A Good Company and a Sharp Ax 745.3

Ben was a new lumberjack who swung his ax with such power he could fell a tree in 20 strokes. In his first few days he produced twice as much lumber as anyone else. He was making quite a reputation for himself but by week’s end, he was less productive.

One friend told him he had to swing harder. Another said he had to work longer. He tried both but neither worked. Finally, an old fellow asked Ben how often he sharpened his ax. Ben said he had no time to sharpen his ax because there was too much to do.

What this parable teaches us is that we will work harder and accomplish less if we don’t make the time to sharpen our tools — our minds and bodies — with rest and recreation.

Some employees pride themselves on their fanatical work ethic, passing up vacations and working long hours without realizing how much their effectiveness is reduced. When we exceed the limits of our intellectual or physical stamina — and everyone has limits — the quantity and quality of our work suffers — and so does the quality of our lives.

Some companies pride themselves on their workaholic culture and prize employees who spend almost every waking hour on the job. They encourage executives to set such a demanding example that subordinates feel guilty, insecure, or inadequate unless they match the boss’s limitless dedication.

This may seem to work, but it is not a sensible or humane long-term strategy for the employee or the company.

Fatigue affects judgment and mental acuity resulting in costly mistakes. It also makes employees short-tempered and impatient at work and home, wreaking havoc on office and personal relationships.

Finally, it drives away talented workers who insist on a healthy work-life balance.

A good company needs good people, and good people need a good place to work.

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