Kate Hobler challenged Rich Visotcky and I to share our thoughts on the article “Commitment is not free overtime" based on the Quora question below. Rich already responded in Kate’s article and now it’s my turn.
As a CEO, odds are that you are not where you are now by chance. You identified a need in the market or something you wanted to improve in society. You didn’t wait to see if things happened on their own - you stood up, took risks, and worked on achieving your vision. You probably worked day and night, endlessly postponing your personal life, sacrificing the comfort of seeing your friends and family, and putting your own health on the line… with a potentially high level of stress and lack of time to cook healthy meals. After all those long hours of hard work, who can blame you for having pizza and soda at 2 am when you’ve just had to meet a customer deadline?
I was also there as a CEO, and I deeply understand how it feels when you see some employees leaving their desk at 6 pm, arriving late and tired the morning after a big party, or spending a lot of time having fun around the coffee machine. I felt powerless and somehow abandoned by the very people I paid with my own money when the company cash level was low. I was tempted to ask for free overtime, but I also felt that something was wrong. Was it about my own psychological needs or the organization’s needs? Is employee free overtime an efficient way to measure commitment to the organization’s goals?
Well… years later, I can clearly say it was more about my own psychological needs as a CEO than the organization’s needs. Markets and technologies are moving at a higher pace every month. In this complex adaptive environment, what helps achieve the organization’s vision is delivering value to delight customers here and now, and not endlessly doing more of the kind of work we used to do before. What we need is true collaboration and creativity from the teams to inspect and adapt our products, business models, and the way we delight customers. I noticed that employees who have lives outside of work are more able to think out of the box - and more able to focus on creating value out of the blue. They brought new patterns, experiences, and connections into their work.
Can this happen if they’re stuck at their desk 10 hours a day? Chances are low. My experience is that free overtime is a poor demonstration of commitment to the organization’s success. As Kate Hobler wrote in her article, commitment is often misunderstood and it’s something you may want to inspect for yourself as a CEO or manager. Not inspecting it may foster fear and uncertainty in your work environment as Rich Visotcky detailed. I couldn’t agree more. Free overtime demonstrates a poor commitment to what is important for organizations: productively and creatively achieving the company’s vision by delighting customers. It’s not about the hours you stay at your desk - life is unfortunately not that simple.