When Work Becomes Routine

Not all managers praise the 9-to-5 workday.

In 1920, Thomas Edison gave an interview in honor of his 73rdbirthday and had this to say about his accomplishments:

Today, I am wondering what would have happened to me by nowif, 50 years ago, some fluent talker had converted me to the theoryof the eight-hour day and convinced me that it was not fair to myfellow workers to put forth my best efforts in my work? I am gladthat the eight-hour day had not been invented when I was a youngman. If my life had been made up of eight-hour days, I don'tbelieve I could have accomplished a great deal.

Corporate America was just getting its start when Edison madethese comments, but he had already identified what he didn'tlike about it: an eight-hour day, 9-to-5 mentality. Make nomistake; he loved his work and probably worked more than most of usmight care to. The danger he saw in the eight-hour day was not somuch that of less work but of work becoming just anotherroutine.

Edison continued his interview by discussing his concern aboutsuch rule-driven routines. He stated:

This country would not amount to as much as it does if theyoung men of 50 years ago had been afraid that they might earn morethan they were paid. There were shirkers in those days, to be sure,but they didn't boast of it. The shirker tried to conceal orexcuse his lack of ambition. I am not against the eight-hour day,or any other thing that protects labor from exploitation at thehands of ruthless employers, but it makes me sad to see youngAmericans shackle their abilities by blindly conforming to ruleswhich force the industrious man to keep in step with theshirker.

Excerpted from At Work With Thomas Edison: 10 Business LessonsFrom America's Greatest Innovator

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