Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lazy Americans

Thomas J. Brown said...

30 minute increments? And people say Americans work too hard...

Thomas, they used to say that Americans were lazy. Not so long ago there was the economy bubble in Japan (similar to the Dot-Com bubble in America, but more widespread). It was a common complaint among JETs that they would get asked "Why are Americans so lazy?", the belief being that the Japanese must be harder workers because they were so prosperous. The really ironic thing was that even when the economy was booming over here, things were still less prosperous than in America, on average. Americans work fewer hours, but are more efficient and productive (and have a higher per-capita income) than just about any other country in the world.

Which isn't to say that Americans aren't lazy. Efficiency and laziness aren't mutually incompatible, rather, they complement each other nicely. I believe I'm efficient because I'm lazy.

The Dilbert comic for May 29th, 2005 illustrates (ha!) how one event can be interpreted both ways. The comics are only archived for a month, so I'll transcribe the text:

Dilbert: Can I show you something that I'm proud of? I automated a task that used to take me three hours.
PHB: Well, well, well. Isn't that just like you?
Dilbert: Resourceful?
PHB: Lazy.
Dilbert: Did you just turn my brilliant accomplishment into a character flaw?
PHB: Complainer.
Dilbert: Let's just forget the whole thing.
PHB: Quitter.


  1. At work, sometimes I actually take longer to complete tasks than I have to, just so I have something to do. What used to take me the better part of a week this time last year, could be done in about one day if I worked the full eight hours (which I don't, because I share the edit suite with another person).

    Sometimes I think how great it would be if the work week were only four days long, giving us a three-day weekend. I think a lot of people would be a lot happier. On the other hand, I think a lot of people would freak out, because they would be losing a work day. Perhaps make Fridays optional. If you have work you need to do, come in and do it. If you don't have any work, or you finish your work before close of business, go ahead and leave. That would be nice.

  2. Agreed. A simple thing like that would encourage efficiency. That's how natural selection works.

    And then you can start ramping up the work requirements, until you find the balance between everyone taking a day off and no one working hard because there's too much to do to get that day off. The optimal work efficiency. You get more work out of your employees, and your employees occasionally earn extra days off, and EVERYONE is happy. It's win-win.

    But I'm definitely going into management. :D Middle-management is no good, because you ALWAYS have to be there on Friday (to manage those that didn't finish their work on time).