Archive for October, 2012

People in the workplace are often complimented by saying that they “work hard”.   No one giving such a compliment ever refers to people who “work efficiently”, “work diligently”, “work smarter”, “work effectively”, and so on.  It’s always about working “hard”.

But what, exactly, does it mean to work “hard”, and is this the best way to be working?

Does working hard mean that you fill every second of each workday with activity to the limits of your physical and mental endurance so that you drag yourself home each night and drop into bed with exhaustion?  Does it mean you seek out pointless busy work when there is no real productive work to be done, just so that one is always Doing Something, even it accomplishes no useful productive goals?  Does it mean always doing the work that is the most difficult, even if it is not the work that is most productive and useful at that time?  Does it mean to rush around in a hectic frenzy, trying to do everything as fast as one possibly can, without sufficient care to do the work properly?  All of that is working “hard”, but it’s not always the most effective way to work.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I’d much rather be referred to as an effective worker or one who works smarter, rather than as a hard worker.

Your mileage may vary, of course.


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“Life Isn’t Fair”

Frequently, children — and often adults — protest against  perceived injustices, real or not, by pointing out that the situation isn’t fair.

The common response from many parents and others is to point out that “life isn’t fair” and the complainer is told to “get over it”.   This typical, pat answer usually isn’t very helpful to resolve the situation and often makes the child feel belittled.

Our society teaches fairness as a worthwhile moral virtue.  Our justice system aspires to be fair and unbiased.  Even if it doesn’t always turn out this way in real life, it is still the ideal standard.  One of the prime lessons we seek to teach children through playing sports are the ideals of sportsmanship and fair play.

So, why do we sneer at children who point out unfairness then?

As for myself, as an older child, when I was told that life wasn’t fair I would say  that there were different types of unfairness.   I noted that life could be unfair against you, which was the typical scenario.   Or it could be unfair (to other people) in your favor. Then I’d say that I knew that life wasn’t fair, but that I simply wanted it to be unfair in my favor for a change.

This, I think, is the crux of the “unfair” complaint.  We want to get the clean end of the stick for once, instead of the dirty end; it’s someone else’s turn to take the dirty end for a change.

One poster on a message board said:

I wouldn’t use the “Life’s not fair” line because while that’s certainly true, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything not fair about what happened in this case. I would stress that actions have consequences, because if you say “life’s not fair”, it almost sounds like you’re agreeing with her that she doesn’t deserve to have the consequences you’ve given her but you don’t care.

Exactly, and to say that life isn’t fair would make me counter by asking if they’d say that to a black person, a woman, a gay person, and so on about bigotry and prejudicial practices;  to essentially tell them to accept inequality because “life isn’t fair”.

If something truly isn’t fair, then we work to try to overcome it, instead of just laying down and accepting a bad situation because “life isn’t fair”.

When it’s not a genuine matter of injustice, I think it’s better to point out to a kid that a particular issue isn’t one of fairness, but one of natural consequences.

Your thoughts?



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