Resentful? Overworked? Face These Painful Facts about Shared Work.

Every Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: 7 hard facts about shared work (#5, #6, and #7 are most important)

I’ve posted about this subject before, but I find myself thinking about it so often that I decided to raise it again.

When I hear people complain about the fact that other people aren’t doing their share–about a spouse who isn’t pulling weight at home, or a colleague at work, or a sibling in a family–I want to launch into a disquisition about shared work.

From what I’ve observed, people have a very incorrect understanding about how shared work actually gets divvied up. Take note of these somewhat-painful facts:

Fact 1: Work done by other people sounds easy. How hard can it be to take care of a newborn who sleeps twenty hours a day? How hard can it be to keep track of your billable hours? To travel for one night for business?  To get a four-year-old ready for school? To return a few phone calls? To fill out some forms?

Of course, something like “perform open-heart surgery” sounds difficult, but to a very great degree, daily work by other people sounds easy—certainly easier that what we have to do.

This fact leads us to under-estimate how onerous a particular task is, when someone else does it, and that makes it easy to assume that we don’t need to help or provide support. Or even be grateful. For that reason, we don’t feel very obligated to share the burden. After all, how hard is it to change a light-bulb?

Fact 2: When you’re doing a job that benefits other people, it’s easy to assume that they feel conscious of the fact that you’re doing this work—that they should feel grateful, and that they should and do feel guilty about not helping you.

But no! Often, the more reliably you perform a task, the less likely it is for someone to notice that you’re doing it, and to feel grateful, and to feel any impulse to help or to take a turn.

You think, “I’ve been making the first pot of coffee for this office for three months! When is someone going to do it?” In fact, the longer you make that coffee, the less likely it is that someone will do it.

If one person on a tandem bike is pedaling hard, the other person can take it easy. If you’re reliably doing a task, others will relax. They aren’t silently feeling more and more guilty for letting you shoulder the burden; they probably don’t even think about it. And after all, how hard is it to make a pot of coffee? (see Fact #1). Also, they begin to view this as your job (after all, you’ve been doing it reliably for all this time, in fact, you probably enjoy this job!), it’s not their job, so they don’t feel any burden to help.

Being taken for granted is an unpleasant but sincere form of praise. Ironically, the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted.

Fact 3: It’s hard to avoid “unconscious overclaiming.” In unconscious overclaiming, we unconsciously overestimate our contributions relative to others. This makes sense, because we’re far more aware of what we do than what other people do. Also, we tend to do the work that we value. I think holiday cards are important; my husband thinks that keeping the air-conditioning working is important.

Studies showed that when spouses estimated what percentage of housework each performed, the percentages added up to more than 120 percent. When business-school students estimated how much they’d contributed to a team effort, the total was 139 percent.

It’s easy to think “I’m the only one around here who bothers to…” or “Why do I always have to be the one who…?” but ignore all the tasks you don’t do. And maybe others don’t think that task  is as important as you do (See Fact #5).

Fact 4: Taking turns is easier than sharing. I read somewhere that young children have a lot of trouble “sharing” but find it easier to “take turns.” Sharing is pretty ambiguous; taking turns is clearer and serves the value of justice, which is very important to children.

I think this is just as true for adults. I have to admit, shared tasks often give me the urge to try to shirk. Maybe if I pretend not to notice that the dishwasher is ready to be emptied, my husband will do it! And often he does. Which bring us t0…

THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT SHARED WORK:

Fact 5: The person who cares the most will often end up doing a task. If you care more about a task being done, you’re more likely to end up doing it–and don’t expect other people to care as much as you do, just because something is important to you. It’s easy to make this mistake in marriage. You think it’s important to get the basement organized, and you expect your spouse to share the work, but your spouse thinks, “We never use the basement anyway, so why bother?” Just because something’s important to you doesn’t make it important to someone else, and people are less likely to share work they deem unimportant. At least not without a lot of nagging.

Fact 6. If you want someone else to do a task, DON’T DO IT YOURSELF. This sounds so obvious, but think about it. Really. Let it go. If you think you shouldn’t have to do it, don’t do it. Wait. Someone else is a lot more likely to do it if you don’t do it first. Note: this means that a task is most likely to be done by the person who cares most (see Fact #5).  To repeat this point in other words, if you persist in doing particular work, it becomes more and more unlikely that someone else will do it.

Of course, you can’t always choose not to do something. Someone must get the kids ready for school. But many tasks are optional.

Fact #7: If, when people do step up, you criticize their performance, you discourage them from doing that work in the future. If you want others to help, don’t carp from the sidelines. If you do, they feel justified in thinking, “Well, I can’t do it right anyway” or “Pat wants this to be done a particular way, and I don’t know how to do that, so Pat should do it.” The more important it is to you that tasks be performed your way, the more likely you are to be doing those tasks yourself. (Of course, some people use deliberate incompetence to shirk, which is so deeply annoying.)

What do you think? What did I get wrong–or overlook? Do you find shared work to be tough to manage?

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Story: Sometimes Flawed Can Be More Perfect Than Perfection.

This week’s video story: Sometimes flawed can be more perfect than perfection.

 

This is one of my favorite Secrets of Adulthood, and I tell another story about the same idea here, about the ballet and wabi-sabi and Glenn Gould. (Wow, that’s an odd combination, now that I think of it.)

That idea is related to another story,  about another Secret of Adulthood that my mother told me, right before my wedding: Sometimes the things that go wrong make the best memories.

The story that I tell comes from Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom.

What do you think? Have you seen any examples where flawed was more perfect than perfection?

If you can’t see the video, click here.

Find the archives of videos here.  More than 1.7 MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe.

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Can a Word Cloud Help You Know Yourself Better?

Last week, I posted about the work of researchers who generated word clouds from Facebook updates related to personality, gender, and age.

A thoughtful reader pointed out that sites like Wordle and Tagxedo allow you to generate your own word clouds, based on your own postings.

I decided to do one for this blog. Interesting–though I must confess, I can’t read many of the smaller entries.

 

If you try this exercise yourself, what, if anything, does it reveal? Anything that helps us gain in self-knowledge–even imperfectly or indirectly–is helpful, to my mind.

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Take a Look At These Fascinating Happiness-Related Word Clouds.

A thoughtful reader sent me the link to Michael Kelley’s piece, “Scientists Used Facebook for the Largest Ever Study of Language and Personality, about a fascinating study done by University of Pennsylvania researchers, “Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media.”

They used 700 million words, phrases, and topic instances taken from Facebook, from 75,000 volunteers,  to analyze linguistic patterns. This might not sound fascinating, but looking at the word clouds generated by this study is riveting.

They generated word clouds that track the traits of introversion and extroversion, neuroticism and emotional stability, gender, and age.  It’s quite funny to compare the word clouds generated by 13-18 year old, 19-22 year olds, 23-29 year olds, and 30-65 year olds (I didn’t notice an explanation of why they picked these particular age groupings).

From a happiness perspective, I was most interested in the word clouds for extraversion, introversion, neuroticism, and emotional stability. (For more on those terms, read here.)

Here it is, but note, there are a lot of curse words, if that bothers you.

 

Hmmmmm. What, if any, conclusions do you draw from this information? And here’s another question. The way that you feel will influence what you post, but do you also think that what you post influences the way that you feel? From my own experience, I’d say yes.

Do You Fall Prey to These 4 Types of Impulse Purchases?

Every Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: Do you fall for the four types of impulse buys?

When we’re trying to change our buying  habits, one challenge is that marketers are so clever at enticing us into making impulse purchases.

In David Lewis’s book Impulse: Why We Do What We Do Without Knowing Why We Do It, he provides a list of the four main types of impulse buys, developed by industrial economist Hawkins Stern in 1962.

Do you recognize any of these categories in your own purchasing patterns?

1. Pure impulse buying — you make a true novelty purchase, or escape purchase, that’s very different from your typical purchasing pattern

2. Reminder impulse buying — you see an item or remember something that reminds you that you need an item

3. Suggestion impulse buying– you see a product for the first time and imagine a need for it

4. Planned impulse buying — (isn’t this label an oxymoron? oh well) you make a purchase based on price specials, coupons, etc.

Now, I know that some folks out there are my fellow under-buyers, and we have to force ourselves to make impulse purchases of the #2 sort. Even when I know I need something, I hate to buy it!

Interestingly, Lewis notes that people generally don’t consider it a mistake to make impulse purchases. Research suggests that only about 1 in 5 people regret it, and 2 out of 5 say they feel good about it. (If you don’t feel good about it, here are 5 tips to resist impulse shopping.)

If you battle impulse purchasing, what category gives you the most trouble? How do you combat it? Of course, we’re always told to shop with a list–and seeing these four categories makes it clear why that’s helpful in fighting impulsive spending.

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