A crow sat in a tree, doing nothing. A rabbit saw the crow and asked, “Can I also sit and do nothing?” “Sure,” the crow answered. So the rabbit sat on the ground below the crow and rested. A few minutes later, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit, and ate it. So, if you want to goof off, this little parable suggests, you’d better be sitting high up. And there is a certain truth in that. The larger and more layered an organization becomes, the easier it is for a senior executive to spend his time either screwing off completely or doing work that doesn’t really need to be done.

Generally speaking, the higher up the corporate ladder you go, the more slacking you’ll find. There is a lazy impulse in all of us — a hidden desire to avoid hard work and conflict. There is also in many of us a competing impulse — one that urges us to get up and get moving, to set goals and accomplish them, to do good work and create profits. Both of these impulses are human. And each has a place in the heart of the person who wishes to be not only successful but also happy and healthy.

When you are new to a job, you need all the energy you can muster. You need to come in early, work late and on weekends, and take on any challenge that arises — even if it runs against your grain. As you rise up the ladder of success, however, you are able to delegate some of the more difficult jobs, and this can make your life easier — unless you replace the difficulties you pass on with ones that you haven’t yet tackled. Many executives I’ve known have taken the easy path.

As they find themselves rising in the organization, they spend less and less time doing the tough jobs and increasingly more time doing the stuff they like — fun tasks that won’t really change anything or busywork that has no significant effect on the bottom line. Have you done some of that? Be honest. Perhaps you are thinking, “Why shouldn’t I kick back a little? I’ve put in my time. I’ve done the grunt work.” But you know what you are doing: rationalizing bad behavior. Somewhere not too deep inside, you know the truth: You’re becoming a goof-off, and it’s threatening the business. Yes, you can, if you are experienced, do more in less time. But that’s all the more reason you should be working harder.

Here are some other reasons:

1. You are paid to work hard.

2. You have tacitly agreed to do so (by working hard in the past).

3. Your employees expect you to work at least as hard as they do. Make an honest assessment of your lazy impulse. To what extent are you giving in to it? Do you work productively at least eight hours a day? Or are you occasionally sitting still? Promise yourself that you’ll get back to working a full eight or 10 hours every day, and that you’ll give top priority to the most important tasks. Start today.

If you do:

* You will notice an immediate increase in your personal productivity — and that will be noticed by others.

* You will very quickly accomplish certain objectives that (in your heart of hearts) you suspect may have otherwise fallen by the wayside.

* You will feel much better about yourself, because you will know that you haven’t cheated your boss, betrayed your colleagues and employees, and shortchanged yourself and your family.