In praise of the lazy employee
Years ago, I read an article saying that every organization should have at least one lazy employee. No, they weren't advocating hiring and keeping people who didn't want to make a contribution. They were talking about that breed of lazy employee who didn't want to do more work than necessary to get the desired result. They want to think, plan, and then do rather than just doing.
They want to know why it takes five signatures to get something approved when one should do. They want to know why the forecasting effort should take two weeks each month when a bit of rethinking could cut 50% out of the work and possibly get better answers. They want to know why they're tied up in bureaucracy when simplifying work would leave them more time to attend to customers' needs and to come up with creative new ways to make progress for the company. They're lazy enough not to take "We've always done things that way" for an answer; they want to figure out how to do more with less. They want to make more contribution than the 80-hour-a-week employee supposedly does and to do it with far less stress and strain.
If you're fortunate enough to have one of those lazy employees, I suggest you remember:
- They may not always be right, but they're worth listening to; they are on your side.
- They may well be the ones who give you the sustained contributions you need and the breakthroughs you dream about.
- It might be a good thing if their approach rubs off on others.
- If they're contributing in 40 hours what you expect from someone who works 60 hours, don't push them to the 60 hours; they may need time for ideas to percolate.
- If you don't have any such lazy employees, why not? What is it costing you?
As one demonstrably highly effective manager I knew has said (my paraphrase), "The effective people are those who put in a solid six hours a day working on the right things and then spend another couple of hours listening to people and to ideas; they typically are much more effective than those who work late into the evening."