/ Management

0% Productivity Tip #4: Reward hard work instead of smart work

About a year ago, on this date (Aug. 4th), I started a series of posts title "0% Productivity". The idea is to call out specific behaviors that ensure things don't get done. Here are some past posts:

1: Treat work in a Last in, First out queue
2: Talk about improving things “in the future”, without listing out specific POCs, timelines, and so on.
3 Downplay the pain that others feel because it doesn't look so bad from where you're standing.

For the next tip, I'm changing things up by telling a story. It's entirely fiction, but the behaviors can be found in plenty of companies. Does it take working overtime to get noticed at your workplace? Why?


It's 8pm on a Thursday night. Patrick, one of my software engineers, has just put in a order for pepperoni pizza. The delivery person shouldn't have any trouble with the office receiptionist this time; it's the third night in a row he's made the order.

Patrick is stuck trying to catch up on work after a day full of interuptions: Between questions about a project he's on and requests for help with an app he wrote six months ago, he hasn't been able to focus all day. He knows we're counting on him to get the work done, so he's committed to do whatever it takes, even if it means gaining weight.

Julie, on the other hand, is at home reading bedtime stories to her 4 year old. She just finished Stick Kid and is now opening up I'm Bored. Julie left work at 5pm today and I couldn't help but notice. While Patrick is working extra hours to make sure the project is completed on time, Julie rarely stays late.

With promotions coming up soon, I'm in a tough spot. Julie seems to be the most productive, but Patrick is the one who's working the hardest. While Julie is at her desk writing documentation, Patrick is running around from meeting to meeting making sure everyone's questions are answered.

But despite Patrick's enthusiasm and work ethic, Julie always seems to get more done. How is it that she has so much time to focus during the day, while Patrick can't even catch his breath?

It's not just choosing who to promote that has me worried. In my 1:1's with Patrick, he often brings up the need for a little more help. Who can blame him? Patrick is working at least 60 hours per week. But I can't hire someone when I have another team member working 40 hours at most. My only option right now is to ask Julie to take on some of Patrick's work, but I don't want to burden one of my smartest employees or make it seem like I don't think she's working hard enough.

Maybe if I give Patrick the promotion, Julie will be a little more motivated to pitch in. She'd see that a little extra effort pays off. She doesn't have to work 60 hours a week, we all need a work-life balance, but she should at least be willing to stay late a couple times a week. It's just not fair for Patrick to be the only one working late.

Still, I can't help but wonder how Julie gets it all done. Why is Patrick always being interrupted, while Julie is able to work for hours without a single meeting interferring? Patrick is always willing to help other teams, yet Julie's video tutorials seem to have garnered hundreds of views from across the company, and she's only spent a few hours on them.

Julie always seems to be thinking of the most efficient way to spread knowledge, while Patrick is just trying to give people a specific answer to their specific problem. He doesn't document his answers, so he's often answering the same question from different people.

Julie's also trying new ways to collaborate, outside of the standard "bring everyone in to a conference room for two hours" type of meeting. It seems like she's able to get answers faster, even though the communication isn't real-time. Adversely, other teams often complain about having to wait a week or more when needing to meet with Patrick, who just doesn't do e-mail.

Are these the keys to her productivity?

Regardless, I'm stuck with a problem: do I reward the hard worker (who gets less done) or the smart worker (who does less "work")?