Work Sucks! Five Critical Learnings about Going ROWE

Work Sucks! Five Critical Learnings about Going ROWE

How many times have you heard:

Work sucks

lately? How many times have you said it?

It may be because I recently read “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It” by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler, and just received my copy of “Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It“, but I’ve been hearing these words – or some variation of them – a lot lately!

Just yesterday, a former colleague of mine, who is very smart and has always been an extremely hard worker, said to me:

I would rather go on welfare than come into ____ every day

I realized it was time to get this post out. It’s been brewing for a while.

I was extremely fortunate to chat with Jody Thompson of CultureRX lately, and some of the things she said completely resonated with me and made me realize some errors that I have made in the past and how we have to revolutionize our thinking about work.


Gone is the workplace that was so critical through the industrial revolution, where people showed up at 9 and worked until 5, in their seats. With technology today, most people can work anywhere. And they are often not as productive in their work seats as they are at home, at Starbucks, or in their creative space.


In my past, I worked for a President who, behind closed doors would confide to me how much he hated coming into the office, how thrilled he was to be retiring in a few years, and how he was tired of the 9-5 grind. Meanwhile, he was adamant that everyone be in the office by 8:30, and even had a colleague take photos of our work area on Friday afternoons in the summer and send them to him so he could see who was still at their desks working (meanwhile he usually took a long weekend). Seriously. I couldn’t make this stuff up.


Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler talk about a ROWE or Results Only Work Environment. The biggest issue I see with this is not having clearly defined objectives to measure as far as results. Seat time doesn’t matter. Hours worked – who cares? Let’s worry about your results and that you’re achieving your objectives. But in order to do this, you need to know exactly what success looks like. We’ve all heard of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound or some variation), but in my experience I have not worked in many organizations where people were truly great at setting SMART goals. This is critical to building a ROWE.


When I read Jody and Cali’s first book, Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it, their chapter on Sludge really hit home. In it they talk about the things people say that reinforce the attitude that work is about seat time and notway we sabotage our working relationships and our attitude towards work with statements or thoughts like:

Maybe I should take up smoking – then at least I’d get breaks

I remember saying this when I was a waitress – in fact, I actually took “smoke” breaks just to get a few minutes off the floor.

Nice of you to join us

I know a Sr Exec who literally quit when this was said to him – it was only the straw that broke the camel’s back but still impactful in a bad way.

Must be nice to work from home

It is. You should try it.

In the words of Cali and Jody, “Sludge is condescending, judgmental, and based entirely on an outdated notion of “work” that doesn’t even hold up anymore.” If you catch yourself spreading sludge or caught in sludge, it’s time to change your attitude.


I have been labeled a “workaholic” in the past. Growing up, I was taught to be the first in the door and last to leave and that I would be recognized for that. l am ashamed to say that I perpetuated that myth. I actually remember telling a student who called me once for career advice how that had worked for me…

I also remember arguing with my President about how my team were often the last ones into the office. I remember part of my argument being the fact that they were also the last ones to leave. Really? I was perpetuating the belief in seat time there too.

I know… I can’t believe that I did it either. How far I’ve come. I’ve seen the light!

What are you doing that is perpetuating the myth of butt-in-seat time as the measurement for great work?

I’ve just started reading Why Managing Sucks and How To Fix It and can’t wait to dive into learning more about how organizations have changed what work means and gotten amazing results. Read along with me and let me know what you think.

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