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Go Ahead, Fake Your Way Through the 80-Hour Work Week

Laid-back office workers who manage to pass as workaholics aren't your enemy
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Photographer: Matthias Clamer/Getty Images

The 80-hour work week is a sham—at least for some of your savviest co-workers. A recent study outed a group of people, mostly men, who play the part of the workaholic, feigning brutal hours, while covertly keeping a more humane schedule. As their colleagues toil in their cubes, these efficient workers get home in time for dinner at 5:30 with their kids. The research, published in Organization Science and summarized in the New York Times, calls the phenomenon "passing," because the cutters still got high performance reviews and promotions, despite putting in less time on the job. 

While the research focused on just a single unnamed (but purportedly "high profile") consulting firm, the passing phenomenon has spread far and wide in American offices. Vivian Rank, who has worked in human resources at Best Buy, Wal-Mart Stores, and other Fortune 100 companies, says she's "seen this behavior at all of them." Really, passing is an old trick that the increasing mobility of work has made easier. "Our e-mail program has a time client built into it. So you can actually see in your e-mail box who’s online and who's not," one of the consultants told lead researcher Erin Reid. Want to look like you're working? Just sign on to e-mail and walk away from the computer or take calls on your cell between runs down the ski slope.