A Culture of Work or a Culture of Clock?


Clock watcher or results oriented?
Clock watcher or results oriented?

I received a question about what to do with an employee who is exempt, yet only puts in 40 hours per week over 4 days. One week he had to work and extra day and now he wants to work only 3 days the next week. That question got me to thinking about companies that have a culture of work versus those with a culture of clock.Culture of clock
Let me make it clear that what I am talking about here deals with exempt employees. With nonexempt employees you do have to watch the clock. The FLSA requires it and you will get in trouble if you don’t. But that is not the case with exempt employees. There is supposedly a trade-off implicit in an exempt position. Your never reducing salary is in exchange for you working whatever hours it takes to accomplish the work. The forty hour work week is a base, but some weeks it may require more and in some weeks it could be less. Regardless if you work 30 hours or 60 hours the paycheck is the same. At least that is the way it is ideally.
Of course we all know that it does not work that way. As an employer we require everyone to be there a minimum of 40 hours and often expect more. We pay attention to time more than we pay attention to results. Some companies illegally dock pay for time that drops below that 40 hours. By the company focusing on time we get employees to focus on time thus establishing the culture of clock. With a culture of clock beware if you are standing in the doorway at 5 p.m.
Culture of Work
If you want to establish a culture of work you have to reward it. I can hear it now… someone is saying “well they get their paycheck”. Yes that is true however “rewarding work” is more than that. The reward I am talking about is in noticing the work people are doing. Paying attention to the results they produce. Saying “thank you” occasionally works well. Maybe an occasional monetary bonus or walking by and saying something to the effect of “you have been producing great results this week, why don’t you pack up for the day and try to beat the traffic home.” And then making sure you don’t take that off their PTO accrual. (Yes, I know you are only supposed to do that in full day increments with exempt employees, but you would be surprised how many companies do it in hourly increments.)
Your thoughts?
I know my thoughts on this are pretty elemental. We are talking on the fringes of performance and performance management but what else would you suggest, or what have you done, to foster a culture of work versus a culture of clock? Also what have you done with an exempt employee who is a clock watcher?

5 thoughts on “A Culture of Work or a Culture of Clock?”

  1. Mike – maybe the issue here is semantics… the word “reward” has connotations that it should only be applied over and above what we would consider expected performance.
    What if we stopped saying “reward expected performance” and just started saying “notice expected performance” or “validate effort” – those things seem to me to be more about what we’re really saying – let people know you notice them and their presence is valued. That’s not reward as much as it is just being human.
    What say you – is the problem one of semantics?

    • Paul:
      I think you are correct. Semantics is a big issue. Many people say we need to get rid of performance appraisal. Do the mean the tool, the method or just the act of giving feedback? Performance appraisal has multiple meanings. Just as reward does. For many people reward is money, but reward can also be praise or any other number of things. Derek Irvine had a great post about that yesterday. I think people want feedback on their performance regardless of what it is called. We need to help organizations do that in the manner that is best suited for them.
      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Mike,
    Good post and a good comment. Whether it is semantics or not, an important consideration is what the employee percieves “reward” to be. We live in a $ culture and reward is most often associated with $. That being said, in financially strapped organizations and non=profits where there is no cash to give, what do you do to reward folks? The notice and valication of performance are critically important but that only goes so far and for so long. Understanding the business situation and, I have found opening new project specific opportunities for folks has helped a lot and shifts the focus to results and work verses clock.
    Keep up the great task of stimulating the thinking for folks!

Leave a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest