Average hours worked

Subject: Average hours worked
From: Kristopher Green <kgreen -at- avuetech -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 6 Aug 2002 11:34:29 -0700

I've just stumbled across a paper that neatly addresses many of issues
raised in our ongoing debate about work hours. In "Manufacturing Anxiety:
Explaining Long Work Hours at a High-Tech Firm", Berkeley's Ofer Sharone
documents some factors that kept software engineers at one company chained
to their desks 16 hours a day; his (her?) conclusions correspond pretty
closely with my own experience in that sector. In short, the engineers'
collective and combined need for recognition and fear of failure is
exploited by management, who pit the engineers against one-another while
disguising their control somewhat by asking the engineers to perform
self-evaluations (in addition to more formal and more important evaluations
by managers that are performed biannually) and estimate time required to
complete work. The engineers collaborate by forever raising the bar, in
hopes that their peers will blink (or be carried out in a stretcher) before
they themselves do. The payoff comes from the pride of regularly pulling
off near impossible tasks as well as from more concrete rewards, such as
cash and titles. See it for yourself at

For my part, I think that big hours are fine if you're working for yourself,
or on a product or for an organization in which you strongly believe. I'll
pull all kinds of long hours to help my coworkers out of a jam, or because
we're trying a new method that requires extra ramp-up, because someone's
made a rare-and-understandable underestimate of time required, or because
I'm learning something in the process: because <I> I </I> want to. Ask me,
working 60 hours each and every week for Big Anonymous Defense Corporation
(headquartered in Bermuda, with regular rounds of layoffs, and execs. making
300 times one's salary), puts you firmly in the "tool" category.

I'm probably not someone our esteemed Mr. Plato would hire. Personally, I'm
OK with that. And if our occupation evolves to the point where my desire to
see my family each night makes me techwr-l jetsam, then I'll walk myself to
the rail, hand you my shoes and watch, and jump. I'm a pretty swell tech
writer, but if the job demands 60 hours every week I'd be happier building
bicycle wheels again. They ride bikes in Norway, don't they?

Kris Green
Olympia, Washington, USA

Confidential to Keith Cronin, Sean Brierley, Dori Green, John Posada, Emily
Berk, and particularly the fellow working for the Forestry Department up in
Canada (who's name I've temporarily forgotten): I've heretofore been a
lurker and so have never actually said so, but I'm a big fan of your posts.
Now, btw, y.

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