How Bill Lumbergh Was Wrong about Productivity

how bill lumbergh was wrong about productivity

Anyone who wants to be a good manager should know how Bill Lumbergh was wrong about productivity. The fictional boss in the movie Office Space always seemed to rub people the wrong way and leave them avoiding him at all costs. If only he knew one thing about motivation.

A Case of the Mondays

If you’ve never seen the movie Office Space, you might be doing yourself a great disservice. If you’ve ever worked in an office, you can most likely relate to the cast of characters: the crazy coworkers, the clueless consultants, the annoying cube mates.

But there’s one character that might seem painfully familiar: Bill Lumbergh – the clueless, yet over demanding boss.

Like some real-life counterparts, Lumbergh lacks the awareness to know how demotivating he is to his employees as he finds himself intruding on their free time, often asking them to work extra even over the weekend.

He’s enough to give anyone a case of the Mondays (language warning).

Why People Don’t Want to Work Late

How Bill Lumbergh was wrong about productivity here and what a lot of bosses seem to mess up as well is that people aren’t necessarily averse to working late. In fact, many people love to work late. Many people go home to work on projects that they love. Many people work on passion projects to all hours.

The thing that makes people frustrated by working late or even hostile to the idea is that working late often sounds like something glaringly obvious to everyone except the person requesting it: that hidden voice behind the request that says, “I’d rather spend your time than mine.”

Working late is often the result of someone not preparing correctly. Someone wasn’t very diligent in planning and so now they want other people to take their most valuable and irreplaceable currency – their time – and spend it. Someone didn’t spend their time wisely so now they are asking others to chip in.

Not only did the boss not plan ahead, they didn’t show the person they’re asking the value in spending their most valuable resource in order to further the goals of the company. It’s how Bill Lumbergh was wrong about productivity, and it’s the thing that can make employees resent you.

There’s a better way.

Getting People Onboard

If you want to avoid making the same mistakes Lumbergh made when asking more of people, follow these three simple steps:

  • Respect Their Time: Realize that when you ask people to work extra, you are asking them to give up something extremely valuable – something they can never get back – something that will be gone forever once used. Respect that. Don’t ask for it lightly.
  • Make It Fair: Don’t ask for anything you won’t give. If you messed up and didn’t spend your time wisely, don’t ask someone else to spend their time. If you lost $100 through a bad bet, would you ask someone to give you $100, just because? Time is much more precious. Unless you are putting in equal time and using it wisely, don’t ask time of others.
  • Share the Vision: There is a big difference between saying you need someone to come and waste their Saturday and saying you need them to come in because the servers are down and customers who are relying on their medicine can’t get it shipped without their help. Make your employees part of the plan instead of a cog in the wheel.

Please note, I’m not advocating overworking people. It’s the opposite actually. What I’m saying is that overwork is all too often a symptom of poor planning or misplaced goals. When you plan well and treat your people with respect, asking people to work extra will become the rare exception, not the norm.

It’s how Bill Lumbergh was wrong about productivity, but it’s what you can get right without the need to jump to conclusions (language warning).

David Bishop

David is CEO of Cedowin Productions, dedicated to helping you live your best life through positive habits. He has inspired tens of thousands to improve habits and communication through books, articles, workshops, and apps.

He is the creator of AweVenture, helping families enjoy fantastic, active experiences and Zombie Goals, literally making building healthy habits a game. He’s authored several books including How to Create Amazing Presentations, 7 Steps to Better Relationships, and The Man in the Pit, which helps people who have loved ones struggling with depression.

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