Job Search Methods
July 16, 2008
"I often refer to the series Mad Men, taking place in the ’60s, where they’re drinking and smoking in the office. And you think, 'What are you doing? You’re at work!' But we’re doing the exact same thing right now. We’re showing up just as bad, in terms of performance. We’re not nearly having as much fun, though."
That quote, from McKinsey specialist Els van der Helm in a recent McKinsey podcast, suggests that there's an epidemic of poor behavior that is afflicting workers in this day and age, lowering productivity and leading to some seriously bad decision-making. Any guesses what it is?
Unlike in the era portrayed in Mad Men, it's nothing to do with traditional vices such as alcohol, nicotine, sex or drugs. Nope: it's sleep—or more precisely the lack of it—which is afflicting companies in this generation. As van der Helm notes, that's not nearly as much fun as Don Draper's real-world counterparts got to have, especially with work-related activities being one of the main reasons that current generations are sleeping so much less.
That quote aside, the most interesting piece of the podcast is the fact that the three guests—all of whom are McKinsey alums, itself a firm that is well-known as being a place where high levels of pressure are heaped on employees—discuss perceptions of effort by others as a key factor behind the tendency to work longer hours than may be healthy or productive.
In the kind of winner-takes-all environments we see in many workplaces, it makes sense: the person who seems most committed to the job, and the company, is the one that is most likely to be rewarded with choice projects, promotions, and pay raises. And an easy way to display your commitment is to be the person who is always available, staying in the office and/or responding to emails at all hours. Which is fine, right up to the point where the lifestyle starts impacting your ability to do the job properly.
Disappointingly, despite all of our advances in areas such technology, corporate wellness, governance and the like, it seems that we're a long way off of any kind of ideological shift as regards this aspect of productivity. Listen to the podcast carefully, and you'll note that the majority of the solutions proposed are for individuals: not checking your phone at night; meditation; "investing in" sleep as part of your productivity.
The closest we get to a sense that mindfulness is something that could emerge at the heart of more organizations is a snippet from Caroline Webb, another McKinsey alum who featured in the episode and discussed the growing body of empirical research that indicates that sustained sleep deprivation has tangible impact on cognitive function. As Webb notes, "In data-driven, evidence-hungry, senior people who need to know that there’s a real reason for shifting behavior, the scientific evidence really helps."
As far away as a wholesale shift in acceptance on mindfulness seems, that mounting evidence is one of the best hopes we have for a rebalancing of the ever-diminishing boundaries between work and life.
by Phil Stott
About the Author
Gary A. D’Alessio, Esq.
Gary has been involved with the legal profession for more than thirty years. After receiving his B.S.B.A. cum laude from Villanova University in 1976 and J.D. from Tulane University School of Law in 1980, Gary practiced law for five and one-half years at McKenna, Storer, Rowe, White & Farrug. For the past twenty-seven years, he has been a legal search consultant. Gary was the Co-Chair of the Careers Committee of The Young Lawyers Section of the Chicago Bar Association for two years. He is also a Certified Professional Consultant with the Academy of Professional Consultants and Advisors. His in-depth legal experience and knowledge of the Chicago legal market is well known in the legal recruiting industry. He has been extensively quoted on a variety of issues regarding the legal profession in The National Law Journal, Sun Times, Chicago Lawyer, Crain’s Chicago Business, and Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. Gary also has been published in the American Bar Association’s Changing Jobs: A Handbook for Lawyers for the 1990’s and the Young Lawyers Section of The Chicago Bar Association’s Lawyers’ Guide to the Chicago Job Market. Gary is a member of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and the Chicago Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he is a world traveler, an Eagle Scout and an avid moviegoer.