You Get More of What You Measure

Another reminder from the New York Times that organizations will get more of what they measure with their employees, so be careful what you measure.

Some people fully embraced this culture and put in the long hours, and they tended to be top performers. Others openly pushed back against it, insisting upon lighter and more flexible work hours, or less travel; they were punished in their performance reviews.

The third group is most interesting. Some 31 percent of the men and 11 percent of the women whose records Ms. Reid examined managed to achieve the benefits of a more moderate work schedule without explicitly asking for it.


What is fascinating about the firm Ms. Reid studied is that these people, who in her terminology were “passing” as workaholics, received performance reviews that were as strong as their hyper-ambitious colleagues. For people who were good at faking it, there was no real damage done by their lighter workloads.

So here we have a firm that is rewarding the appearance of working long hours, as a proxy for actual productivity. That’s not a good proxy, because when you measure your employees by the hours they appear to be working, you will get more hours in which employees appear to be working. Not more work, not better work, just the appearance of work.

How is that a good way to measure employees? How about rewarding the people who find a way to get more work done in fewer hours? Those are the people who should be rewarded, not the ones who take 80 hours to do 40 hours worth of work.

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