July 08, 2006

The Myth of 9 to 5

I have to admit this is likely biased due to my career having been dedicated to Silicon Valley and a series of private companies at various stages, but it's clear to me that the concept of getting in at 9 and being done at 5, Monday through Friday, is dead. Simply put, if you're not on an hourly wage in which you punch a clock to indicate when you started and completed your tasks, and you are instead salaried, you have an obligation to support the company - no matter the time or the day.

By agreeing to be a salaried employee, the company pays you a certain amount per year - with benefits - based on your expected output in that calendar year. Whether you put in 35 hours at the office, or 135, they are going to pay you the same. And in theory, you are making just as much money per hour while you sleep as you do in the hours spent in your cubicle, attached to a phone, in front of your computer monitor. This means that if you leave the office on a Friday, at 5:01 p.m., and your boss calls Saturday or Sunday, you should hop on that task, period. And just because it's Saturday or Sunday, or 9 p.m. on a weekday, you should be no less connected to your goals and the company's goals than any other time.

I've always operated under the assumption you should give your full efforts. The company, looking at your talent, your record, and your attitude, assumes a certain level of output, and they make a bet that this combination is worth a certain amount of investment on their part. They've selected you - at a certain price - over your peers at identical or lesser pricing. Subsequently, it's your job to prove to them that they either paid adequately for your services, they paid too much for your services, or that you should be paid more.

If your intent is to move up the corporate food chain, to achieve higher status, or to get paid more, you need to exceed expectations. You need to overdeliver on your tasks, gaining you notice by your peers and management, and honestly, the competition. One of the best things that you can do is learn that the competition knows you by name, and would overpay to have you work for them instead of your current employer. One of the more interesting things that happened to me just in this last month was when a VP at one of our competitors called me directly at my office to ask if I was interested in jumping ship and working for him. Though interested to learn more about his company structure, my biases toward our product and corporate inertia were too much to overcome.

But what this reinforced for me again was that if you do throw away the 9 to 5 label, and work to and beyond your salary, it is noticed. You owe the company your fullest efforts, and you owe yourself the opportunity to progress - not to meet the minimum expectations and coast, for then you are most certainly expendable.

Want to talk about work? Call or e-mail any time. After all, while on salary, I'm always thinking about it, and what we can do next to overachieve.

Listening to ''Lie to Me'', by Depeche Mode (Play Count: 6)

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