The short answer is yes. We are socialized from infancy to follow rules. Most of us spend a couple of decades in school submitting to authority and doing what we are told. When we go out into the job world nothing changes. We believe we are being paid to be told what to do.
“Most of us feel screwed, and many of us feel helpless to change it. We have become slaves to our infrastructure – to business’s controlling tools, procedures, and mandates. Something’s got give.” — Bill Jensen and Josh Klein
If you put as much time thinking creatively about how to hack your work as you do dreading and complaining about it, you would be a lot better off. Bill Jensen and Josh Klein have written a new book called Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars, but all other 7 reviewers have given it 5 out of 5. If you are interested in getting more out of your job, I think it is a worthwhile read.
Some of us, myself included, are natural born rule-breakers and having been doing it all our lives. However, my observation is that the vast majority of people follow the vast majority of rules. The world has changed and the top-down dictatorial business approach is a hold-over from an era that is long gone. The tools and procedures provided by your company cannot keep up with the rapid changes going on all around you. Who hasn’t lamented the fact that the software and technology they use at home is far ahead of what they are provided at work?
The simple fact of the matter is you should be looking out for yourself when it comes to your job. Individual people in your company might want to be loyal to you, but the reality is they can’t. The world is a very flat and competitive place and if they can improve the bottom line by getting rid of you they will. A career of following inefficient and bureaucratic rules will not save you. You will get ahead by producing results. Blindly following the rules and being a “good employee” means you will lose out in both results and your personal growth to those who chose to break them.
You shouldn’t cheat your company. You shouldn’t do anything unethical. You should produce the results you are paid to do. Outside of that though, I think you owe it to yourself to be the most productive you can be, to exercise the most control over what you actually do, and spending the least amount of time possible to get it done. Don’t follow rules simply because they exist and because everyone else is doing it. Within the limits just described, how you get your job done should be up to you.
You are investing an enormous amount of your time, personal resources, and frankly your health in your job. You absolutely owe to to yourself to get a return on that investment and any company who thinks otherwise isn’t worth your time.
I’m convinced that most people have far more control over how their work gets done than they believe. Most people have simply accepted the rules by default. They don’t realize how easy it is to work-around most of them. Even if they do realize it, they are paralyzed by fear. What you should be afraid of is becoming irrelevant or outsourced to a cheaper rule follower.
You can usually work different hours, use different tools, and bypass most procedures if you will only take charge of your own job and empower yourself to work differently. If you wait for somebody to empower you, you will be waiting a very long time. There’s an old saying that it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. I wholeheartedly agree, but going even further I think you mostly don’t have to ask for either. If you produce results and do great work, you usually don’t have to ask for anything.
What do YOU think? Leave a comment and join the conversation.
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