September 15, 2016

The "working hard" meme, continued.

I was just talking about an annoying NYT editorial lavishing praise on John Kerry for working so damned hard (on things they pretty obviously think will fail). We entrust people with power because we want them not just to work but to do what works. The fact that someone worked hard is a ridiculous distraction. And if what they did is bad, we should be more bothered that they put a lot of effort into it. They were not merely ineffective, they were inefficient. Double failure, in my book.

A related question is whether it's even true that the person is working hard. Working hard shouldn't distract us from whether what was done works, but it does, so there's an incentive to create the impression that one is working hard. In that view, let's look at Hillary Clinton.

Here's Rush Limbaugh on his show yesterday:
[T]here are people out there saying she got pneumonia 'cause she's working so hard. Even General Powell in one of the emails talks about, my God, she's working so hard. She's working so hard she can barely climb the steps to the podium.  You know how General Powell defined working hard?  Going to three fundraisers in a day and having to fly to two of them.  She's just burning at both ends. She's gonna have to slow down.  But that's why she's getting pneumonia....

[Her supporters are making the argument that] Hillary Clinton has to work harder than Trump -- he's a man -- she's had to work harder than Trump because the deck's stacked for Trump because Trump is a man.  Is that why she's having so many fewer campaign events than Trump?  Is that what working harder than Trump means to level the playing field?  Is that why when she does show up at a campaign rally, her speeches are almost so short, if you blink you miss them?  Is this why she never does press conferences because she's working so hard to level the playing field?

What is she doing?  What work is she doing that is so hard she's getting pneumonia for us?  She doesn't do campaign appearances very much.  When she does, she doesn't speak much at them, and she certainly doesn't do press conferences.  In fact, Mrs. Clinton, who's working so hard that she contracted pneumonia for us, practically took the whole month of August off, except for a couple of fundraising dinners.... 
Is she working hard? We're barraged with arguments that contain a set component: Hillary works very hard. But has she been working hard these last 4 years? I've been questioning the use of the "hard work" meme to cover for failure and to give credit where it's not due, but quite aside from that is the factual basis of the reputation for working hard. We're invited to believe that Hillary has become unhealthy because she's been working so terribly hard, but it may be that Hillary is unhealthy and she's not working hard because she's unhealthy.


Brando said...

They figure if they repeat the "she's so qualified" and "she works so hard" themes often enough, we'll just take them for a given.

I'd rather someone work smart, not work hard. Some people get far better results putting in a six hour day than others do with twelve.

Measure a Secretary of State by what they actually do, not how much "effort" they claim to put into it.

Comanche Voter said...

Hard work plus smarts = results.

Hard work plus hard work with no smarts = nada.

Which of the two formulas above applies to Hillary?

Mike said...

It's a truism that when people claim to be "working hard" it usually turns out they are "hardly working" at all. Old Bill Clinton made the Limbaugh show back in the day for his effusive "I worked harder than I've ever worked before" preamble to declaring that some stupid liberal idea he had was not going to become law. Bill also used the "going to do the hard work" America hired him to do excuse to deflect further inquiry into Lewinsky, "that woman" he didn't have sex with.

Rick Turley said...

Some people will always confuse activity with accomplishment, especially when they can't point to any accomplishments. It's often the same people who excuse bad results with good intentions.

Paddy O said...

How to pretend you're busy.

Unknown said...

In the programming field, we say the best programmers are the lazy ones. Why? Because much of programming is hard, repetitive work that if not done exactly right can lead to disaster.

So the lazy programmers write software to take care of that problem. They spend an extra two days now to save 10 days later.

It's why, for example, regex and applescript exist. One or two well crafted lines of regular expression can save literally days of work. But crafting that one or two lines of regex may take hours.

That's the difference between working harder and working smarter. John Kerry has managed to let Russia gain a toehold on the Mediterranean, so they are no longer bound by Turkey and the Black Sea.

That's incredible idiocy, complete incompetence, and utter failure. But he worked hard to achieve it!


traditionalguy said...

Diligent leadership that gets the best out of the group it leads because it is respected, sharp dressed and will fire lazy incompetents is exactly the skills of which lusting for power Clinton has NONE. Kerry is a 100% cartoon character.

john dean said...

Quote from a long ago supervisor when I complained about long hours.

"Quit working so hard and get something done!"

Although unwelcome at the time, this turned out to be good advice.
Kerry et. al. should focus on that which is achievable and quit the posturing.

David Begley said...

"We entrust people with power because we want them not just to work but to do what works."

And in that sentence Althouse just made the prime case for not voting for Hillary. She failed as Secretary of State.

YoungHegelian said...

Do you know just how hard it is to read all those emails & then tell your underlings to "pls print" the newspaper article they're referring to?

Well, do you?

It's pretty goddamn tough, let me tell you! Especially when it's consistently followed up on by a process of piling those printed articles up on a desk in the corner until you can throw them all away unread in one big batch.

Brando said...

"In the programming field, we say the best programmers are the lazy ones. Why? Because much of programming is hard, repetitive work that if not done exactly right can lead to disaster."

There was a general who led the Prussian General Staff (maybe Moltke?) who separated officer candidates in four categories--aggressive (hardworking) but smart, aggressive but not smart, lazy and smart, and lazy and not smart. (All relative to each other, of course--lazy only compared to a "hard working" officer).

Lazy and not smart he'd put in lower level positions where they could stick to simple tasks and do them right, but not really shine. Aggressive and smart he'd put in staff officer or secondary positions, because those people could best serve the top commanders with their diligence and intelligence, and could find the best five ways to do something so the commander would get the most out of them.

Aggressive and not smart would have to be denied completely, because they were the most dangerous--they think they know more than they do, and they are more likely to screw up more things quicker and won't be satisfied with simpler tasks. "Lazy" and smart were to be given independent commands and top field commands, because their smarts would help them make the wisest choices (often proposed by their aggressive and smart underlings) and their laziness would make them take the most efficient route.

Rick said...

Women have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition. Questioning a woman's accomplishments is sexist.

Isn't it interesting that there's a feminist tenet precluding every possible point of evaluation? It's almost like they foster rules under which they are completely protected from criticism or expectations.

mccullough said...

Powell sucked as SOS as well. Another Washington insider riding the gravy train.

David Begley said...

I say Barack, Val, Hillary and John all get the blame when Iran gets its nukes.

Israel already has nukes but the Gulf States don't. So Iran can pull that ancient Sunni v Shia shit and threaten to invade Saudi Arabia. KSA can't stand for that so they get nukes.

Lots of time and money spent on the Iran deal but it will turn out like Munich. Obama made Iran great again. And with OUR money.

eric said...

She is working so hard that if she becomes President, she will need a 4 year vacation in order to get ready to campaign for her second term.

cubanbob said...

Too bad Kerry is such a hard worker. If he wasn't, he wouldn't be such a failure. Thank God Obama is lazy, imagine how much worse things could be if he wasn't.

Matt said...

I thought calling a woman "hard-working" was a microagression. The implication being that a "hard-worker" lacks intelligence so they try to make up for it by working long hours. I know "hard-working" is a label that women in prestigious universities or male-dominated fields have bristled at for decades. Rightfully so. Many women, like many men, are brilliant but kind of lazy.

It's interesting that people who know her always call Hillary hard-working. Are they trying to warn us that she is stupid?

Rick67 said...

I remember when President Clinton moaned how he was working harder than ever in his life. Even then I thought "yeah? so? how much does that matter? what about results?" What's strange is President Obama doesn't seem to pretend he is working hard. I am part of an organization that over the last few years seems to be struggling. In one sense I care whether the leaders are working hard. In another sense... I care even more about results and how the organization is doing.

Tommy Duncan said...

Results matter. In fact, results are really all that matters.

I've wondered why Trump doesn't make "results matter" a campaign theme.

EDH said...

"Do You Have Any Idea How Fucking Busy I Am?"

William said...

People in show biz routinely work into extreme old age. I suppose the rewards of fame and adulation far outweigh the efforts that go into producing them. For such performers receiving applause has more restorative value than sleep. This is probably true of Trump and Bill Clinton. They really do seem to feed off the adulation of the crowd. I don't think the crowd properly worships Hillary. If her crowds became more worshipful, I'm sure her health would improve........In any event, receiving applause is not hard work in the way that cleaning toilets is hard work, and one should modify one's praise of applause seekers accordingly.

Rob said...

People always complain when Congress takes a long vacation or holiday recess, because they say they're not working hard enough. I rejoice. When they're not in session, they can't do any mischief. My fondest wish is that the next president works very little and encourages his or her appointees and Congress to do the same.

Darrell said...

Kerry is just diverting attention away from the allegation that he diverted $millions of State Dept. money to his daughter's nonprofit.

Maddad said...

The best part about the Powell leak is the email where he says he almost had to have a tantrum at a Hampton's party. A tantrum at a Hampton's party! Freaking real housewives of the state dept moment.

John said...

"All progress is made by a lazy person looking for an easier way" - Lazarous Long

"When I have a really hard job to do I look for the laziest man I can find. I know he will find the easiest way to do it." - Walter Chrysler (Attributed)

"Be Lazy! Find an easier way." - John R Henry

More info on lazy manufacturing at

John Henry

William said...

This is also true of executives. A lot of them also work into extreme old age. This is because giving orders is nowhere near as much work as receiving orders. In many cases, giving orders is fun and kind of relaxing, especially when such orders produce success and results. Here again, Hillary has suffered disappointment. Her orders have not produced anythng but craters and rubble which takes some of the fun out of giving orders. I'm sure that if we stick with her, she will give some order that produces a good result and her health will improve correspondingly. The important thing is to hang in there with her. Have faith.

Martin said...

It's not difficult and no great thing to "work hard." Anybody can do it. Many don't and if they also fail they can be criticized, but the criticism is merited only because it's not such a big thing to "work hard," everyone (barring specific problems) should be able to do it if they need to.

Now, succeeding at what you do and improving things, THAT is praiseworthy.

And succeeding without 'working hard'--that is truly exceptional.

Psota said...

The comment that Powell was not a good Secretary of State makes you really start to look back. Hillary traveled a lot and got nothing done. Bryce got nothing done. Powell actively undermined our own diplomatic efforts. Madeleine Albright wasn't all that. Warren Christopher was big on the travel and work hard circuit, and ended up sitting on tarmacs cooling his heels. We've had a string of very ineffective secretaries of State.

tim in vermont said...

In the programming field, we say the best programmers are the lazy ones. Why? Because much of programming is hard, repetitive work that if not done exactly right can lead to disaster.

I once worked with this guy who got promoted to "programmer" of credit card bricks. He programmed them in wordperfect. I asked him what he did one time, out of curiosity, and he showed me, out of pride. I wrote him an AWK script in an hour that did scripts in seconds instead of his hours. I thought I was doing him a favor, but he said "What am I supposed to do all day now?" He really didn't have any idea. In those days I automated a lot of people's jobs. It was sort of my specialty and there was a lot of low hanging fruit. Sometimes I did a good thing for people stuck doing menial tasks, and sometimes I did a bad thing for people who weren't really fit for anything but menial tasks.

tim in vermont said...

Kerry is just diverting attention away from the allegation that he diverted $millions of State Dept. money to his daughter's nonprofit.

It's hard to believe that he can still get work in the Democrat Party after dodging taxes on his seven million dollar yacht, owed to the State of Massachusetts, a state he putatively represented in the US Senate.

Michael said...

Worked in a warehouse decades ago and was commanded to slow down, to basically hide until around 3 pm when we could commence doing the job that took about 4 hours and for which were paid for eight but when we started at 3 pm we got paid for 11, 3 of which were overtime. I worked other jobs that had a similar approach to "hard work."

Hillary's schedule is a joke and her "hard work" is basically going to rich people's houses and hosing poor and middle class people with her contempt. If we compared her daily activities with Trumps, from wakening to sleep, we would see what "hard work" looks like.

John said...

I am surprised that nobody mentioned Carly Fiorina's line on Crooked Hilary.

"Flying is an activity, not an accomplishment"

Referring to CH's claim that one of her accomplishments was having flown a million miles.

John Henry

tim in vermont said...

Funny how people say Hillary is a lousy campaigner, but great "one-on-one." These are the same people who thought that "basked of deplorables" was a real knee slapper.

Greg Hlatky said...

I worked one summer for the construction department at my college. Every morning I was given my day's assignment. I would spend two or three hours on it, then go back and tell a surprised supervisor I was done and what next.

Some of the old regulars took me aside and made it clear I was making them look bad and to ease up.

Ann Althouse said...


That's the story Patti Smith tells in "Piss Factory" — video — lyrics:

Sixteen and time to pay off
I get this job in a piss factory inspecting pipe
Forty hours, thirty-six dollars a week
But it's a paycheck, Jack

So hot in here, hot like Sahara
You could faint from the heat
But these bitches are just too lame to understand
Too goddamned grateful to get this job

To know they're getting screwed up the ass
All these women, they got no teeth or gum or cranium
And the way they suck hot sausage
But me, well, I wasn't sayin' too much neither

I was moral school girl, hard-working asshole
I figured I was speedo motorcycle
I had to earn my dough, had to earn my dough

But no, you gotta, you gotta relate, babe
You gotta find the rhythm within
Floor boss slides up to me and he says
"Hey sister, you're just movin' too fast
You're screwin' up the quota
You're doin' your piece work too fast"

"Now you get off your mustang, Sally
You ain't goin' nowhere, you ain't goin' nowhere"
I layed back, I get my nerve up, I take a swig of Romilar
And walk up to hot shit Dot Hook and I say

"Hey, hey sister, it don't matter whether I do labor fast or slow
There's always more labor after
She's real Catholic, see, she fingers her cross and she says
There is one reason, there is one reason"

"You do it my way or I push your face in
We knee you in the John
If you don't get off your get off your mustang, Sally
If you don't shake it up, baby, shake it up, baby"...

Bruce Hayden said...

@Greg - that was similar to my experience as a personal property tax auditor for the City and County of Denver some 40 years ago. We were expected to average maybe 2 audits a day, which most could complete by maybe 10 am. The rest of them would stop then, and not go back to work until 8 the next morning. I was doing 4 or 5 a day, and got called for it by my boss. Your tax money at work. The other thing was that I would find reductions as often as increases. Again, a no no. Didn't last there - I figured that I had better things to do in life than to retire on the job at 25.

Ann Althouse said...

"I thought calling a woman "hard-working" was a microagression. The implication being that a "hard-worker" lacks intelligence so they try to make up for it by working long hours. I know "hard-working" is a label that women in prestigious universities or male-dominated fields have bristled at for decades. Rightfully so. Many women, like many men, are brilliant but kind of lazy. It's interesting that people who know her always call Hillary hard-working. Are they trying to warn us that she is stupid?"

Yes, great point! "Hard worker" is what we used to call a "left-handed compliment" or "damning with faint praise," but as a culture we have, I believe, mostly lost track of that, perhaps because hard-working people have worked hard at promoting their best characteristic and to keep efficient, smart-and-lazy people from running a game that would expose their weakness.

bigkat said...

Look in the dictionary for RINO. Gen. Powell is exhibit A. He lost a great deal of respect from veterans when he turned his back on a brother in arms and POW, to support(a democrat)
a street organizer with no resume, the rest is history- BHO laid waste our military, and
surrendered hard won territory that will be bled for again. Gen. P has no shame whining about not getting a speakers fee because of the unbounded greed of HRC. But she has his vote no doubt. Really a certified republican- take his word for it.

William said...

Some tasks can only be accomplished by hard work. You can't memorize irregular Spanish verbs except by hard work. There's no flash of inspiration that will help you through it. Also there's no way of delivering a truck full of parcels except by hard work. I'm glad enough to be in the company of geniuses, but throw me a bone occasionally. My hard work is what keeps the cogs turning. . Also just as there's such a thing as hard work, there's such a thing as laziness. I have known some coworkers who had a positive genius for fobbing off work and avoiding difficult tasks. Their efforts in these directions looked exhausting. I found that the easiest way to get through the work day without undue aggravation was to actually put in an honest day's work. Work is finite; goldbricking is an infinite chore.

gadfly said...

While I will concede that the physical and mental demand on presidential candidates has got to hit sky-high streess levels, candidates adjust based uopn their stress tolerance. And Hillary has taken the safe approach so far - she reuses to schedule press conferences where imprompto questions can surface, she gives speeches to groups that will support her candidacy and she answers only softball questios in debates. She also takes more days off from campaigning than other candidates.

In her latest bout with medical problems, we are told that she has non-contagious bacterial pneumonia, but the bacteria type wasn't named nor was an explanation as to how her doctor knew it was non-contagious, except that is the only way Hill's hug for the little girl would be ok. Factually, there is no test for determining if pneumonia is contagious or not. And studies show that the source of pneumonia cases has been deemed to be 64% undeterminable.

coupe said...

When I worked for Northrop there was this guy who had a 4 foot pile of documents he had to type into the computer. What are you doing I asked?

I'm typing these into the computer!

I took a stack of 100 pages, and said follow me!

He trots behind me, and I put the papers in the OCR scanner in the secretaries office. It puts the pages into a file on the shared drive.

Now I said, follow me, and he trots behind me. I sit down at the computer and you have to correct the OCR mistakes. Takes about 30 seconds a page.

Work smart, not hard! I said...

I came back by a week later, and he was typing the pages in again. I asked him why he wasn't using the OCR??

He said if he used it he would get done fast and then be out of a job.

No, I said, they would give you another job. They have millions of jobs to be done. If you are smart they will also give you a pay raise.

I had to give up on him. He was fired a couple of weeks later when he tried to get his quarter back out of the candy machine and tipped it over and broke the glass front.

GT said...

“Do me a favor, can you say ‘senator’ instead of ‘ma’am’?” Mrs. Boxer pointedly asked the general. “It’s just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I’d appreciate it. Thank you.”