When extra time doesn’t equal more productivity

The employee who rarely goes home is not really the workplace ideal
By Susan Singh and Alan Wolfish
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/28/2004

Managers complain about their “difficult” employees — the ones who regularly call in sick, are unproductive when they are around, and who invariably avoid overtime. But there may be a more insidious problem in the workforce. The chronically present, ever-helpful, nose-to-the-grindstone worker may actually be a bigger challenge in the long-run.

Let’s look at some of the characteristics of the ever-present, always “helpful” staff member. He probably works long hours with little supervision on files that no one else really understands. The employee is a loner, somewhat bristly, who resists sharing information with colleagues or superiors. The job seems to get done, so everyone leaves the person alone. What’s wrong with this picture? Perhaps nothing, but potentially a great deal.

People routinely working long hours should raise workload concerns for HR. But if it’s not a case of “too much to do, too little time,” then the problem may rest with the employee.