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Career

Study: Men experts at 'looking busy'

Breaking news: nobody is surprised.

By Mahalia Chang
It probably won’t surprise you when we tell you that those people who always seem to be busy and attentive at work are faking it. You know, those people. The ones who are always asking for gratuitous percentages and making unnecessary comments.
Well, it might surprise you that most of those people are men.
Okay, actually, that might not surprise you either.
A study in an American consulting firm by Professor Erin Reid revealed that almost a third of the workers in the firm pretended to be ‘workaholics’ for financial benefits and more holiday time, but in reality, put in an average amount of hours.
The study, conducted over some 100 employees, sorted the workers into three categories: ‘workaholics’, ‘non-workaholics’ and ‘fake workaholics’.
The true workies of the company really did put in the hard hours, long travel times and worked overtime unpaid, and because of this were rewarded with great performance reviews.
The “passing workaholics” also got good reviews, but as the study reveals, they did it by cheating the system. They booked locals clients, reducing their travel times, they co-ordinated with co-workers to make their time off less obvious, and completed personal work while on the clock.
“They made an effort to line up clients who were local, reducing the need for travel. When they skipped work to spend time with their children or spouse, they didn’t call attention to it,” read the study, “One team on which several members had small children agreed among themselves to cover for one another so that everyone could have more flexible hours.”
These tricks made it easier for the “fake workaholics” to customise their schedules and request time off or raises. Even though they only “fake” the hard work, they’re perceived as battlers by their bosses, so requesting paternity leaves and holidays is made easier.
These “shortcuts” to a better work-life balance, however, don’t work for everyone.
The “fakes” who had young children and used the “unofficial” methods of taking time off didn’t suffer in their work reviews. The women were a different story.
Women who had young children and used the official methods of requesting (totally unnecessary, superfluous) things like maternity leave or reduced workloads experienced negative reviews at the end of the year.
“Those specifically requesting a lighter workload, who were disproportionately women, suffered in their performance reviews,” read the study, “Those who took a lighter workload more discreetly didn’t suffer. The maxim of “ask forgiveness, not permission” seemed to apply.”
In breaking news: nobody is surprised.
Factor in the knowledge that, in families, women are more likely to need time off for caregiving, including taking care of sick kids and taking them to appointments and you’ve got yourself some good ole’ sexism.
But the question now arises: should we shun the bad fakers for cheating the carefully laid out system? Or should we face up to the fact that the system is flawed and jump on the bandwagon? Maybe there is something to giving the illusion of effort, and milking the rewards.
Anyone want to give it a try?

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