I recently read an article that suggested that american workers are lazy because americans are now getting 117 hours of leisure time per week vs

I recently read an article that suggested that American workers are lazy because Americans are now getting 117 hours of leisure time per week vs. 110 hours per week in 1965. The suggestion was made that in a global market economy eventually American earnings will decline as they are overtaken by a country that works more hours such as China.

I can’t help but think that this reaction is a subtle reflection of the famous organizational behavior conflict, Theory X vs. Theory Y. Theory X states that although managers try to say all the right things they really operate under a certain set of negative assumptions about the employee:

-Work is inherently distasteful to most people

-Most people are not ambitious, have little desire for responsibility, and prefer to be directed

-Motivation occurs only at the physiiological and security levels

-Most people must be closely controlled and often coerced to achieve organizational objectives

Theory Y on the other hand states:

-Work is as natural as play if the conditions are favorable

-Self-control is often indispensible in achieving organizational goals

-Motivation occurs at affiliation, esteem, and
self-actualization levels, not just security,
physiological levels

-People can be self-directed and creative at work if properly motivated

In other words, according to Theory X employees are mostly lazy, they need to be told what to do and unless they have a fear of losing their job and their livelihood they will not be productive. In a struggle that has been going on for years, many corporate managers continue to believe at varying levels in this false, outdated view of the American worker.

Now I am not a global economist but I think the bigger question here is “What are we doing with this extra leisure time?” I think it is extremely short-sighted to suggest that Americans are lazy unless you can answer this question. In other words, are those roughly 7 extra hours a week being spent on Clint Eastwood movie marathons or are they being invested in family or on productive thought outside of the workplace?

I think this number is a reflection of the changing of the guard in this country. Americans are taking the lead in understanding that in the Work-Life Balance there is a law of diminishing returns. In other words it’s not about just working hard but working smart. So much can be accomplished in less time due to technological advancement, amplified access to information and an increased interconnectedness in this world. Try being a workaholic for a week and see how fulfilled you actually feel. Something is going to be missing whether it is your family or social relationships or just your ability to plan your next big idea.

Just think about how much the world and the economy has changed since 1965 and how rapidly it is changing as we speak. Who is going to be more prepared for adapting to that change someone who has the opportunity to sit back and look around at what is happening or some guy logging extra hours in his cubicle in China?

I believe that the most productive worker will be the one who is doing what they enjoy because they have been given options and have been valued as an employee. Yeah, I’m a theory Y guy and I think we are working less because we are working smarter and U.S. companies better get with the program because Generation Y is coming and they are going to make 1965 look like the dinosaur era.

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