We all have rushed to finish a project at the last minute or agreed to help a coworker with a project, only to realize that we have taken on much more than we can handle. A common problem in the workplace can also lead to chronic time abuse.
Unlike the widely recognized problem of time management, time abuse has less to do with organization and more to do with psychological conflicts. A time abuser’s worst enemy is not time but his or her fragile self-esteem and an overwhelming fear of being evaluated.
In the Harvard Business Review (June 2004), article, “Chronic Time Abuse,” Steven Berglas takes an in-depth look at four distinct types of people who are plagued by this common workplace dilemma.
Preemptives are the individuals you used to hate in school. They compulsively finish projects weeks ahead of schedule and appear to be in control when in fact they are not. These time abusers focus on staying ahead, to the extent that they become asocial. They fail to connect with their peers, especially in team-oriented projects, resulting in team morale problems in the workplace.
At first glance, people pleasers seem too good to be true. When you look below the surface, they are actually time bombs waiting to go off. The pleasers are so fearful of confronting authority figures that they take on more responsibility then they can handle to the point of being unproductive. Many times, this individual has Cinderella complex. They feel they have to put the good of others before their own well being.
When perfectionists turn in work, it is first rate. In the process of completing the work, however, they can hold up the process for long periods of time. Perfectionists must satisfy their own internal standard of excellence but their standards are extremely unrealistic. After receiving praise for extraordinary work, perfectionists may become arrogant, dismissive, and demanding of absolute control over all aspects of their work.
Everyone has used a, “My dog ate my homework,” excuse. Procrastinators make excuses all the time for why they don’t have projects completed. They throw themselves and others in a panic to finish a project at the last minute because they kept putting it off. Procrastinators are the most common time abusers in the workplace.
Time abuse is not the problem, just the symptom of the problem. An understanding of the factors that lead people to abuse their time is one of the best ways to work towards a solution. Trying to understand the root of the problem is much more productive and causes less anxiety than trying to teach the time abuser better time management techniques An investment of time and learning can help correct many of the problems that plague time abusers. Eventually the person who is always giving the, “I can’t finish my report, because my printer is broken” excuse might just become a top performer.