Your Bosses Think They Work Longer Than You Do

Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway was asked how many hours she worked per week, and after some consideration, wrote ’45.’ Later, she posed this question to some acquaintances—a lawyer, a director of a company—and found that they estimated much higher: the lawyer said 65 and the director said 75. Studies have shown that we have a tendency to overestimate how much we work, but by how much? One study shows that the higher your status in a profession, the higher number of hours you estimate:

Jonathan Gershuny from Oxford university and John Robinson of University of Maryland have done a study that breaks down the overestimation by profession.

They found that lawyers overestimate more than paralegals; doctors overestimate their hours more than nurses. Chief executives overestimate their hours far more than lowly part-time workers, who are more likely to underestimate.

Prof Gershuny thinks there are two reasons for this. The first is to do with status. The lower you are in the pecking order the lower the value you put on your own contribution. If you are CEO, you rate your own work so highly that the quantity of it becomes distorted in your own mind.

Later Kellaway reconsiders her 45 hours a week and says the “quantity of real, proper work, is probably barely half that.” The other hours are probably spent watching cat videos, and can you blame her?

Photo: Syntax Sands

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