You can go too far with working hours. In fact, overwork can contaminate your career. Here’s how:
- Overtime can mask weaknesses. If you fail to hire, train or discipline someone properly but work extra long hours to cover for him instead, you’re simply hiding a problem that will reveal itself later.
- Working to the limit leaves you no cushion. It’s like charging a buck for a product that costs 98 cents to make.You’ve got no margin for error, and the first setback—even a crunch project, sick child or new home— could put you under water.
- You need a qualitative (not quantitative) edge. It’s difficult for a competitor to know your customers as well as you do. But the same competitor can generate more mail, presentations and sheer volume of work to beat you. Hard work alone is not a “sustainable competitive advantage.”
To tell if you’re working too hard:
- Compare your hours to those of your peers. Unless your extra hours translate directly into higher performance and compensation, you’re in Dutch.
- Listen to how people describe your strengths. If they put “hardworking,” “dedicated” or “committed” in the top three, you’re shortchanging yourself.
- Ask how much harder you could work if you really wanted to shine. If you can’t crank it up, you’re in trouble. What if your boss gives you a great opportunity but you can’t drop any balls?