Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The use of fatigue

Lately, I often find myself working unpaid hours at the office. This stems from a faulty balance between duty and self. It is not that I am forced to work more hours than others to make up for being slow or inefficient. Rather, I voluntarily take on the extra work -- not for career advancement, but in order to be seen as a good team player. I donate hours in hope of gaining acceptance. And I persist in doing this even though little notice and even less reward has resulted from this behavior. Vanity of vanities! (I hope my older son is wiser than I am and strikes a healthy balance between work and family.)

But yesterday I found myself alone in the office at 8:00 p.m. for a different reason. I had been assigned to produce a cost estimate for an activity that I had no quantitative basis for estimating. I was in a jam. There was no time or budget to do the necessary research on how long this activity (checkout of computer security settings) had taken in the past, and I had no pertinent experience to rely upon. Gut feel was all that I had. And my gut wasn't cooperating.

Dismayed by the shoddiness of it all, I fretted for three hours, fruitlessly trying to spin straw into gold (or, more accurately, turn manure into a cost estimate). Finally, fatigue came over me and suppressed my nagging professional standards. I was set free to write crap. Within minutes I drafted a slapdash estimate.

My conclusion is that I have a functioning conscience, but I can wear it down and stupefy it by the use of sufficient fatigue.