Thursday, April 25, 2013

Work hours, BS work, and The Corporate Ladder

Thank you for all the thoughtful and supportive comments on my last post I was about to start replying to them and then I realized that I had a bunch of related thoughts and- hey! This is my blog! I can just write a new post. So here it is, my reply to all your comments and some further thoughts on the topic at hand. Sorry, it will be a bit rambly.

First of all, yesterday was a better day, except for the part where Petunia peed on Pumpkin's bedroom floor, and Pumpkin melted down before our library trip, and then the library had some jazz-like music performance going on in the children's area so we were limited to picking books from the "new" shelf... and I was so wiped out by the time Petunia finally went to sleep that I went straight to bed.

So maybe I should say that yesterday was a better day at work. I made really good progress on one of my projects, and I killed off TWO meetings. When I kill a meeting, it is a sign that the project is progressing well enough that we don't need a full hour each week to check in, discuss, and keep things on track- it means that my other project management techniques are working. So hooray me.

Plus, I had a bit of an epiphany on the whole "what should I do with my life" question. I realized that I actually know how to make this decision. Clarifying options and identifying the information needed to choose among them is one of the things I do at work- and frankly, it is one of the aspects of my job I am best at. (This is an anonymous blog. If I can't brag here, where can I brag?)

Once I realized this, I quickly enumerated the options I have, and I'm ready to start the process of figuring out what I need to know to make this decision. I know how to do this!

This decision is important to me not because I think I can completely plan out my life, but because I have a little bit of time and energy to start a new project right now, and I'd like to put that time and energy towards something that is likely to fit into my long term goals. Otherwise, I don't know how I'm going to decide what project to tackle. Should I take a class relevant to my current career? Work on refreshing my coding skills? Write another book? I'm not really sure. They all sound fun.

I'd also like to clarify one thing: I absolutely believe that I am capable of doing big and important things using only "regular" work hours. Or at least I can do things that are big enough and important enough for me. I've been doing a lot of time tracking over the past 6 months or so, and I can definitively say that I tend to work ~40 hours/week, of which, 35-38 are productive by a basic measure of "I'm actually trying to do some work, not sitting at my desk surfing the internet or what not." I also put in 1 to 5 hours of work on my non-work projects (e.g., writing and publicizing books) and maybe another 1 to 5 hours on my blog. Even though the book writing has made me take my blog a little more seriously (I know... you'd never notice!) I still consider it a hobby, and do not think I could take all of those hours for work without going a little crazy.

So I have roughly 45 hours per week in which I can be productive- whether that is on my work/career or on one of my side projects. Looking back over my career, I can't think of any time in which I worked many more hours than that and been productive in them, and was able to sustain that for more than a few weeks. 45 hours per week is probably a good estimate of my true work limit.

Maybe the real "superstars" can work insane hours and stay productive- but if that is true, then I have never worked with a superstar. In all of my years managing projects, I have met many people who thought they could work really long hours effectively week after week, but I have never met one who really could. Some people might top out at 50 hours rather than 45, but I've literally never met someone who worked 60 or more hours per week and was actually productive during all of those hours. Of course, I've worked with people who spend 60 hours per week in the office- but not a single one of them has actually been working during all of those hours. There was one guy who really seemed to... but I got curious and checked the network logs (I ran IT there so could legitimately do this). He was streaming TV shows to his desk. We did not work in a media company. There was no conceivable way that was work.

However, just because I know I can do great things in a 40-45 hour work week, that doesn't mean that the world will let me. Basically, our corporate work world is largely set up to expect and reward people who take a macho approach to hours worked, and put in long hours whether or not they are all productive.

As far as I can tell, there are two ways to deal with this: (1) pretend that the corporate world is sane and judges on productivity rather than hours, be productive in sensible hours, and just trust/hope that it will all work out. (2) Opt out and go out on your own as a contractor, or start your own business. Of course, if you go with option #2, you will still have to ignore the false signals around you that tell you that the only way to succeed is to put in super long hours- but your actual success seems to be more tightly coupled to real rather than perceived productivity.  Or maybe that is just my wishful thinking.

So far, I've gone with option #1, and I've done reasonably well. I think this is at least partially because my internal drive towards always feeling like I'm learning new things has pushed me to spend more time on what Cal Newport calls "deep work" than strictly necessary to do my job, but I'm not 100% sure about that, and I know there's been a healthy dose of luck in the mix, too.

Anyway, there is nothing pushing me to change options: my current boss is more than happy with my work, and I feel like my career is reasonably "on track." I'm learning new things and growing my skills, and when I get to focus on the core of my job, I really enjoy the work. There is more non-core corporate BS than I'd like, but that is hard to avoid as you move up the corporate food chain.

Should I try to climb up there?
That last bit is precisely why I'm feeling angsty about my career lately. Jobs are always composed of core things (the things in your job description and/or things that add to your skills and advance your career- in short, the things you feel productive when you do) and non-core BS that needs to get done but that no one really credits you with doing, and that doesn't really advance your career or grow your skills.

When I was first out of graduate school, my work was mostly core things. I've seen several estimates of the amount of core work a knowledge worker can produce, and the consensus seems to be roughly 6 hours per day, tops. In my early years after graduate school, it was no problem at all to get those 30 hours of "good" work in a 40 hour work week. Now, I'm lucky if I get 20 hours of core work in an average work week,  plus another 5 or so hours of non-core things that feel really useful. The rest is BS. Of course, there is still the need to produce the core work, there are just more BS things crowding it out. So far, I've been able to use my productivity tricks to produce sufficient core work in the hours left after I've done the BS work I can't avoid. This, plus my relatively high BS tolerance has kept all well in my career.

But here's the fear that has me considering switching to option #2: as I go up the corporate ladder, the BS work keeps going up, and it gets harder and harder to do a good job on my core work in a normal work week- not because the core work can't get done in the time, but because the corporate BS grows. Some of this is inescapable- but I swear some of it is just because other people don't want to do their core jobs and so invent BS meetings for the rest of us to go to and BS work for the rest of us to do, so we can all be busy without doing anything actually challenging and meaningful.

The growth in corporate BS alone is probably manageable, but it also seems that the macho posturing about work hours goes up and up as I go up the corporate ladder. Maybe managers feel like they need to justify their higher pay and generally cushier jobs by complaining all the time about how overworked they are? Of course, they aren't really working 70 hours per week (check out this excerpt from Laura Vanderkam's new book for a review of the evidence on that)- but if they can fool their underlings into thinking they are working that many hours, maybe the underlings won't feel bad about being underlings. I don't know- that's just a guess.

Again, none of this means that I have to work long hours to succeed, it just adds to the noise that I have to ignore in order to do my job and live my life the way I want to. I could just keep pretending that I will be judged solely on the quality of my work, and keep trusting that I'll be able to keep the BS work to a manageable level, and maybe I would in fact keep advancing up the corporate ladder. I have seen nothing so far to indicate that I won't. It just feels like my chances for continuing advancement aren't what they could be. I don't know if that is actually true.

All of this is bouncing around in my head along with a summary I read this week of some research on "overwork" and the fact that mothers in male-dominated fields are more likely to leave their jobs. (I did a bad job of summarizing that link- sorry. But it is a short read, just go read it.) If this particular mother leaves her particular male-dominated career, despite her equitable split on the home front, it won't be the actual need to overwork that drives her out. It will be a combination of corporate BS and silly macho cultural things that make her decide it is time for a change.

It is worth noting, though, that what I'm thinking of changing to is entrepreneurship. It is not that I don't think I can do the work. It is that I am increasingly less certain that it is worth putting up with the background noise to keep doing the work I do now. But there are lots of things I like about my current career, and a lot of unknowns about other possible careers- so the decision is not an easy one. But at least now I know how to go about making that decision! And I know that I won't be switching to 60 hour work weeks, no matter what I do. I see no real benefit in that, and my BS tolerance doesn't extend that far.

What's the core work to BS work ratio like in your job? Have you noticed a change over the course of your career? I'd be particularly interested to hear from my academic readers- from the outside, it seems that one of the problems in an academic career is that the core work required to advance your career and the things in your job description are only partially overlapping- is that true? And if so, do you have any thoughts on how that plays into the work hours issue?

33 comments:

  1. Entrepreneurship! What are you thinking of pursuing? We've been deluged in my recent entrepreneurship classes about juggling various risk factors, and partnership structures that are most likely to succeed. One of the most salient takeaways - especially when starting a business while raising a family - is to have the genuine support and understanding of your partner - both financially and emotionally. I'm sure you know that already, though, and have done plenty of thinking/researching, but happy to be a sounding board at any time :) Good luck! - Elaine

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    1. I've got a few different ideas, but nothing I think would easily replace my salary yet. I think I'd need a bootstrapping business model, because pursuing and taking venture capital would push me back into the macho "brag about my hours" world.

      I may post some more about my options later... I'll definitely appreciate people's thoughts on them.

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  2. Not an academic, just semi-related to that world here. I'll claim to be that person who can be productive for full 10-12 hour days (absolutely no personal stuff ever, just work), I had to for the last two jobs across 8 years, but that productive streak is over now.
    It wasn't good for my health (or my health couldn't manage it, I don't know which came first) even if I did love how much I got done in a single day because I was a zombie otherwise. The thing I couldn't comprehend was how much *more* work my boss could produce in the same period of time while seemingly enjoying the European approach to vacations insofar as he considered them natural and expected. (though the damn workaholic worked on his vacations too...)

    Anyway, as you say, the more that productivity resulted in promotions and professional growth, the more the corporate BS grew. Eventually that was the deciding factor in my most recent job shift - I was spending 85% of my time dealing with politics and only 15% on the core work. That ratio was totally unsatisfactory, along with the hours I had to work just to get to the 15% of core work.

    I lucked out in a big way with this current job. It has possibly the same hours across a flexible schedule and close to the same equivalent work related stressors BUT none of the BS meetings and stuff. I'm enjoying this as long as I can but I don't know what my next step will be. The higher you go in some of these roles, the more likely your job consists primarily of BS, it seems. :/

    It really makes me ponder the fact I really should try some more entrepreneurial things in the next 8-12 months in case this current job goes by the wayside.

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    1. 10 hour days, 5 day/week is 50 hours... I've met people who can do 50 hours productively. Most of them put some of the work on a weekend day, though.

      I find vacations make me more productive!

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  3. I'm not an academic , but do work at a university. When I first started my job, it was 90% core work.. But, as our group grew, and as my supervisor realized what I was good at, the amount of BS has great increased. During the school year, I'd say it can make up to 30-40% of my day. It's better in the summer months when there are less people around (therefore less useless meetings and less BS tasks being given).

    I'd be interesting in hearing about the techniques you will use in order to choose what to do next. I feel like I'm in a cloud of information, all playing against each other, it's just confusing.

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    1. I'm pondering a post about the options and how I'll make the decision. I've got to decide how much I'm comfortable sharing.

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  4. (sorry about the typos - iPads are not good for this!)

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  5. Have lots of comments, am in meetings all day today away from internet. Great post! Will come back later. (Also the long term planning part sounds a lot like LV's new ebook. :) )

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    1. Yes! I've got thoughts on the book, too, but needed to get this post out before I tried to write them. (Spoiler alert: I liked the book.)

      This post will be here for your comments whenever you are ready to leave them!

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  6. Well, academia is weird because it all depends on what you define as BS. Basically (I'm in the humanities/social sciences), our job description is threefold: research, teaching, and service. The service can be the biggest time suck/ seems like it's a waste of time/ BS filled part of our jobs. Service involves a lot of busywork and meetings. I've noticed that service work can be fine, or it can be a nightmares, depending on how well a committee is run and/or whether or not the other folks pull our weight. Academia is all about independence and freedom, yet at the same time we are self-governing, so it requires people to put a good faith effort into community, which not everyone does. What often happens is that a person's work day gets filled with teaching and service ("teaching" here includes class time, office hours, prep for classes, grading, additional meetings with students, dissertation committee, grad student exams, and writing letters of recommendation - the last of which is a huge time suck), with little left for research. People can sometimes carve out a day or two, but it can be hard. So the majority of our research component occurs outside of office hours - on weekends or our "breaks" or the summer. Once you get tenure, the service demands - both at the university and what we call "professional service"( things like working for an academic journal or organization, organizing conferences, reviewing articles or book manuscripts or grant applications) increase rapidly. It can be hard to balance it, and most of the super successful academics I know are what I would classify as workaholics. I tend to be very productive - a fast worker - and i used to be able to work 8-4, and only weekends while grading (with short breaks during the day), but recently I've started working some in the evenings too, but that's partially because my work days are a bit shorter because my kids are small. Academics are expected to do a ludicrous amount of work, but the work load varies based on our ambition (the more professional recognition we want, the more involved we have to be in the professional life outside the university). Moreover, most of us have "merit based" raises, which means to get the highest raise, we really have to be doing all of these things. Professional service is pretty much uncompensated. Many professors deal with this by shirking service, much to the frustration of everyone else.

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    1. See, from the outside, if research is how you advance your career and your job leaves almost no time for it, something is broken with the system. Maybe the rise of the teaching adjuncts isn't all bad- IF universities could find a way to make the positions not suck.

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    2. You're right. Part of the problem, though, is that the research is what many of us value the most (at R1s anyway, and from those ambitious in their careers). However, it is what most institutions value the least. To them, it's an expensive waste of time, which is why they are trying to save money and pinch pennies, they start going after our research and travel budgets (nothing like self-funding expensive work you are required to do to get a raise!), increasing our teaching burdens (by increasing teaching load and/or increasing class size and diminishing access to TAs), refusing to "top up" fellowships that don't match salaries, etc, because of course the university profits from our teaching labor only. Our research is of zero value to them. Many of us argue that beyond research's intrinsic value and value to the reputation of the university, research can have a positive effect on teaching as well, that ideally they have a symbiotic relationship. Not everyone agrees with that. But the bottom line is that universities don't care about creative, innovative research in the humanities and social sciences, and in this day and age of corporatizing high ed, they care even less because they can't see its value.

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    3. In physical sciences and engineering at R1's, what is valued most are grant dollars. It's insane. We should all be grant writing machines, bringing in millions of overhead, but the state expects us to teach well and a lot because taxpayers!!!, we are paid way below private institution peers, and, due to ever declining staff support (this same state funds less and less of the institution while forbidding us to amp tuition because taxpayers!! flagship!! affordable!!) so now we are our own administrative staff too. When exactly am I supposed to write all these grants and do the research that enables me to apply for them? It's complete madness.

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    4. Well, in the humanities, we get "big" grants like NEH, Guggenheim, or ACLS and then our beloved universities refuse to top up our salaries, so if we want to take the grant, we have to live at half pay for the year. Then the university turns around and spends a tiny fraction of the salary savings from our leave to hire an adjunct and pockets the rest. (Our universities also recently started radically defunded Arts & Sciences (the greatest area of strength) to funnel money towards the hard sciences, so they can start the grant factory mills over there, even though the humanities and social sciences bankroll most of the rest of the university.

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  7. Anonymous7:37 AM

    My husband just left a job at a research center in astronomy. They do exactly what you suspect: endless proliferation of meetings where nothing is decided that are intended to consume functional service requirements without doing actual work. People like my husband who wanted to accomplish something were endlessly frustrated. I'm so glad he's going to a more dynamic environment!

    I'm an academic but I am not on the tenure track. Tenure would be a good thing in the current challenging funding environment but on the other hand, my job has a high core work to BS ratio compared to that of my tenured colleagues.

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  8. Part 1: What Erin said. I am an academic in a STEM field, and the work I enjoy is research, followed by teaching. Even in teaching there is a lot of overhead that barely engages my brain -- grading, creating solutions to problem sets - but it's a huge amount of time and while I suppose you could count it as productive, it is not satisfying to me at any level and it doesn't advance my professional recognition. I like classroom time and interacting with students very much. Then there is service that I know must be done, like someone has to be undergraduate advisor to undergrads, someone has to be on recruitment committee or tenure and promotions cte or budget cte or college and university level awards cte; these are all parts of the job, so not exactly BS, but not anything that truly advances anyone's career. Then there is professional service -- reviewing papers and proposals, organizing conferences, going to federal agency review panels. These are generally good for your career as a second order correction -- program managers meet you, you have your finger on the funding trends pulse, see what's new in research, so this I like. I try to be as selective as possible in choosing univesrity service, try to choose ctes where there are few meetings, or where I can learn something new, but that's not always possible. Bottom line is 3-4 out 5 workdays of my workweek are easily filled with teaching (icluding office hours, homeweork postings/solutions/grading), group meetings and talking to my group members individually, faculty and committee meetings. In the rest I am supposed to do professional service outside of the university, as well as write grants and papers. Most weeks Tuesday (when I hide at home and never schedule anything) is the only day I can actually think; I work at home and that's when I make progress on papers or coding or other creative stuff.

    And then there is the work that administrative staff should do for us if we still had any support -- reservations for all my travel, reimbursements for all the travel, reports for all of my grants, constantly checking about the spending on my grants...

    So none of this is BS per se, it is part of the job, but really feels like BS because I can be half-asleep and still do most of my work. If I spend only 40-45 hours working, that means literally only 8-9 hours for actual intellectual work. I have started putting the idiotic work (reimbursements etc) for late at night when I am too tired to do anything creative, in order to save the daylight for creative work.

    When I have a deadline (as I have early next week) my graduate students suffer; I cancel meetings with them. I cancel all nonessential service, but that's not a lot. Most of the rest of the work just gets postponed, it does not go away.

    I actually love it when I have a grant deadline, because I cancel the $h*t out of everything except classes for 2-3 weeks, and everyone is very understanding. Then I have several days to just do what I am in this job for to begin with -- read papers, think, do calculations, get ideas, write. It's so awesome!!!

    But then the grant is submitted and the piles of postponed stuff come back to bite me.

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    1. Yes, yes, I was thinking about that, how so many of the things we do *feel* like BS even though they aren't.

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  9. Part 2: I love my department, but the lack of administrative and TA support is really pissing me off. I am getting better at saying no to service, but someone has to do it.

    The worst thing about being an academic is this infinite partitioning of one's day. On a regular week, I really have to spend in excess of 50 hours working, even though most of it is not creative. Most of the time I am really a glorified & overpaid administrative assistant; about 40% of the time I do the stuff I love (20% is my one day of research plus another 20% is in the classroom or meeting with group members). The rest is necessary but trivial.

    Superstars likely have a much higher creative/non-creative work ratio, often because of better administrative support (and likely also home support).

    The thing I would like, and I think this is what superstars in my field have, is to not have to drop things when the are on a creative roll. This is enabled by someone else doing the family minutiae.

    OMG, this comment is so long and rambling... I should have written my own post! I am sorry.

    Anyway, I totally agree that there are limits to productive work, but sometimes formally productive work is so stupid and there is so much of it and it must be done that if you want to get any reasonable amount of non-stupid, fulfilling work done per week, you have to increase your overall hours. Or postpone a lot of things, which then come to bite you.

    Most academics are really not slackers, but they really have to put in a lot of real hours if they want to stay professionally internationally competitive in the face of declining institutional support.

    (This was all completely unedited, so I am sure circular and redundant, but oh well. )

    Loved your post, btw, and wishing you the best of luck in figuring what your next steps are!

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  10. I do know a couple of people who truly do work (and actual work-- one is tenured at Stanford, the other at MIT) more than average. They also sleep much less than average. They are wired differently than most of us. (Heard a radio program on folks who don't need much sleep a few years back... they are literally wired differently in terms of mental networks.)

    I just spent all day doing teaching and service and I'm exhausted. DH has to go to a department function tonight so in about 15 min I will be alone with the kids. He, too, is spending today doing teaching and service. My brain is dead and pretty much all I can do right now is ramble.

    I went to a fascinating talk recently about how and why women seem to end up doing more "non-promotable" work (aka service in academia). One of the authors is Linda Babcock. I should find it and blog about it. But it's very interesting.

    Big corporations have difficulty measuring productivity (a reason we use "hours"), and they have a lot more red tape, but they're still more productive. Perhaps they can have more waste because of the economies of scale.

    You've talked a lot about hours worked and how people perceive productivity, but I have to wonder if raises and promotions are based on hours worked or on accomplishments (or, political BS-- I am really enjoying Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office). So if you work fewer hours but are smarter than your coworkers and accomplish more, do you get rewarded for that?

    I stream video when I have to do mindless tasks (also when pumping)-- it keeps me from getting distracted.

    I LOVED Laura Vanderkam's post for today on the real simple article.

    Ok, almost time for DH to head out so I'd better get this captcha done.

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    1. I'm finally going to read Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office. It is next on my reading queue.

      Re: how I get promoted/rewarded- it is unclear and complicated. Corporations like to pretend they have clear career ladders and processes for deciding who gets raises and bonuses, but the reality every place I've ever worked is that a lot is left to the discretion of either your boss or the senior managers.

      Similarly, given the fact that I tend to work in smallish companies, my path up is primarily to jump to a different company- there is only one position above me in my department, so unless my boss decides to leave, I won't be going anywhere. I might get title increases, but I won't get a big bump in responsibility. So if I want to continue to advance in my career, in some number of years, I would start looking for a more senior position elsewhere, or for a position at the same level at a company that is still really small and might give me lots of opportunities when it grows. What determines whether I get a new job? Largely, reputation. My resume and performance in an interview would help, but if I have a reputation as not working hard enough, for instance, I would have a hard time landing a job. Biotech is a small world, and it usually isn't hard to find someone you know who has worked with a candidate you're considering, particularly as the candidate gets more senior. And those personal recommendations carry A LOT of weight.

      So... what matters is that people THINK I'm a smart, productive, hard worker. How do they decide what they think? Well, it depends. There are definitely some face time type people out there, but unless they work directly with you or are friends with someone who works directly with you, they might not know how many hours you work, and would judge on output. So when all is well, as long as my boss thinks I'm productive, I would be OK. If someone else gets disgruntled and decides I'm lazy, though... well, bad things happen. If, for instance, one of the people who reports to me decides I'm the stereotypical bitchy female boss and that I am delegating too much work to my team, that person could do me a lot of damage by complaining to friends and colleagues. This is one of the reasons the double bind for how female managers must behave is so stressful. Wrong steps really do have serious implications for my entire career, not just my position at a single company.

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  11. Great comments, everyone. I'll come back and discuss more later. For now, I'll just throw out this idea: my BS work might be someone else's core work.

    Of course, some if it is so ridiculous it will be BS work no matter who does it, but some of my BS stuff this week has been things that would probably be core to someone interested in facilities management.

    Also- there are non-core things that are part of my job that aren't BS, like the work I did this week on defining a career ladder for my group. And there are non-core BS things that are definitely part of my job- like approving timecards.

    I'll be back later tonight or this weekend for more....

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    1. Anonymous4:34 AM

      Another academic here and I totally agree with GMP/Erin above. That's exactly how it works for us.

      "my BS work might be someone else's core work."
      I also totally agree with this, but the problem in academia is that you can not delegate this away, because this someone else does not exist or may have been taken away due to budget cuts, etc. But all the admin stuff still has to be done, in particular teaching admin. So in the end, there is noone else left but academics to do this work.

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    2. Well, since I'm spending roughly half of my time on BS work, clearly I don't always have someone else to do it, either! Industry runs leaner these days, too. I have NEVER had an admin, for instance. There is usually a general admin, but I cannot assign her work. I can ask her questions about which form I'm supposed to fill out, but she won't fill out the form for me.

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    3. Is that kind of stuff something you can delegate? Paperwork is one of the things I generally ship to an RA.

      Indeed, there are large gender differences in who does the paperwork vs. who delegates it (and who it is delegated to).

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    4. You mean the timecard approvals? The only person I could delegate to is my boss! There are rules about who approves... It is not a particularly time-consuming piece of BS, but it came to mind because it is complete and utter BS. We don't enter the hours actually worked, and we don't track spending on specific projects... so it is just a maximal busywork way of tracking vacation time.

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    5. No, the "I can ask her questions about which form I'm supposed to fill out, but she won't fill out the form for me" part. Unless that is timecard approvals.

      Seems like the approval part should just be a signature. Someone else can fill out the form.

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    6. I can't really delegate admin stuff. The people who work for me are experienced professionals, too, and have their own admin stuff. So I must do my own. It is mostly things like reimbursements, candidate reviews, and other minutiae that companies require.

      The timecard thing... ah, that's funny. We "improved" our process from a simple one that required only noting when people were out to a moderately complicated online one in a system built for a much bigger company. We all fill out online timecards every two weeks. Then all supervisors must review (and correct, if necessary) timecards, and approve. Also online. It is a minor irritant, as long as I don't think too hard about how pointless it all is.

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    7. I'd be curious to see if men at your level also think they can't delegate their paperwork.

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    8. I seriously doubt any industry scientist (male or female) would delegate personal administrative paperwork like this to another scientist, regardless of level. I have never seen it happen nor heard of it happening, even by infamously sexist pig male scientists. When an admin is available, though, some people will delegate things like expense reports to the admin, and yes, men are more likely to delegate than women.

      Now, the men at my level may be better at delegating the less interesting or more onerous technical tasks than I am. But in my defense, we did hire a junior project manager to (among other things) help me keep on top of the meeting minutes and meeting scheduling and the like, and that has been a huge help. At the end of last year, before I found the junior PM, my job approached 100% BS some weeks and that sucked.

      My general policy on delegating crap technical work is to spread it out relatively evenly across all people in the group, including me. We do hire junior people who get more of the mundane tasks, but I try to delegate some growth opportunities to them, too. I take management seriously, and one part of managing is to make sure your people get good career growth opportunities.

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    9. As someone who is not a manager but considered an experienced professional, I have to say that I definitely enjoy working for managers that see us as capable and challenge us rather than more hierarchical types who simply delegate boring / admin work.

      Obviously, I may do more repetitive work than my boss but I'm at a smaller company where we can't afford a true Admin/secretary for every Director, and we're actually more efficient and competitive by taking advantage of people's capabilities beyond narrow definitions. Of course this may be different at larger or Fortune 500 companies.

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  12. My husband did the 70-hour productive work job and burnt out two years in. He a) needs much less sleep than most people and b) is incredibly project focused. If he says he will get something done, he gets it done. Always.
    That particular job entailed managing 16 or so staffing locations in three states. Either he or his partner visited every location every day. Lots of travel, time on the phone, and lots of reports to be reviewed early in the morning and late at night. I can't speak for the core work/BS ratio, but I know he went through a yellow pad a month in to do list items. Every Saturday morning was a coffee meeting between the two of them. It can be done, but I can't think of a good reason to. After a while, neither did he.

    He also has a very low BS threshold so conference calls are perhaps his least favorite thing in the world. We both know he's particularly suited to starting, but not maintaining things.

    Also- entrepreneurship has its share of potential BS because at the beginning you are every department. Just because you're a great X, doesn't mean you won't also be doing the filing, bookkeeping, sales, marketing and everything else too. I don't have to deal with too many worthless meetings, but there are a lot of things outside my core competencies I can't hand off yet because of either lack of cash flow or I haven't gotten around to creating a system so I can hire someone to do it.

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    1. Yes, that aspect of entrepreneurship is exactly one of the things that gives me pause about that option. Marketing, for instance, is not something I'm particularly comfortable doing. I don't think marketing is BS, and if I became an entrepreneur, it would absolutely be part of the core job... but I don't necessarily want to do it, and I might suck at it.

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  13. The BS meter at my job has skyrocketed lately--to the point where I'm doing a lot of my core work on nights and weekends because I'm spending 6 hours a day on BS.Some of that is just workload increases without resource increases, but a giant portion of it is just, yes, the nonsense that has grown as I've moved up the ladder.
    It's the kind of thing that makes me think entrepreneurship has to be better--you'd still have to do a lot of nonsense, but at least it would be YOUR nonsense, you know? At the same time, I'm fairly certain I am not cut out for running my own business...so I don't know where that leaves me.

    On the work hours thing--I have had to put in several 60+ hour weeks lately. I can do those kinds of hours, but not straight. So if I'm putting in a 10 hour day, I tend to only be able to do it in 3-4 hour chunks (partly why I end up working until midnight and on weekends when I have to put in those kinds of hours). But I can't sustain that for long periods. My best work is done in the 35-45 range. My husband, on the other hand, really does end up working 8-10 hour stretches at a time, no breaks. I don't understand it, he's the kind of person who gets immersed in his work and forgets to eat or drink or go to the bathroom (I NEVER forget those things. Much to my waistline's dismay). He also doesn't need much sleep, so I really do think it's a brain wiring thing and only some people can do it. Heaven knows I can't. Although, I always wonder how much of that is the artist thing versus corporate work.

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