How Wasting Time At Work Can Advance Your Career

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Wasting time at work is a cardinal sin, especially to hard working people. But I recently came across an argument for why and how you should waste time in a specific way.

Dr. Lois P. Frankel is the author of Nice Girls Don't Get The Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers. As a woman and a coach to women in leadership, I picked up the book to see what mistakes I or my female clients could be making.

Mistake #3 is working hard. I was surprised to see that on the list. The American dream is to start from nothing and, through hard work, work your way to something. We are taught that if you work hard, you will be rewarded. But Frankel suggests that is not true. Here is the example she gave.

"One woman complained to me about the guys she worked with who, every Monday morning during football season, spent the first half hour of the day rehashing Sundays' games with the boss. 
'What a waste of time. Here I am working aways and they're talking about football!' she lamented. What bothered her even more ws the fact that these same guys were being tapped for prime assignments." 

Does this soind familiar to you? Don't quite understand why the people who are not working as hard as you are getting more opportunities? Frankel goes on to explain.

"In this situation her male coworkers were bonding with the boss in a way that allowed him to better know these team members. As a result, when growth opportunities became available, he picked them because he was familiar and comfortable with them."

Hold a second Dr. Frankel! You are saying that wasting time is ok as long as you do it in a way that promotes relationship building with your boss?!?!

"And herein lies one of business's best-kept secrets. People aren't hire and promoted simply because they work hard. It happens because the decision makes knows the character of the person and feels confident about his or her ability not only to do the job, but to also do it in a way that promotes collegial team relationships."
Frankel suggestions that you give yourself permission to waste a little time. In fact, she suggests you spend 5% of your day (that's 24 minutes out of 8 hour day) building relationships with coworkers. 

What do you think about this slant on wasting time at work?

Here is what I like:

  • I like that her tips suggests there is a correlation between advancing in your career and building relationships with people. 
  • I like that wasting time is specifically defined. It isn't advocating spending time on Facebook or Pinterest.
  • I like that it suggests a worker needs to re-examine his or her beliefs about it takes to get a head.

Here is what I don't like:

  • I don't like that relationship building is considered a waste of time. 
  • I don't like the "us vs them" mentality that the example suggests exists. Men aren't the only ones who "waste" time talking about football.

What do you think?


  1. Man, how interesting is this. Totally different slant than what you expect but it makes total sense. Goes to show it takes more than just eggs to make an omellette. ;-)

  2. It fascinated me too Micah! I love being challenged to rethink assumptions.