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The Best Workers Are Lazy and Dumb

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Every employer wants smart, hardworking people in every role. So what are the advantages to being both lazy and dumb?

The rationale for having both of these (usually undesirable) traits comes from article from a classic post by Philipp Lenssen about software developers. He writes:

…only lazy programmers will want to write the kind of tools that might replace them in the end. Lazy, because only a lazy programmer will avoid writing monotonous, repetitive code – thus avoiding redundancy, the enemy of software maintenance…

[also] a good programmer must be dumb. Why? Because if he’s smart, and he knows he is smart, he will:

a) stop learning
b) stop being critical towards his own work

© Flickr user Martin Terber

Does this logic apply to other kinds of workers besides people who write code all day long? The answer, surprisingly, is yes.

Why Great Employees Are Lazy

Lenssen is absolutely right that laziness is a virtue. If you don’t want to work but you have to work, you’re likely to try and find ways to expend less effort so you get done earlier. For example, you might:

  • Combine trips to the copy machine to reduce time spent walking back and forth
  • Adjust your working hours so you get more uninterrupted time at your desk
  • Turn on your computer and then get your coffee while it boots up.

By itself, though, laziness isn’t actually enough to form the personality of a fantastic worker. These team members also need to be dumb.

Why Great Employees Are Dumb

As Lenssen notes, a key advantage to being dumb is knowing that you don’t know everything. It prevents you from being overconfident. Being dumb also gives you license to ask obvious questions, which may well help discover the problem.

There are some other fantastic benefits to being dumb, or more precisely: refusing to be clever.

  • If you refuse to be clever, you ensure others can figure out what you are working on.
  • If you refuse to be clever, you are simplifying rather than making things more complex.
  • If you refuse to be clever, you won’t make others feel stupid or marginalized.

A Warning about Being Lazy and Dumb

Great employees are both lazy and dumb. If you’re lazy but smart, you may feel entitled not to do any work. And if you’re dumb but hardworking, you’re likely to dig yourself into a hole before you realize you can’t get out.

Laziness and stupidity go hand-in-hand—and are mutually beneficial! Try it and let us know how it goes for you.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


Troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert. Slightly more complex than 140 characters will permit.
@ytteb Some people *like* nails on a chalkboard, judgey mcjudgerton. - 1 week ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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