sure to drop.”
  • Even the most productive employees can’t keep working with such intensity for long. They will eventually wear out, as will their ability to think clearly. They will no longer be able to contribute to the team or make sound decisions. A successful team needs steady performance from its members more than heroic efforts. A member who temporarily outworks the rest of the team soon becomes an obstacle because they can’t work as part of the team, despite their best intentions.
  • Workaholic leaders will end up creating too much tension by pushing the team members to their limit. Even if he pushes himself more, he will not inspire anyone; he will merely be a foolish dictator — not a member of the team, but an opponent.
  • In the best case scenario, the workaholic will end up exhausted, needing weeks or even months to recover. In the worst case scenario, the team will derail and the members will be dispirited.
  • Remember that you work for money, but money alone is not enough. A job is also about being satisfied, which comes from an effective management style, good use of the team’s various skills and a pleasant atmosphere. A workaholic company needs you more than you need it. You deserve better.
  • Modern businesses need strong teams, not overworked individuals. They need healthy environments, with people who care as much for their teammates as they do for their products.
  • Fighting workaholism is not easy, but it can be done. How?
    • Be eager to reject workaholism. Every. Single. Day.
    • Learn to recognize workaholics.
    • Avoid workaholic companies. You won’t regret it.
    • If you are at a workaholic company now, end your workday at a reasonable time, or suffer the consequences.
    • Spread the word.

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