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The unforgivable heresy of Sheryl Sandberg (itworld.com)
43 points by bdking on Apr 17, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments

This guy seems to imply that folks at Google, Facebook, etc. are worried about losing their jobs if they don't stay late. In my 5 years at Google, I never once experienced that fear. I learned a long time ago that my life with my wife and kids were far more important than anything at work, so I left the office around 5-6 almost every day. No one ever said a word to me about it, and it never obstructed my ability to earn more money over time and rise through the company. There were plenty of my colleagues who did the same.

What fuels the people that stay late isn't fear, it's a culture that celebrates putting in long hours. It's a poor proxy for productivity, but people (especially those in their early twenties) seem to equate long hours with getting lots of shit done. Of course that's not actually true in many cases, but that's beside the point. Like everything else, you get what you celebrate, and in this case you get people basically living at the office.

When you add in free meals, laundry, haircuts, and all other manner of perks, you get people who make the (totally rational) decision that being at work is easier than fending for yourself at home. The moment this translates into a perception that "that guy is working his ass off", you get staying late as a part of your company culture.

PS - Many of these folks working until 10pm also don't get into the office until 11am. I sincerely doubt that's when Sheryl Sandberg arrives.

I completely agree. I am still young, and I am now interning for the first time in my life. I am probably the only employee who works more than 8 hours, sometimes 10. I am always the second to last to leave, and that only because I don't have door-locking privileges. I do this because I love my work, what can I say, I am being paid to learn. Who would want to leave that? (Of course once you have kids that's an entirely different story.)

Thats the beauty of being young and having relatively little responsibilities outside of work. To get what you want you can just wait until everybody else is going to give up.

Also, it's really fun to hack.

Agreed, though what I said doesn't apply just to programmers. There are plenty of twentysomething sales people at Google who work very long hours.

It's just classic workplace envy. The primitive instinct of hate that humans feel when they see colleagues (or, worse, bosses) walking out, apparently done for the day, while they are stuck at work, instead. These people makes us feel as losers, and we react by despising them.

Sandberg is obviously right, both in leaving the office according to her personal priorities and criticizing the practice of sending late emails to show off workaholism like it was a quality. It's very naive to think she works less just because she leaves at 5:30. She's probably just more efficient, better in setting priorities: and that's the best quality for a startup person. Plus, I'm pretty sure that she'll pick up the phone even at 4am, if necessary.

This is a great point.

There will always be people who are jealous that you work harder than them (Take it easy buddy!), or less than them (Must be nice!).

It's veiled resentment. Avoid these vampires full of so much doubt they believe it's insurmountable and look to bring others down to their belief, to justify their own belief that doubts are impossible to overcome.

Innovation and creativity resides in possibility, not doubt. I like having a healthy doubt balanced with healthy dose of possibility.

We need to divorce ourselves from the industrial, factory-floor approach to management that has dominated American office culture since the dawn of the 20th cetury. Almost all of our long-held beliefs about management originated in theories developed to manage workers on an assembly line. And many (most?) of them no longer apply. For instance, the rigid belief in "butts in seats" and "face time" as reasonable proxies for productivity is grounded in the days when there really was a direct, perfect correlation between attendance at a set place and time and job performance.

On a primitive factory floor, the worker who puts in the most time making widgets really is producing better results than the worker who appears on and off the floor sporadically. There's no way to produce results unless you're working X machine, and X machine is in a fixed location, and it operates between Y and Z hours of the day. And the end product doesn't differ per worker. Everything's deterministic and can be measured precisely. So, in this scenario, a worker is only as good as he is present and 100% utilized. Nothing else matters.

Knowledge work doesn't function that way. And yet, we still have this desire to manage it as though it does. Kudos to someone like Sandberg for being able to point this out. Yeah, she's in a position to say it now. No, most of us aren't. But at least someone in her position is finally calling it out, and using the bully pulpit afforded to her by her high-status role to do so.

My basketball coach once said that a team that spends 12 hours each day practicing will lose the championship to a team that only has one hour of practice a day. "We all love this sport", he said, "and we could all practice all day long, which is fine, but if you want to win the championship, you have to be smart and pace yourself". To me, this lesson applies to any organisation that values long term results.

With Sandberg's announcement of her schedule there is an opportunity to overhaul the incumbent overworking philosophy. I think writers who align should propagate what's right and healthy about this rather than dismissing the notion in its infancy.

The more support (or perceived support) there is for balance, the more likely it is to be tolerated.

I'm not sure top software engineers are worried. Despite a rough economy and the poetic justice of hubris, most software engineers can probably afford to set their own hours, to a reasonable extent. If it isn't tolerated they can start their own company, perhaps with a relatively better work-life balance for themselves and their employees.

> Because no one who's putting in 50 or 60+ hours because they're afraid not to > is going to stick out their neck and demand their lives back from the tech > jobs that consume them or the venture capitalists who get wealthy on the backs > of overworked and stressed-out technology employees.

Well, okay, this guy has quite an ax to grind.

I've spent lots of time in the start-up world. The people I've seen who rise the quickest and achieve the greatest financial heights put in long, hard hours. They put in long, hard hours as interns, as junior programmers, as mid-level programmers, and on up to CTOs or CEOs. Yes, they work "smart" too. But we're talking here about putting in the hours.

It is very true that you don't want to work so hard that you're burning yourself out. It's also very true that everyone has a different number of hours at a given type of work beyond which your returns gradually (or even rapidly) diminish. But don't be deluded by the use of Sheryl Sandberg's CEO's prerogative to create her own schedule.

Hard work tends to pay off. I'm not saying everyone can or should put in 80 hour work weeks, but when you're young and starting out -- figure out what your limits are. Push yourself. See how your body and your mind respond to throwing yourself into your work. Learn your craft.

You're reading YCombinator. You're probably here because you want to be an entrepreneur. Ignore sour grapes articles like the one from that itworld author. That guy would have you start off with an attitude that (here come the down votes) is for losers and people who would prefer to spend their time railing at those dirty Haves rather than doing their best to avoid being a Have Not. That kind of class warfare rhetoric never gets you anywhere unless you're in entertainment, the media, or politics.

1) Major disconnect in the article: he's talking about silicon valley and calls the economy "shaky" while most are wondering if there's a bubble and having a horrendous time filling open positions.

2) There's a lot you can do out of the office and it's probably better to diversify your working environment anyway.

I recall reading in another article, I believe the New Yorker profile of her, that she also begins around 5:30.

The article assumes she is starting work at nine, whereas if she is in fact starting at 5 or 6, she is still working at least ten hour days.

Anyone who works mode than 50 hours a week needs to track everything they do for a few weeks. Pay attention to how we slow down the more consecutive weeks we work 50 or more hours.

I did something in my 20's: regular ongoing stints of 60 to 70+++ hour weeks, sometimes for a few years straight. Worked 7 days a week regularly, zero vacations (except being within a 3 hour flight of home no longer for a day or two at a time).

I'd hate to say I wasn't productive. But, the long hours blurred the lines between productivity and efficiency, looking back. I am a productivity nut who wants to remain effective.

I found a clear rested mind sees much simpler and eloquent solutions to things. It's easier and better able to find and connect the dots between things. I'd catch myself once in a while wondering why I didn't see something obviously simpler when I was doing longer hours. Maybe it's a side effect of just wanting to ship, ship, ship.

Learning to get 70 hours worth done in 40 or 50 hours by truly working my tail off when I was working, helped me learn to relax, rest and recover truly in my time away from the keyboard.

Changing my routine to sleep lots, especially during the design phase where creativity was beneficial. Coding became hammer and nails, and interestingly something more easily delegated. I still had to do burns, but they were far less perpetual and way more focused. I can still do it for a few months at a time but then I need some down time.

Lately, my routine more evolves around balance between all the things I love to do, and leaving room to discover new things. I don't need a ton of time to my self, but starting with taking one guilt free hour a day, instead of an hour of procrastination, or one guilt-free day off a week instead of wasting a day doing nothing at a keyboard did more to fill up the tank than anything. Listening to my body needing a walk and some fresh air got me back and focused much quicker instead of trying to ride it out.

Don't believe the hype. Very few understand the software development world and think more effort is more output. The folks with the money buying the time of others will always want people without money to work a ton because they stand to benefit from it. Ironically more money folks than you'd expect take more than enough time off once they arrive to truly remain focussed. This is especially too often true in consulting, partnerships, and investments. After you have a track record this can change, or you can just get a ton done in a little amount of time.

When we do something 40 to 50 hours a week we will be making connections not only with ideas, but with people. We randomly come up with ideas just by having the perspective of being away from the keyboard.

Being in a perpetual cycle of shipping releases for personal and client projects has taught me time away from the keyboard is just as important as time at the keyboard to help me stay in one mindset: always be shipping.

Whenever I step away from the keyboard, that's when solutions to the problem flood my brain. When I'm outside in the backyard walking around, listening the wind in the trees, drinking iced tea, it hits me. Then I go inside, code up the solution, and when I get stuck, visit the backyard again. It's a cycle that never fails to create solutions for problems. I find it almost magical how stepping away from the keyboard and relaxing helps me work and get things done. Same with sleep, I'll think about a hard design problem right before bed time, then wake up with a solution almost burned into my mind, run to my desk and draw it out. These are the things that taught me the importance of relaxation and breaks. So NO, I will NOT follow the "work more, work harder, bust your ass" so our social-media-analytics/project-management/mobile-ad-network startup can become successful.

Totally agreed, well put!

I like how you have a wrench to throw into your routine to go outside and come back in. I try to take walks regularly and maybe I'll have to make that a more conscious thing.

Any thoughts to share about when you take a break to relax, how you let yourself do it when you think you should be doing work? I find breaking down this habit with as many approaches is possible is key.

I agree. If someone invented a keyboard I could think creatively at, I might never get any exercise again.

Creativity demands an ebb and flow - you need to let the tide roll out just as often as it rolls in. For every 12-hour marathon session at the keyboard, there's a quiet walk in the woods, or a relaxing evening at home on the other side of the scale.

The idea of working more than 40 hours a weeks makes me glad I am an hourly employee rather than on salary. I don't have a choice but to work only 40 hours a week, or my company has to pay me over time. I come in at my time, do my work for my 8 hours and leave 8 hours later. No one can judge me when I leave the office. It helps create that work/life divide.

Are companies really so fixated on having you "in the office"? I leave everyday at 4pm to have dinner with the family and then usually I work a bit from home later in the night. I'm sure I work over 40 hours but I don't mind because I can see my family at normal hours.

I did the grind-train for several years, and in bursts it could be quite useful, but when at my last $FIRM it turned into a never-ending march towards and beyond burnt out, I started pondering options. I don't think I could do that kind of run ever again.

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