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Work smart, not work hard.


It’s the time of the year again for appraisal. I just had a face to face appraisal session with my team member. This guy just joined my company five months ago and he was quite hard working.

I guessed he was expecting to get a good appraisal from me but he was wrong. I do value hard working people but I have a poster on my table reading “It’s not how hard you work but how much you get done.” If my staff had been paying attention to this, he would have known he will not get a good appraisal from me just by working hard.

In the Singapore work culture, I noticed that people “like” to work overtime. This may be a way to show the bosses that you are hardworking. This is not a healthy culture and it goes against the pro-family work place that the government is promoting. I am a manager that lead by example, I will leave office on the dot if I do not have urgent matters that need to be resolved in the office. This in a way may encourage my staff to leave office because even if they stayed longer, I will not be there to see them.

 In my appraisal of my staff, I looked more for the results of their work than the amount of time they worked. If I have an efficient staff, I won’t mind him working shorter hours or having more breaks. For staff that need to put in extra long hours but still do not produce the results I expect, I will not give them a good appraisal regardless of the hard work. To the staff being appraised, this may not be fair because he was hardworking and he did his best to deliver results although the results may not be good all the time.

I think we are already in the vicious cycle where people equate hard work to long hours and so in order not to lose out, everyone is trying to work later than their peers to show their bosses that they are more hardworking than their peers. But the people also forget that work is more about results than hours, at least this can be said for most jobs except those labour intensive jobs. For labour intensive jobs, your results may really depend on the hours you put in, but for these jobs, there are few ways to work smart so the principles for appraisal should be different.

 I once worked in a company where all my colleagues were taking their jobs slowly before 5pm. They would only start working after 5pm and they would normally leave work after 8pm. The worst part was the appraisal system actually award this type of workers. As you may have guessed, the company was not very profitable and really capable people did not stay there for long after understanding the culture of the company.

 I really hoped the work culture in Singapore will change so that our people need not spend so much time in work just for the sake of clocking the hours.