On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs
It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working. And here, precisely, lies the mystery. In capitalism, this is precisely what is not supposed to happen. Sure, in the old inefficient socialist states like the Soviet Union, where employment was considered both a right and a sacred duty, the system made up as many jobs as they had to (this is why in Soviet department stores it took three clerks to sell a piece of meat). But, of course, this is the sort of very problem market competition is supposed to fix. According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens. While corporations may engage in ruthless downsizing, the layoffs and speed-ups invariably fall on that class of people who are actually making, moving, fixing and maintaining things; through some strange alchemy no one can quite explain, the number of salaried paper-pushers ultimately seems to expand, and more and more employees find themselves, not unlike Soviet workers actually, working 40 or even 50 hour weeks on paper, but effectively working 15 hours just as Keynes predicted, since the rest of their time is spent organizing or attending motivational seminars, updating their facebook profiles or downloading TV box-sets.
Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be. This is one of the secret strengths of right-wing populism. You can see it when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people. It’s even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It’s as if they are being told “but you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and health care?”
Don’t always agree with Graeber, but this is worth a read.
The Art of Not Working at Work
One Swedish bank clerk said he was only doing 15 minutes’ worth of work a day. Under these circumstances, feigned obedience and fake commitment become so central to working that a deviation from those acts can result in embarrassment for everyone. As she recalls: “One day, in the middle of a meeting on motivation, I dared to say that the only reason I came to work was to put food on the table. There were 15 seconds of absolute silence, and everyone seemed uncomfortable.
According to repeated surveys by Salary.com, not having “enough work to do” is the most common reason for slacking off at work. The service sector offers new types of work in which periods of downtime are long and tougher to eliminate than on the assembly line: A florist watching over an empty flower shop, a logistics manager who did all his work between 2 and 3 p.m., and a bank clerk responsible for a not-so-popular insurance program are some examples of employees I talked with who never actively strived to work less.
I swear this is half the people who work in IT. I remember hearing a manager talking about an employee that watched nearly 20 hours of youtube video a week for over a six month period. When you factor other net time, it might about 75% of any given week doing non-work.
Then there are whole chunks of organizations that don’t do anything useful. An 11 person group that tracked data that was rarely ever requested because the same data was availably on the web for free much easier.
Why are there so many workers who don’t actually useful work?
most people don’t schedule their work. They schedule the interruptions that prevent their work from happening. In the case of a business like ours, what clients pay us to make and do happens in the cracks between meetings
From Schedule Your Work to Avoid Choking Your Calendar with Interruptions
Sad but true.