Joe Levi:
a cross-discipline, multi-dimensional problem solver who thinks outside the box – but within reality™

Is your job making you run over-clocked?

Geeks have known about over-clocking their hardware since there’s been hardware that could be overclocked. For those of you non-geeks other there, overclocking is the process of running something faster than its designed to go.

According to Wikipedia, “ is the process of forcing a to run at a higher than it was designed for or was designated by the manufacturer…”

The theory behind overclocking is that any physical component has the potential to run faster than its original specifications given certain precautions are taken.

For example, if I want my 3.0GHz processor to run faster, I can do that. However, it will run hotter than it’s designed to, which means it will burn out quicker. I can account for that by getting a more effective heatsink/cooler. This helps pull the excess heat from the processor so it doesn’t burn up. I can take that further by lapping the processor and heatsink to help dissipate the heat from the processor into the heatsink more efficiently… and use a more efficient thermal compound between the two.

The concepts between that and “employee overclocking” are similar. Whether I work an extra 10 hours/week, or extra hard for the 8 hours/day that I’m on the clock the effect is basically the same: more work is accomplished, but at what cost. More than 40 hours/week costs my employer 1.5 times my normal pay for each hour worked. There’s a disincentive to my employer for working me more than 40 hours/week.

Pushing for more productivity out of a single 8 hour day, however, carries no fiscal disincentive with it, it just causes the employee to “burn out” faster. Hopefully the employer lets the employee accrue vacation- or personal-time (PTO), and covers a good-deal of health insurance expenses.

What’s more, once overclocked, a process starts to do some “weird” and “funny” things. It throws random errors, can hang or lock up, some processors have logic built into them that deliberately down-clock (or “under-clock”) when they get too hot. Due to the interconnected nature of the processor to other components on the motherboard, an overclocked processor can effect RAM, the video card(s), and other system components. Eventually, it can cause data corruption on the hard disk.

An “overclocked employee” can “malfunction” the same way. The more “overclocked” an employee is, the more PTO that employee will need to “cool off” and eventually, that employee will use up more health-benefits than a non-overclocked employee. Technically, these are fiscal disincentives to the employer, but they’re so far removed (cause from effect) that more often than not, the employer will see this a shortcoming in the employee(which can cause the cycle to repeat more frequently) rather than a problem with timelines, management, processes, expectations, etc.

Back to the original analogy: when you overclock your processor to get some extra speed (“productivity”) out of it, you MUST take preventative precautions (lapping, etc.) or you’ll burn it out.

When it does burn out, who do you blame? The person that overclocked it, or the chip?


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