Working Hard? or Hardly Working?

Posted by on Mar 5, 2005 in Success!Ezine For You



E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2005

You go to work everyday. You enjoy your job. But you don’t do very much when you get there. Instead of giving your employer or your own business your full efforts, you scrape by doing the bare minimum -– primarily because you can get away with it. Some people work in settings that are fraught with ineptitude and inefficiency and these environments encourage even the most industrious individual to slack off. In part, people are motivated to work hard whether anyone is checking up on them or not when they enjoy what they’re doing, feel that they are accomplishing something, and that their efforts are helping them advance in their career. This may not happen in your workplace. Thus, you may ask, “Why should I work so hard when nothing will come of it?” In some ways, you may be justified in feeling this way. But don’t fall prey to “learned laziness” and erode the positive work ethic you may have. It will only add to the lack of productivity in your work environment and cause you to feel even more depressed and unmotivated.

Are you a slacker?

Work laziness is learned behavior. We get our cues about how hard to work from those around us. Their goofing off dampens our spirit and energy. We also are negatively influenced by relentless images that sway us to admire those who get a lot of money for doing very little –- sometimes even breaking laws and rules to get what they want in life. This can cause even those from very high achieving backgrounds to resist pushing themselves too hard or causing them only to do so when assured special compensation, such as bonuses or other rewards. They do only the work that is absolutely necessary and spend the rest of the time on other activities –- namely, themselves.

Take a careful look at what you do each day. If you’re spending more time on personal tasks than the job you get paid to do, then you need to take stock of yourself. Your employer is not paying you a salary to:

  • Pay your bills
  • Shop online
  • Make personal calls or e-mails
  • Play computer games
  • Run your private business on the side

Most employers recognize that you have to take some time during the day to handle normal life activities, such as checking to see that your children have made it home safely from school or that your elderly parents have been fed. But, that’s quite different from being tied to the phone all day because of family problems or personal business that prevents you from doing the work you are being paid to do. Similarly, when you own your own business, sure, you can decide at any point to do your personal bills, wax the car, or run out to the mall to do some shopping. But, it is your business that is suffering when you go overboard in doing this. When you are at work, you are at work. This means keeping yourself focused and on task so that the activities that you need to complete in order to successfully get your job done actually get done.

Figure Out Why You’re Working

In order to get a grip on yourself, start by frankly examining why you’re working. If it’s just because you have to in order to keep a roof over your head, then you’re likely to continue to scrape by because your primary motivation is just to collect a check. Of course, everyone has to pay their bills. But even if you were wealthy, try to figure out what would motivate you to go to work. For many people, it’s a need for some sense of achievement that is experienced when they are engaged in a job. They like the structure and stimulation of employment and feel a sense of personal growth and purpose in having something to point to for how they’ve been spending their time. This is why they put in long hours and keep working on a project even if no one is looking over their shoulder because they feel good about what they’re doing and the quality of the end result. But, there are other ways to gain these good feelings of purpose and accomplishment. Prefer to work at home? Spend more time in the community on charitable activities? Rather put the time into raising your kids? Both men and women struggle with these issues but often don’t look at options, like making necessary lifestyle changes in order to realign finances, that might allow them to take the alternative they would prefer. Yes, it’s hard to make it on one salary these days but not always impossible. Some people are just taking up space and would do better to leave the traditional workplace so the job can be held by someone who really wants to be there.

Accept Your Laziness or Else Do Something About It

If you conclude that you’re a slacker, own up to it and stop pretending. Don’t try to fool yourself and others that you’re taking the job seriously when you really are putting more energy into figuring out ways to get by without getting caught than you are actually working. If you’re in a work setting that is not on the ball, you will probably be able to continue functioning like this for a long time. Similarly, if you can eke out enough money in your own business to cover your basic expenses, you will probably be able to get by. But be honest with yourself and others. Call what you’re doing a hobby and own up to the fact that you enjoy getting through life without having to do very much. On the other hand, if you truly don’t feel good about your work ethic, dig deep for the determination to change it. Remember, this behavior is learned and can be unlearned.

Get to Work!

You are being paid a salary to do a job. Earn it. Stop whining about needing bonuses and other rewards in order to do your best. Why should an employer pay you a salary to do a mediocre job? Any extras should be for superb performance, not simply for doing well. You should want to do well for your own sense of self-pride. If you’re self-employed, you should want to do well so you can continue to eat. So, decide to make some changes in yourself. Be a winner, dump the sloth, and get to work!


About the Author:

Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,

The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at or call 954.797.9766.

E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317

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