1 hour. 60 minutes. 3,600 seconds.

Indulge me. Play along. This won’t take long.

In the last hour…

Midjourney Prompt: one hour, clocks, fractal

I want you to think about the last hour before this moment.

  • What did you do?
  • What did you accomplish?
  • How did it compare against your baseline?

Keep your answers to these questions in mind throughout this post.


Midjourney Prompt: speed, kids drawing

Let’s say you and another person are given an hour to complete the same task at work. Here are two questions to ponder:

  1. If you complete the task ahead of schedule, is the company justified in asking for more from you within that allotted time?
  2. If you take longer than then hour to complete the task, is the company justified in penalizing you?

Where does the expected time allotment come from? What is it based on? Is it based on you as an individual or something else? Is it data-driven or a mythical universal standard?

If we remove profitability from the equation are there is other justification for holding anyone to this standard?


What happens in the case where someone is more naturally suited to a certain type of work? Should there be different standards for people with differing natural ability?

For instance, let’s imagine that the task requires placing items up on a high shelf. A person who is 6’6″ tall, may finish it quickly. If you are short like me at 5’ 6”, you may require a ladder. If there’s no ladder, you might be incapable of completing the task.

It should be obvious to see, from this example, that it can make sense to change the expectations. But, not every example is this clear cut.

  • What about less visible challenges such as people dealing with different neuro-developmental conditions such as Autism, ADHD, Bi-Polar disorder, or PTSD?
  • What about people from widely marginalized communities such as black and brown people, queer or transgender, or those who have less visible disabilities or illnesses?
  • What about those with depression, anxiety, or who are going through traumatic circumstances outside of work?

It’s important to note that capability can be shaped by context and in the wrong environment, people can see their capabilities diminish. Are most managers really qualified to understand how people from these different groups thrive or suffer based on their environment, current events, or even the way responsibilities and demands are framed upon delivery?

All of this is why we should seriously reconsider who should have 1) the authority to decide what each individual’s capabilities really are and 2) the power to hold us accountable against those expectations?


Midjourney Prompt: capacity, bucket overflowing transforming into a waterfall, iradescent colors, what dreams may come
  • How much work should you be able to handle in a day?
  • Is it a certain number of tasks?
  • Is it about the size, scope, or complexity of the tasks?

Who should get to decide what is the appropriate amount of work? Unfortunately, it is often the same people who have the authority to address under-staffing issues while simultaneously having an incentive to keep labor costs low. Running lean means higher profitability.

Putting aside external variables, the amount of work you have the capacity to able to handle is a product of your speed, capability, and some basic math about the number of hours in a day.

So, let’s go back to that hour we started off thinking about…

Reasonable @ Work

I asked you to think about the last hour.

  • What did you do?
  • What did you accomplish?
  • How did it compare against your baseline?

More often than not, we’re not comparing against our own baseline, but instead being assessed by someone else, against a baseline that has been set on our behalf. It is an unfortunate fact that in our collectively experience at work, the determination for how fast we should be working, what our capabilities are, and what our capacity is, often falls outside of our control.

  • When there is an expectation that we get more work done than we actually have the capacity to handle — without sacrificing food, water, sleep, and bathroom breaks — the implication is that the requests are reasonable.
  • When teams are left short staffed and the expectations remains that the work be completed, the implication is that the requests are reasonable.
  • When our assignments do not reflect the speed or capabilities that we’ve explicitly agreed to and when the workload exceeds our capacity, yet the expectations remain that everything get done according to someone else’s assessment, the implication is that the requests are reasonable.

But I think you know the truth: these types of requests are not reasonable.

Midjourney Prompt: pondering the mysteries of the universe from my cubicle, watercolo

We simply cannot continue the cycle of mass layoffs followed by an expectation that those who remain will continue to pick up the slack for a company that deliberately leaves them understaffed, overworked, and under-compensated.

Owners, leaders, and managers need to start unraveling their expectations and instead start listening to their people. Ask them what they can handle, what they want to handle, and let them set the expectations for you.

Across every dimension of business, we need to abandon the legacy of our false binaries. We can replace the concepts of normal and abnormal with a not-so-radical idea: accepting each people for who they are and what they bring to the table.

The alternative narrative is little more than a fairy tale.

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