Job Success Fallacies: Don’t Believe the Hype

In the course of one’s career, there are a number of generic sayings and advice tidbits that are heard regularly. In addition to being widely applicable to anyone who has achieved success, they also serve as optimistic motivators for aspiring up-and-comers looking to do so. Unfortunately, not only do they not guarantee success but more and more often, they’re not required at all.

In a never-ending quest for growth and improvement, today’s business owners and workers are less afraid to break from tradition, realizing that doing the opposite of what’s expected may actually yield better results. With the advent of the startup culture has come the desire to reexamine the status quo, and occasionally go against the grain. Let’s look at a few job success fallacies that, while they may hold true for some, are frequently disproved by the highest achievers.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

In movies and sitcoms, people typically awaken for work with the sun streaming through their windows. In reality, most of us are up, showered, and headed to the office well before sunrise. It’s been ingrained in us for years that rising early is essential for success, and sleeping in is a characteristic of laziness. In reality, according to WebMD, lack of sleep impairs concentration, reasoning, alertness and problem solving – all of which are essential to productivity. While it’s been determined that 40 percent of Americans suffer from insufficient sleep, there are those who refuse to equate career success with sleeplessness.

Following in the footsteps of the great Winston Churchill (who typically stayed in bed until 11 am), Aaron Levie, CEO of the cloud file-syncing and file-sharing company Box, rises at 10 am, as does Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Tom Lehman, co-founder, and CEO of the annotation site Genius wakes at 10:30, while Buzzfeed’s CEO Jonah Peretti wakes at the crack of 8:30. While not everyone has the luxury of making their own schedule, those who do know that the quality of rest can outweigh the quantity of hours worked.

Dress for Success

It’s been said that employees should dress for the career they want. Nowadays, some of the most coveted careers are with startup and tech companies, for which the typical attire is often a t-shirt and jeans or shorts. Add to the fact that 43 percent of employees now spend at least some time working from home, for which the standard dress may be pajamas. If success were truly dependent upon work attire, society would have crumbled years ago as the formal dress requirement gradually fell out of fashion.

While formal dress codes are still favored by certain industries such as banking and legal, only around nine percent of employers now require formal attire, while 62 percent allow casual dress at least one day a week. One contributing factor to increased casualness at work is that millennials, who now make up over 60 percent of the workforce, typically prefer a casual office environment. Employers that want to stay competitive in the hiring market have had little choice but to loosen their dress requirements.

Keep Your Nose to the Grindstone

Some employers feel the best way to squeeze a little bit of extra productivity out of their workforce is through rules monitoring employees’ every move. Docking employee pay when returning a few minutes late from lunch, blocking social media sites on work computers, even timed bathroom breaks are just a few ways short-sighted employers attempt to force results from employees.

While this behavior may produce a brief spike in work output, the long-term results are typically employee disengagement, a negative work culture, and high turnover. In reality, happy employees are 20 percent more effective than unhappy ones. Furthermore, taking occasional breaks actually boosts employee productivity while encouraging coworker interaction and teambuilding. Successful employers know to hire employees they can trust to complete assignments and produce results in a non-restrictive atmosphere, without the need for draconian office rules.

The Busier, the Better

Oftentimes, employees think the more assignments they take on, the more they’ll get done, the more motivated they’ll appear and the more it will benefit the department or company. Other times, management will assign two or three employees’ worth of work to one person due to budget constraints. However, when a fabric stretches too thin, it tears, and when employees are pushed to their multitasking limits, deadlines are missed and mistakes are made.

In reality, multitasking can inhibit a person’s productivity by as much as 40 percent, affecting concentration and leading to stress, which in turn hinders thinking and memory. So while taking on extreme workloads may make some employees feel like they’re accomplishing more, or make some managers feel that employees are earning their pay, the end result often falls short of those who focus on individual tasks.

In today’s modern workplace, the only real norm is no norm at all. While employers of the past may have followed tradition and stuck to doing things “the way we’ve always done them,” today’s successful employers know that what was good for business years ago doesn’t necessarily work anymore. As companies clinging to overbearing rules, restrictions, and traditions are outperformed by those embracing employee interests and positive work culture, the workplace will continue to evolve toward comfort, convenience, and a healthy work environment as productivity increases because of, not in spite of, the changes.

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.