Friday, August 17, 2012

Anne-Marie Slaughter on “having it all” (The “Culture of ‘Time Macho’” v. Efficiency)

In her article, Dr. Slaughter advocates that we ultimately need to change the “culture of face time” if we are to empower more women into leadership positions.  She explains  the “culture of ‘time macho’—a relentless competition to work harder, stay later, pull more all-nighters, travel around the world and bill the extra hours that the international date line affords you” which “remains astonishingly prevalent among professionals today.” 

Although Dr. Slaughter insists that being “willing to put the time in when the job simply has to get done is rightfully a hallmark of a successful professional,” she also urges that we begin to move away from in-person work and to emphasize more an increased efficiency in our work.  She also advocates moving away from leave and flexibility for women-only, but broader workplace rules available to all employees.   Dr. Slaughter also reprimands employers who undervalue caregivers who find ways to get their professional obligations done efficiently to also tend to their family responsibilities. 

These points definitely resonate with me, and I’m glad that Dr. Slaughter makes them. 

In my own experience and observations, and from what I’ve heard anecdotally from others, the “culture of face time” and “time macho” are still very prevalent in the American white collar workplace.  If you aren’t physically in the office long hours, then subtle negative judgments get made against you.  (Sometimes they are not so subtle!)  The continuing professional norm is that your butt is in your chair most of the day.  This norm is very deeply ingrained in most workplaces. 

And Dr. Slaughter raises a good point about the undervaluing of efficiency.  For years, as a professional and a mom, I’ve had to be extremely disciplined with my time to get my work done efficiently so that I could meet both my professional and familial responsibilities.  There are only so many hours in the day, so you have to be a good steward of the hours available.

In my professional life, I almost always have worked through lunch and rarely have taken time to check my personal e-mail or take other fun breaks while at the office.  Over the years, countless co-workers have commented on my apparently amazing level of organization and my ability to get things done ahead of schedule.  But I’ve noticed that such comments never come from other working moms.  They too have had to learn to be efficient and not waste time. 

Yet when managers are walking the halls at 6 p.m. to see who is still in their offices, we efficient moms don’t get any brownie points.  When I was in practice, I had a couple single male co-workers who would routinely goof off throughout the day, e.g., debating politics, going for periodic snack breaks or reading   They were regularly still in the office at 6 p.m., which pleased managers.  But why should that have been?  In reality, these gentlemen were still there because they had wasted a lot of time earlier in the day.  That was overlooked apparently. 

Meanwhile, in managers’ minds, I’m sure it did not reflect well that the working moms had often already left the office by 6 p.m.  It didn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar that they had had their nose to the grindstone all day and rarely took breaks to get their work done quickly.  They weren’t rewarded for their time efficiency.  Instead, the underlying workplace value seemed to be the amount of one’s life one was devoting to work.  The more the better.  The “time macho” concept seems to be that tough folks don’t need a life; their job is their life.  Only an undedicated wimp has other things to do with his/her time.

Proverbs 28:19
Work hard, and you will have a lot of food; waste time, and you will have a lot of trouble.

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