We were slackers once, and young.
April 4, 2022 6:21 PM   Subscribe

The BBC reports on a new epidemic facing workplaces: "coasting". “Because their engagement needs are not being fully met, they put their time, but not energy or passion, into their work.” [SLBBCP]

Some tl;dr pullquotes:
Edward’s usual workday begins at 0830. He showers, makes breakfast and grabs a coffee – all on company time. During the rest of his morning, the sales employee, who works remotely for a firm based in the north-east of England, periodically checks his inbox, attends the occasional meeting and watches YouTube. [...]
That doesn’t mean Edward is failing at his job or ignoring work; he does whatever his manager needs and, because he always replies to emails and attends scheduled calls, he’s never seen to be late. Rather, he’s decided simply to coast along, on a comfortable salary and in a remote set-up that suits his work-life balance. “Work has been getting on my nerves for a while,” he adds. “So, I’ve been happy to just collect the pay cheque.”
Since Covid-19, employees have quit en masse and sought pandemic-era perks at different companies. In the shake-up, some have switched into careers that align more with their values or offer better pay. But there’s also a subset of the workforce content to just get by without doing much work. Often working remotely without the watchful eyes of bosses, these employees are now putting in 30-hour workweeks on a 40-hour salary. Data suggests the pandemic has made such coasting widespread: a recent survey of 11,000 US workers found 39% were doing it, while a January 2022 study by US analytics firm Gallup shows half of employees say they’re neither engaged nor disengaged at work.
Somewhere, "Bob" laughs.
posted by Kadin2048 (132 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
The rule at our office is: are you getting your work done, is it good quality, and are you meeting deadlines? Yes? Carry on then.
posted by azpenguin at 6:28 PM on April 4 [118 favorites]


When wages are inelastic, effort is elastic. Simple supply and demand. Laffer curve meet slacker curve.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 6:35 PM on April 4 [159 favorites]


On the one hand, I have coasted as described, repeatedly, throughout remote work. On the other hand, tonight I received comments—after I'd finished dinner—on a document that I then incorporated, finalizing the document and sending it on for final review. I'm working at 9:30 at night. So, I'm actually not sure if that's "coasting," per se, or merely letting work become a tapeworm that consumes my every waking hour.

Oh well, it's a living!™
posted by the sobsister at 6:37 PM on April 4 [46 favorites]




This is absolute fucking nonsense. If the work is getting done to the required quality, then nothing else is relevant.

This is frankly baseless scaremongering designed to justify forcing people back to the office, to justify in turn spending on commercial real estate.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:38 PM on April 4 [166 favorites]


I could never be a coaster. If I was interested, I was all in. Otherwise, I was already looking elsewhere. Not looking for money. Rather, simply looking for something interesting...
posted by jim in austin at 6:40 PM on April 4 [8 favorites]


constant productivity famously being a thing seen in real-life in-person office environments
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:41 PM on April 4 [105 favorites]




“My boss hasn’t even got ‘round to setting me targets.”
Your boss is coasting, too. And so is your boss's boss. "Meeting deadlines" and "required quality" only come into play if someone has been arsed to set deadlines and care about quality.
posted by clawsoon at 6:42 PM on April 4 [31 favorites]


if you're hearing faint calls of "time to lean time to clean" you know who can fuck right off.
posted by djseafood at 6:44 PM on April 4 [43 favorites]


Everybody, eventually, will become Generation X
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:45 PM on April 4 [107 favorites]


General Malaise: The Futility of Attendance

I'd say "eponysterical", but I can't be arsed.
posted by clawsoon at 6:46 PM on April 4 [23 favorites]


The article can't even define what this so-called epidemic consists of except people doing what they're asked to do. This is total clickbait consent manufacture.
posted by bleep at 6:48 PM on April 4 [78 favorites]


Can't wait to implement this new system to be more productive so I can totally crush it and then get my 2% raise just like the guy who hangs out on Metafilter and Twitter most of the day.

I mean I do my job and I do it well but there's hardly any incentive to do more than I need to.
posted by bondcliff at 6:49 PM on April 4 [26 favorites]


This "coasting" does not require a COVID lockdown, or even working from home. During my 3 decades in the workforce I worked on my free software projects, browsed Usenet (dating myself there!), emailed with friends, etc. while still getting all my assigned work (and more) done. And all this was done in the office.

BBC stories seem to have taken a large slide downwards recently.
posted by phliar at 7:00 PM on April 4 [40 favorites]


As if every office I’ve ever worked in hasn’t been full of people who spend most of their time in meetings for which they provide no added value, watching webinars, scheduling coffee dates, chatting at each others’ desks, checking their phones, talking to their families in the hallway, switching to the open FB tab… and still (for the most part) getting things done. Companies were terrified that productivity was going to crash with WFH - did it? I honestly don’t know - assuming it hasn’t because I haven’t seen it reported in any paper even once over the past two years.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 7:04 PM on April 4 [12 favorites]


I wonder if somewhere this is being reported as People Discover You Can Do Right By Your Employer And Still Enjoy Eight Hours Of Sleep And Home-Cooked Meals - or as the basis for valuing more highly the labor of folks who have to show up for all X hours they work, like teachers and retail workers and childcare providers.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 7:09 PM on April 4 [53 favorites]


It's a little naive to think that everyone's going to always be raring to go all the time. Even before the pandemic there were days when I just wasn't productive either because I just didn't feel it, or I was frustrated by some challenge or blocked by having to wait for someone else to get something done. Granted, there were also days where I'd be super-productive and it felt like I did all the things, but those days couldn't have existed without the earlier slack.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:11 PM on April 4 [13 favorites]




Amazing, how the squirrels eventually figured out that they'd get the same amount of sugar water if they just sort of trotted on the exercise wheel instead of trying to break the fucking thing.

Also, praise "Bob"!
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:34 PM on April 4 [22 favorites]


hell, there are people who do this in factories - where i used to work, i think very few were putting in the maximum effort - in fact some of them were hardly meeting any expectations or trying at all

i got sick of it all and retired

maybe people will just tell me to shut up about this, but when we could all turn in to radioactive dust in a few weeks or days, it seems kind of stupid to spend our time stressing and busting our asses

yeah, my inner hippie's starting to take over again ...
posted by pyramid termite at 7:53 PM on April 4 [21 favorites]


Slack: more than a messaging app, it's a way of life.
posted by Mayor West at 7:55 PM on April 4 [8 favorites]


The bosses just aren't getting their strokes, or whatever it is they need to feel they bossed. Lower paid employees answer the question, "Was it as good for you as it is for me?" with, "Here is that report. Let me know if you need modifications."
posted by Oyéah at 8:08 PM on April 4 [11 favorites]


Praise Bob! I hadn't realize this before, but I lost my Slack at the same mathowie went to Slack. Coincidence? I think not.
posted by mollweide at 8:12 PM on April 4 [6 favorites]


Has the BBC website been taken over by techbro venture capitalists or something?

Seriously, the thing I love most about being in charge of my own organization is that I can manage my employees for results in a humane and compassionate way. We revised our expectations for everyone's output to focus on core business in response to the realities of the pandemic. As long as they get their work done and meet their deadlines, nobody cares where or when they are at their desks.

Of course, this means I have to know what those priorities are, and how to evaluate whether the work has actually been done properly. I have to communicate clearly and be prepared to deal directly with the few problems that come up. I think a lot of the impetus for this kind of thinking comes from managers who don't want to meet their own responsibilities and instead prefer to hide behind presenteeism. They're the ones who are not doing their jobs.
posted by rpfields at 8:13 PM on April 4 [49 favorites]


General Malaise: Also marginally related: This Is What Happens When There Are Too Many Meetings

This isn't marginal at all. It's a direct refutation of the "coasting" thesis using an incredibly large dataset, all the info Microsoft harvests from Teams and Office Customer feedback programs. The MS dataset shows an expansion of work, 13% from the article, rather than a decrease. And not just more work, more meetings as well, 2.5x since the beginning of the pandemic.

From the MS data what's happened is a day full of meetings, followed by an extended workday when the non-meeting work, writing, emails, coding, etc... gets done. Frequently into the evening hours.

This tracks my experience much more closely than "coasting". But it's clear what the new moral panic among managers is about to be.

Meanwhile, the real problem, too much synchronous work in wasted meeting time, no doubt to cover the anxiety of not being able to micromanage remote work as easily, will continue to expand.
posted by bonehead at 8:22 PM on April 4 [50 favorites]


they put their time, but not energy or passion, into their work

They pay me for my time and tasks; my energy and my passion are mine to decide to invest. If I'm there (or available) when I'm supposed to be, and meet my deadlines with work that meets expectations, then have the terms of the deal not been met? Why does an employer have any expectation that they get my passion? Am I not wearing enough pieces of flair, Stan?
posted by nubs at 8:31 PM on April 4 [122 favorites]


How does the phrase go? Lol. lmao.
posted by panhopticon at 8:36 PM on April 4 [11 favorites]


Two thoughts:

1) This sounds like privilege. Here's someone making a middle class salary and just kind of... not caring. That's all fine and all, but it's not a "strategy" that is available to most people.

2) This sounds so miserable. It's one thing to loaf about, but this Edward guy is just kind of rotting away doing nothing. I mean, work on your novel or spend time with a loved one or learn to whittle or something. Surfing the net and reading about how work is bullshit is just a waste.
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:51 PM on April 4 [12 favorites]


Do people not run their normal work in the meetings-that-should-have-been-an-email?
posted by Slackermagee at 8:58 PM on April 4 [4 favorites]


For what it's worth, Frederick Winslow Taylor called exactly the same behaviour 'soldiering' in 1903, which is both proof that managers will never learn from history, and proof that Taylorism is a temporary non-solution to fundamental human desire of people to work at their own damn pace:
The chief causes which produce this loss to both parties are: First (and by far the most important), the profound ignorance of employers and their foremen as to the time in which various kinds of work should be done, and this ignorance is shared largely by the workmen. Second: The indifference of the employers and their ignorance as to the proper system of management to adopt and the method of applying it, and further their indifference as to the individual character, worth, and welfare of their men. On the part of the men the greatest obstacle to the attainment of this standard is the slow pace which they adopt, or the loafing or "soldiering,'" marking time, as it is called.

This loafing or soldiering proceeds from two causes. First, from the natural instinct and tendency of men to take it easy, which may be called natural soldiering. Second, from more intricate second thought and reasoning caused by their relations with other men, which may be called systematic soldiering. There is no question that the tendency of the average man (in all walks of life) is toward working at a slow, easy gait, and that it is only after a good deal of thought and observation on his part or as a result of example, conscience, or external pressure that he takes a more rapid pace...
Absolutely. Praise 'Bob'.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:03 PM on April 4 [39 favorites]


Am I not wearing enough pieces of flair, Stan?

Ha. I recent got a new foreman who was let's say a little over the top on enthusiasm expectations. I put a sticker on my hardhat saying "This is my piece of flair" but I don't think anyone has noticed/got it yet.

One of the things management should have learned from the pandemic is if you have staff going 100% everyday there isn't any slack when something requiring additional attention comes around.
posted by Mitheral at 9:06 PM on April 4 [43 favorites]


Now that the covid surges are temporarily over, cue all the pearl-clutching think pieces about how everyone is slacking and why being in the office is actually vital to productivity. I know it seems like a million years ago, but let's not forget that we started seeing this kind of drivel just before one of the recent surges shut everything down again
posted by treepour at 9:29 PM on April 4 [38 favorites]


For what it's worth, Frederick Winslow Taylor called exactly the same behaviour 'soldiering' in 1903,

This has made me wonder if I have been misunderstanding the phrase "soldier on," as in "we'll just have to soldier on" my whole life. I always thought it meant to persevere... but maybe not.
posted by rpfields at 9:31 PM on April 4 [20 favorites]


This sounds like privilege. Here's someone making a middle class salary and just kind of... not caring. That's all fine and all, but it's not a "strategy" that is available to most people.

I have never coasted harder than I did at during a series of less than minimum wage (minimum wage with a hefty dose of wage) jobs when I was younger. The phrase "minimum wage gets you minimum effort" was never far from my lips, and most of my similarly underpaid coworkers felt as I did.

Freedom being just another word for nothing left to lose.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:36 PM on April 4 [34 favorites]


“Soldier on” and “soldiering” are two different phrases that don’t mean the same thing, at least based on my deductions from context over the years. And “soldering” is even more surprisingly different.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 9:38 PM on April 4 [6 favorites]


Coasting, or bullshit job? Tomayto, tomahto.
posted by flabdablet at 9:41 PM on April 4 [9 favorites]


“Nobody wants to work anymore!!!”
Anymore?
Nobody wants to work.
Ever.
And why the fuck should they?
For the pittance offered by giant corporations who are making well documented record profits?
Honestly, the fact that we haven’t burnt this fucker to the ground, is only due to the esteem with which we hold our lords and masters.
You’re Welcome.
posted by evilDoug at 9:48 PM on April 4 [42 favorites]


Everybody, eventually, will become Generation X

Xer here. I learned a long time ago that the main reward for working really hard is that you'll be expected to work that hard all the time.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:51 PM on April 4 [139 favorites]


If, in grade 3, I built a spaghetti bridge that is as fragile as capitalism, I would have been sent to a completely different school.
posted by turbid dahlia at 10:01 PM on April 4 [25 favorites]


Now that the covid surges are temporarily over, cue all the pearl-clutching think pieces about how everyone is slacking and why being in the office is actually vital to productivity. I know it seems like a million years ago, but let's not forget that we started seeing this kind of drivel just before one of the recent surges shut everything down again

In the UK — which seems quite relevant since the article is from the BCC — the number of people infected with Covid is at the highest point ever, in the whole pandemic. So there probably isn't any shutting down on the horizon. I'm not disagreeing with your broader point, but nothing about Covid is over, even temporarily, in the UK — except actually trying to do anything to prevent people from getting infected.
posted by ssg at 10:03 PM on April 4 [30 favorites]


The Anti-Work Ethic Onscreen - How to Escape Your Job

I totally do this. Let's say there are three areas of my job that three people are supposed to be covering, but my other teammates are gone since one quit and one is out sick for three weeks during busy season and my boss is doing two manager jobs at once right now. I am point person on Section A and do 80-90% of it, that's fine since I've been doing it alone for years. Section B is stuff that all "three" of us work on and we have some individual focuses within that and/or can get a temp on some of it, so that's not too bad either by comparison. When things aren't horribly short staffed like they are now (we've had half the team quit/get new jobs/get sick in the last 2 months), this is mostly manageable.

Section C, however, I absolutely CANNOT BE POINT PERSON ON. I am overwhelmed with A and B, I cannot also take the lead on everything in C. I do a few SHORT things in C once in awhile when A and B are done, and that's all I have the time for. I don't have much training in C (a pandemic-affected area) and I do not have the time to spend trying to figure out how to do everything in C, and C is less urgent shit, which needs to fall waaaaaaay down the priority avalanche by virtue of that alone. My teammates usually take point on C, except you'll notice they're gone right now and we're short staffed out the wazoo.

I can't say to my boss, "I canNOT take on C, too." If I did, I would be told I have to be point person on C, no question. However, I just say I get done what I can get done, which is pretty much A and some of B, and I'm ignoring C entirely until such time as my remaining teammate returns or the workload clears out of A and B enough that nothing is left but C. I know I'm not going to get in trouble for utterly ignoring C because everyone is so overwhelmed right now. People who need C won't be happy, but everyone is miserable here and we fail everyone every day by not being able to do enough, so what does it matter. Also, I am so underwater that I am a dead body at the bottom of the ocean and even if I wanted to do C, ain't nobody got time for that. I don't even have time for "can you search through every attachment in the group email to see if you have X's special attachment?"

Also, I will never be promoted or get another transfer or another job or get anything but one star reviews here ever again, so why the hell should I throw in massive work and effort into this job and making sure everyone gets their help? My very best is 1 star here, so why keep trying? It doesn't matter what I do as long as I generally keep working and some stuff gets done. Extra? Fughettabout it. No point. At this point I think the only reason they don't can me is because it's so hard to hire a replacement.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:08 PM on April 4 [29 favorites]


Why deal with this phenomenon when we could just mint new buzzwords for it (as SEO begins to find 'the great resignation' and 'antiwork' stale; let alone 'I don't dream of labor.')?

Or is that coasting too?
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:17 PM on April 4


One of the things management should have learned from the pandemic is if you have staff going 100% everyday there isn't any slack when something requiring additional attention comes around.

This is so important! Having flexibility in our schedule means we can still meet our deadlines when tasks get complicated, or provide timely responses if issues arise, or not burn out when parachute projects get dumped in our laps because another team forgot we were a requirement. If I'm "slacking" it's because there are no fires to put out, not because omg workers are lazy!

If the "future of work" means getting worked to the bone regardless of the quality of my output, fuck that, I'm out. And good luck convincing my replacement to stay long enough to become adequately trained. Sure, there's a certain satisfaction in a job well done, but most tasks are menial or arbitrary and barely benefit me, which is why someone has to pay me to do them in the first place.
posted by lock robster at 10:19 PM on April 4 [19 favorites]


Surfing the net and reading about how work is bullshit is just a waste.

oh no
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:22 PM on April 4 [75 favorites]


I've been on 80% salary since July 2020 and back in the office full-time since September of the same year. Maybe, if I'm lucky, work will pick up again and I'll get full salary and bonus sometime next year. As it is, the company is barely making profit, but it's still enough for me to pay all my bills on time and not dig into savings.

I miss those few months of WFH so goddamn much. I was able to save money on food, get things done around the apartment, work on hobbies, and still get my work done. My savings are untouched but stagnant, because I barely have enough left over each month to sock some away. I don't socialize outside of work. The friends I actually did things with have all moved overseas. My hobbies are either online-based or solo crafts like knitting, both of which I can do at home without actual human contact. Any work I would enjoy and feel fulfilled in won't pay the bills. (I honestly would have stayed a barista in a flyover state for years if the money was living wage.)

So I coast. I do my work, get my paycheck (it ain't much tbh), incur deskwork-related back pain in my early 30s, and feel like I'm constantly waiting for some nebulous thing to happen that never will. I'm sitting here (at work, typing this) thinking, my mental health is the best it's been in years because I'm not plagued with daily anxiety, and it's still depressing as shit.
posted by lesser weasel at 10:28 PM on April 4 [36 favorites]


BBC stories seem to have taken a large slide downwards recently.
The BBC has seen substantial real-terms cuts to its budget over the last decade and faces further cuts under the licence fee agreement struck by the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, last month. Although regional newsrooms are often praised by BBC bosses, they have also faced deep financial cuts and lost many experienced staff.

The ability of regional newsrooms to post articles directly on to the BBC website without going through central BBC News editorial structures has also caused issues. Several recent BBC articles that caused international headaches for the organisation, including a report of an attack on Jewish students in London and a contentious article about transgender people, were produced by regional newsrooms.

A centralised Birmingham-based hub for editing online stories from the BBC’s regional English outlets was abolished in the latest round of cuts, amid warnings that it would cause standards to drop.
Just like other British institutions, the Tories have spent the last decade cutting the BBC and staffing senior positions with rightwing ideologues. Poking around online, Alex Christian appears to be a freelancer rather than a BBC staffer so - without unduly picking on the individual journalist - this article isn’t some meticulously researched piece of Reithian journalism. It’s the same poorly-paid content mill clickbait as everywhere else, probably commissioned by someone who was chairman of their university’s Young Conservatives or similar. You’re right to say that standards have dropped - that’s the intended outcome of an intentional, decade-long project pursued by the party in power.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 10:51 PM on April 4 [66 favorites]


Also, I will never be promoted or get another transfer or another job or get anything but one star reviews here ever again, so why the hell should I throw in massive work and effort into this job and making sure everyone gets their help? My very best is 1 star here, so why keep trying?

I found out that I was more productive than anyone else on my team last year. My reward for that was to be given a 2 (out of 4) on my annual review. I later found out that the vast majority of the company got a 2. So yeah, what's the point of working like a maniac? To be promoted? I don't particularly want to be promoted. I don't need the money, and I definitely do not need the stress.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:36 PM on April 4 [34 favorites]


The article can't even define what this so-called epidemic consists of

The word and concept it's looking for and can't find is presenteeism.

Just spy the work that's required is not a new or newsworthy thing. It'd be great if you only had to be at work to get your tasks done!

But that's not what this is. This is worse. This is a situation of a performative presence (responding promptly to emails and meetings in this case, literally just turning up at more traditional workplaces) without any actual work.

It's the opposite of "well as long as you do your work what's the problem?"

The problem is that he isn't necessarily doing his work. And he is at work the whole time.

The ideal work setup is one where you can get your tasks done and then go home to your life or sign off the PC if you work from home.

But putting in an "empty" eight hours every day, guys like this make it harder for the rest of us y to get shorter working days. It sets and reinforces that 8 hours expectation, and lowers productivity making shorter hours harder to justify. And these guys won't be the ones asking for a thirty hour work week, because then someone might start looking into whether they do enough work.

Ugh.
posted by Dysk at 11:39 PM on April 4 [11 favorites]


Basically, this is dedication to looking busy, to faking working. I'd rather have an honest system where I work when there is work to be done, then go home when there isn't. People like this are part of the push to measure your work in hours rather than achievement. And that means more of your day in the office.

Which might be something he's fine with, as a work from home person. But it sets wider workplace norms for the rest is us, too, and there is nothing worse than having to be at work an look like you're doing something when there is nothing to do and no reason to be there.
posted by Dysk at 11:43 PM on April 4 [7 favorites]


Until the blight upon our society that is wage theft is eradicated, I am done listening to arguments that not being performatively "productive" is harming employers.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:08 AM on April 5 [45 favorites]


When employees get even minimal leverage over the their employers, job mobility, companies absolutely lose their shit. Employees have been getting negged mercilessly for what, a year and a half? There's a labor shortage, no, not a wage shortage, because selfish employees are freeloading off the goodwill of companies nice enough to keep them employed despite their obvious unsuitability for their jobs.. For some reason these companies aren't firing every single one of them in response, which is a perfectly reasonable business decision that is left unmentioned in these stories for some reason. Couple that with the resistance to benefits of the Internet Age that absolutely provides for WFH, and we can start sketching a huge subculture of sentimentality among managment and executives.
posted by rhizome at 12:25 AM on April 5 [16 favorites]


If I'm "slacking" it's because there are no fires to put out

Peter! How's it going? Great. I'm gonna need you to come in Saturday to get a few fires going. Sunday as well, got a few fires we need to put out. So if you could go ahead and do that, that would be greeeeeat
posted by flabdablet at 12:25 AM on April 5 [10 favorites]


mon dieu, what is the world coming to? our society is collapsing because all the people being exploited are just going through the motions! c'mon chaps, one day you too might be lucky enough to exploit others! soldier on then! don't go breaking the social contract now, you middle-class wankers, that's our job. the world may be on fire, but we're here to party on our yachts while sea levels rise, and honestly we wouldn't be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor, without your hard work! what are you, stupid? think about your career prospects 30 years from now – actually, don't think too hard, or too critically about those prospects.
posted by nikoniko at 1:00 AM on April 5 [13 favorites]


"new"
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:05 AM on April 5 [5 favorites]


I'm definitely in a job where my boss is very deliverable-oriented and it's been a godsend, because it's been such a balm to report to someone that's actually helping me overcome impostor syndrome. Anyway, I wish more people get to 'coast'.
posted by cendawanita at 1:23 AM on April 5 [8 favorites]


Edward, per the article worked hard on a project he was proud of, and his boss canceled it without warning, undermining his career advancement and killing his drive to work. That sounds like poor management. I don't think Edward is perfect, but better management, whether by his boss or higher up, wouldn't have had him put effort into a project that might get suddenly canceled, or at least would have engaged with him afterwards about what happened. His boss should have talked about next steps, and come up with quantifiable goals or metrics.

He does whatever his manager needs him to do. His manager just isn't asking him to do the right things. I hope his managers at the next job do better.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 2:02 AM on April 5 [17 favorites]


Has the BBC website been taken over by techbro venture capitalists or something?

Tories, actually. But, to all intents and purposes, pretty much.
posted by acb at 2:32 AM on April 5 [18 favorites]


"new"

My reaction exactly.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:39 AM on April 5


BBC stories seem to have taken a large slide downwards recently.

Yeah, it's now pretty much fully a Tory propaganda machine. They've threatened and budget-cut them into full compliance.
posted by BlueNorther at 2:57 AM on April 5 [11 favorites]


I have a boss who is very much into giving crazy deadlines long before things are actually due. This is backfiring because now we ignore their frantic and hard lined dates because of constant false dates over the years. They also have tendency to load so much work on that most of it is met with Uh huh in favor of creating our own timelines and going our own way. People adapt to the environment, and right now management is not so likely to fire people.
posted by waving at 3:17 AM on April 5 [10 favorites]


BBC stories seem to have taken a large slide downwards recently.

chappell, ambrose has explained this in a better-cited, less "climbed in bed with the tories a decade ago and lost their souls" kind of way than I was going to. The irony that they're coasting on their former reputation as a semi-decent broadcaster after having been hollowed out and becoming increasingly fringe-friendly (see also their TERFy coverage) since 2010, and are now publishing articles about how the rest of us are apparently coasting in the course of doing our jobs, does not escape me.

It benefits capitalists to have their workers believe that their primary responsibility is to their employer, with their own needs coming second or last or not at all, and those tories that the BBC are in bed with are ur-capitalists. And capitalists will always manage to convince a subset of employees to take on the work of policing that for free, whether that's managers who nickel-and-dime about wage theft over minor instances of goofing around on the clock, to workers who've deeply internalised the idea that it's their role to save the business money by cheaping out on wages, benefits, perks, supplies, whatever.

As a slowly-recovering compulsive overachiever, I'm actively looking for more coasting opportunities in my mostly-remote knowledge-work job. I still have enough of a deep-seated need to please and perform that I get all of the necessary shit done, with enough of a trick-pony brain and work ethic that I manage to do it in such a way that still impresses the people who need to be impressed. I started working for a new manager about five months ago, and if there was ever a time when I'd get rumbled for not working very consistently or diligently some of the time, it was then. And I just had my first review with the new manager and it didn't happen; she's just as impressed as I need her to be. Like paper tiger Edward, I cook and eat and shower on the clock and sometimes play video games or hang out with my spouse or cyberloaf or whatever. But when you really need the critical thing doing fast and well? I'm still your guy. And thankfully that's all my employer seems to require of me.
posted by terretu at 3:20 AM on April 5 [16 favorites]


At least in software, sometimes the lightest touch is the best. I don't want a developer coming in on a large, 5 year project and decide that whatever hip library or design pattern is fashionable at the time needs to be in the project. I'd much rather they spend an hour, half hour, 15 minutes! getting whatever they need done and goof off then get board and overengineer.
posted by geoff. at 3:39 AM on April 5 [12 favorites]


The financial gutting which has been applied to the BBC is shortly going to be applied to Channel 4 (the publicly-owned but commercially funded broadcaster) as it is about to be sold off and forced to start making a profit.
posted by Lanark at 4:13 AM on April 5 [4 favorites]


So, who payed for this hit piece against remote work?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 4:15 AM on April 5 [29 favorites]


At my workplace I have a reputation for getting shit done quickly. But I don't run at 100% all the time. I web surf, I take breaks to walk around. I reach a point of mental fatigue and lost my momentum, as everyone does, especially when multitasking.

My productivity got better when we started working from home. There are fewer distractions that I can't tune out, and I'm happier and more comfortable.

It went down when we went back to the office -- partly because I felt that it was bullshit that we went back to the office and I felt less motivated. Probably more because my supervisor left for another job (where she could work remotely...) and I suddenly had to deal with a bunch of additional stuff (for no extra pay).

I appreciate that nobody has ever asked me to be passionate about my job, just competent. And I've never been asked or expected to put in overtime (paid or not), nor had scheduled vacations cancelled due to "emergencies," nor yelled at for not accomplishing extremely difficult/impossible things.
posted by Foosnark at 4:34 AM on April 5 [7 favorites]


The planned changes to Channel 4 will almost certainly gut the channel's excellent evening news broadcast, which is also hated by the Tories. Another step towards the crass, merciless nation they seem determined to create.
posted by Paul Slade at 4:40 AM on April 5 [11 favorites]


Everybody, eventually, will become Generation X

Pfft. Whatever.

Xer here. I learned a long time ago that the main reward for working really hard is that you'll be expected to work that hard all the time.

At my previous place of employment, I was humming along doing my work, which happened to be more efficient than my coworker's pace. I was awarded with some of his workload as well as my own. I made sure to slow my pace accordingly.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:07 AM on April 5 [25 favorites]


Companies were terrified that productivity was going to crash with WFH - did it?

According to the people who measure these things, productivity soared during the pandemic


Far from coasting, the people who were able to keep working worked harder than they ever have. I certainly have been working to the bone in the past two years, cherishing any respite i get. This article is based on fantasy
posted by dis_integration at 5:17 AM on April 5 [20 favorites]


Companies were terrified that productivity was going to crash with WFH - did it?

At least according to our internal metrics, productivity went up when we were all sent home in 2020. Prior to that, we had a similar business mindset - working remotely was strongly discouraged, IT was not set up to handle remote meetings well, etc. However, I work at a place where we're generally "treated like adults" and presenteeism isn't really a big issue.

We're at a point now where the company is telling us to come back to the office... if you want to. We're being offered remote/hybrid work options, but it's really up to the individual to decide how to handle that. In fact, I think I'm coming in to the office more than my managers and task leaders; they're quite happy (and open about it!) to stay home with their young kids and work at the same time. And if it works for them, that's great! We're all picking the options that are best for us, and I'm pretty happy about that.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:23 AM on April 5 [10 favorites]


there is nothing worse than having to be at work an look like you're doing something when there is nothing to do and no reason to be there.

I'm currently in the middle of a three week unasked for and unpaid "vacation" because of a lack of work and I'd much rather be coasting and getting paid.
posted by Mitheral at 5:41 AM on April 5 [7 favorites]


This is a situation of a performative presence (responding promptly to emails and meetings in this case, literally just turning up at more traditional workplaces) without any actual work.
The problem is that he isn't necessarily doing his work. And he is at work the whole time.
The ideal work setup is one where you can get your tasks done and then go home to your life or sign off the PC if you work from home.


Ideals don't exist, though. Nobody's gonna pay you for 40 hours to do 30 hours of work knowingly. Just for fun, look at the "I automated my job" sorts of stories on Reddit.

I think of it as being "on call." It sounds like Edward does some work, at least the urgent stuff on demand. But is he plugging away diehard for 8 hours without any personal brain breaks any more? No. Is anyone noticing at his job? NOPE, apparently not. If nobody notices that Edward doesn't have his nose to the grindstone all 8 hours any more like he used to, and this doesn't become publicly acknowledged (because THEN it'd be A Problem) and there's literally no payoff for Edward to give that much effort to the work, i.e. that hamster wheel example, why should Edward knock himself out for this job? Is the job gonna reward him for his efforts? It sounds like tacitly everyone's getting what they want out of the situation and as long as nobody spotlights what's going on, everyone is passively fine with the situation.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:34 AM on April 5 [8 favorites]


There are two ways to compensate someone:

You can compensate them for their time. If so, you get 40 hours of guaranteed presence, but their output will be as little as they can get away with.

You can compensate them for their output. If so, you get a guaranteed minimum output, but their presence will be as little as they can get away with.

That's it, pure and simple. It's human nature, it's incentives, it's market efficiency, et cetera. Punishing people for finding efficiencies in their job with more work just disincentivizes them from doing a better or more efficient job.
posted by explosion at 6:41 AM on April 5 [30 favorites]


There are two ways to compensate someone:

You can compensate them for their time. If so, you get 40 hours of guaranteed presence, but their output will be as little as they can get away with.

You can compensate them for their output. If so, you get a guaranteed minimum output, but their presence will be as little as they can get away with.


Unfortunately nearly every job I've ever worked compensates for a min. of 40 hours plus output on top. You are required to put in 40 hours (in which there is more than 40 hours of work to do) and you are expected to output what is needed (always over 40 hours). This is the standard in design, in my experience.

And why alcoholism is high.

And though the above model is unsustainable, design unfortunately carries with it a loftiness ("I'm a DESIGNER") that allows firms to abuse fresh grads who get a feeling of value and achievement by DESIGNING to make them forget they are a quarter million dollars in debt from a private design school.

post-COVID has only accelerated project issues of "Please give the project me fast, cheap AND good. No I will not select only two." and managers are giving in because of the PTSD associated with having had no or little work for 6m to a year. And because producers/designers proved we could do it and meet their deadlines, the bar has moved and all work is expected to happen faster and cheaper - even from clients that can afford it and did once respect timelines. This is why you never answer calls from a contractor outside of business hours: you do it once and now you're expected to for the life of the project.

Anyway, the design industry is fucked and will continue to spiral until people start saying no to developers and clients. But management loves to see the line go up. So grind 'em to dust, boys! We have superiors to fondle and benchmarks to meet!
posted by RobertFrost at 7:26 AM on April 5 [7 favorites]


When you die, nobody will be at your funeral talking about how you were extremely focused on your job for 8+ hours a day. Nobody.

The ability to have a job that interests you and pays the bills and provides security is such a rare thing. It is a privilege.

There are so many Edwards out there. This article is purely to allow the managerial class and commercial real estate investor class to bray and moan that remote work is ruining the economy, as if people are so much more productive always in an office setting.

Trash article.
posted by glaucon at 7:32 AM on April 5 [27 favorites]


One of my favorite jobs was newspaper production, because the better and more efficient I was at my job, the sooner I got to go home. Clear goal, finish it, everybody goes home. (Occasional problems you didn't cause and can't fix so you have to sit on your ass for four hours while someone else gets their shit together? Photo has a liquor stash, raid it. But also, nobody's going to stop you from reading a book or watching TV or taking a nap until there's actual work for you to accomplish.)

"My very best is 1 star here, so why keep trying?"

I feel like I have spent so much of my adult life explaining to srs bznessmen that stack-ranking and performance bonuses are horrible ways to evaluate and compensate K-12 teachers. The only places they work are places like high-end law firms and finance places, where burnout and winnowing are the business model, where you WANT to start out with 100 associates and over 10 years winnow them down to 3 partners. And even at those places, we know that offering any kind of bonus incentive where it's a comparison (top performer gets a bonus, or top 20% get a bonus, or whatever) means that people very quickly identify who is likely to get that bonus, and also who the gunners are who are going to compete for that bonus, and everybody else does way less work. If you take a company where we have a baseline in years 1-5 that we call 100%, and in year 6 we introduce an incentive where the top 10% of performers will get a bonus, you will get a burst of productivity in January, but by February (literally February!) everybody's sussed out who's in actual competition for those year-end bonuses. 15% of your employees are now giving 110%, but 85% of your employees are giving 75%, because they know they won't get the bonus, so why bother? And they work LESS.

(On the other hand, what does keep people engaged and giving effort over time is predictable raises and perks for seniority/longevity, because people generally feel like seniority/longevity is both fair and attainable -- if I stick around for 5 years and keep doing a decent job, I too will get bumped up a salary band!)

Anyway, if you're going to worship at the altar of the Harvard Business Review, you have to actually read the articles in it, which explain why your ideas are bad and wrong. Individual performance bonuses virtually always lead to lower overall performance, this is well-studied.

Which is a long way of saying, yeah, most business/management practices that are defended as logical and common-sensical are just dudes having feelings about things, and most executives don't actually know how human beings work and remain deliberately ignorant about it because it cuts against their feelings about how people "should" work.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:34 AM on April 5 [40 favorites]


Can't wait to implement this new system to be more productive so I can totally crush it and then get my 2% raise just like the guy who hangs out on Metafilter and Twitter most of the day.

That two percent "raise" is actually a pay cut thanks to inflation. Even before the pandemic wages were often not keeping up with inflation. So when you have decrease in compensation Homo Economicus should respond with a decrease in labor productivity.
posted by srboisvert at 7:41 AM on April 5 [16 favorites]


Back around 2000, I had a job where I literally learned how to sleep sitting up, hands on my desk, looking like I was reading some papers. My cube faced a wall, so nobody could see my eyes, and so I got a couple of hours extra sleep over the workweek.

Just another WFH hit-piece.
posted by aramaic at 7:41 AM on April 5 [15 favorites]


Oh noes, those poor workplaces, won't anyone think of the shareholders?!

This is all about extracting more surplus value from employees. If they are not performing at full efficiency at all times, then the capitalists at the top of the pyramid (scheme) are losing money from their perspective.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:50 AM on April 5 [8 favorites]


"“Not engaged employees [like coasters] are psychologically unattached to their work and company,” explains Ben Wigert"

Honestly this sounds like he's talking about an octopus at an aquarium with a bad enrichment team. Of course it's moping in the corner, you haven't given it any games to play this week!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:54 AM on April 5 [7 favorites]


I would need a sock puppet account to comment on this with any level of detail.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:11 AM on April 5 [16 favorites]


THIS JUST IN. PERSON HALF-ASSES THEIR JOB AT WORK. NEWS AT 11.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:14 AM on April 5 [8 favorites]


I recently moved into a desk position inside the office after a decade of hard, very physical warehouse and production floor work. In between bouts of imposter syndrome making me feel paranoid about my middle managers monitoring my every move, I quickly grasp and cinch an iron grip around moments when the real work is done and I'm still being paid to be here.
Oh and before AND after the position change, working from home was a pleasant distant dream.
posted by shenkerism at 8:41 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


There are two ways to compensate someone:
In my career (as opposed to any jobs I've had since), I realized early on that I was being paid primarily for my responsibility more than directly for my time or my output.
I was maintaining mainframe systems, and and when nothing was broken, I played a lot of solitaire.
I thought of it as like a fireman's job- you could relax a lot, but when the bell rings, you go. And you stay there until the fire's out.

At least that was how it was until the 90's, when shareholder value replaced all other objectives.
posted by MtDewd at 9:02 AM on April 5 [21 favorites]


The rule at our office is: are you getting your work done, is it good quality, and are you meeting deadlines? Yes? Carry on then.

Every job I've ever been at has been the opposite: "Are you getting your work done? Is it good quality and meeting deadlines? Yes? Cool, can we bring you on a few more projects then? Also, can you present your work at internal
department status this week? Can you also start to make documentation about how you got things done so quickly and perhaps present it to the team? Maybe get a deck together for everyone? Also we're forming a committee about the Future of The Industry, can you join it? Not really asking you - we're just going to throw you on the kick off meeting invite. We're going to create a vertical around The Future of your discipline, and perhaps you can be a Thought Leader - can you get a deck together on that too? We might have a big Company Wide Quarterly meeting about that, can you get some articles together that we can discuss in that prep meeting? We were also thinking of making a new review process for junior employees, can you start to build out what that might look like? We're going to have a meeting about how we'll conduct review meetings with our junior reports. Please join, that's mandatory, and bring some thoughts - don't just sit there! We value your brain and need your energy and passion!!!

I also work in marketing which is historically full of some of the biggest and most useless pieces of shit in the modern working world. Making up pointless bullshit work is their top skill.
posted by windbox at 9:17 AM on April 5 [29 favorites]


" I also work in marketing which is historically full of some of the biggest and most useless pieces of shit in the modern working world."

Sometimes, don't you just love Metafilter?
posted by dutchrick at 9:25 AM on April 5 [10 favorites]


The rule at our office is: are you getting your work done, is it good quality, and are you meeting deadlines? Yes? Carry on then.

This is the case at my current job and I've never been happier and the only reason I'll leave on purpose is if my direct manager leaves. We also have a culture of, "If you're overloaded, say something and we'll work on it," and it hasn't so far resulted in anyone taking advantage.
posted by cooker girl at 9:26 AM on April 5 [4 favorites]




Ideals don't exist, though. Nobody's gonna pay you for 40 hours to do 30 hours of work knowingly.

I dunno, that was pretty much my experience of the few short term gigs I've had that were piecework or job-and-knock. My issue is that so many jobs could or should be job-and-knock or piecework, but are arbitrarily "you must be in the office 8 hours a day at least" setups. Not all jobs are like that, not even all jobs that have two hours' work in an eight hour day (e.g. customer service is an uneven but unpredictable workload) but there are plenty of jobs where most everyone is stretching two hours' work to eight hours just for the sake of everyone having to be in the office for appearances. It's maddening.
posted by Dysk at 9:41 AM on April 5 [6 favorites]


I was mostly remote pre-Covid (sometimes I was in the office 2 days a week) and I had bosses that handled it differently. The best one was a huge proponent of remote working and his attitude was "Are you getting your work done? Are you available when you need to be? Then I don't really care where you're working from or what you're doing during the times when you may not have much to do." So yeah, that mostly meant "no napping" and such, but as long we were near our computers to respond to messages, it was OK if we did other things during the day.

That was great.

I also had another boss who was confused about how to manage remote workers (mostly because he could not manage) so we all had to be on Google Hangout all day (luckily with our cameras off) so he could butt into work-related conversations we were having that had nothing to do with him and that he couldn't contribute to.

(He also had us all come into the office once so we could have a meeting with the customer over Skype. I'm still trying to figure that one out.)

My current job is fine -- I don't love it but it's fine. I could have more work to do but I also don't think it's my responsibility to seek it out (they were never really clear what my job was from the beginning anyway). If they want me to do more, they can give me more work.
posted by edencosmic at 9:46 AM on April 5 [4 favorites]


(I have also never had a full-time office-based job where the actual work took up 40 hours a week.)
posted by edencosmic at 9:47 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]


As a wise man once wrote on a bathroom wall:

The boss makes a dollar, I make a dime.
That's why I sh!t on company time.

posted by MrJM at 10:11 AM on April 5 [13 favorites]


The key word the guy in the article says is "sales." If you're reading him saying he answers all emails, attends all meetings, and handles everything that comes across his desk, and you think that means he is doing his job... you don't know sales. That's like 30% of his job, maybe 45-50% if he is an established veteran with an ongoing book of business.

The primary part of his job, the reason he is employed there, is to go out and bring in new business. He flat out says he isn't bothering.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:50 AM on April 5


Interesting and maybe related, Manvir Singh, a research fellow in anthropology at IAS Toulouse, posted an interesting thread on Twitter yesterday that started from here:
In the 1970s & 80s, anthropologists working in small-scale, non-industrial societies fastidiously noted down what people were doing throughout the day. I’ve been exploring the data & am struck by one of the most popular activities: doing nothing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:10 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ I wish I could coast, but I failed into IT as a career. Everything is always on fire and no one will pay to give us enough people to put the fires out. And I work at a place that does actually hire full time empolyees with benefits to try to make all this complicated shit not just break all the goddamn time. Side note: this is an IT department that actually gives a shit about the customer experience.

Although I must admit I'm actively not giving a shit today because they burned me for the least three weeks of lonnggg goddamn days and nights.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:20 AM on April 5 [6 favorites]


There are two ways to compensate someone:

You can compensate them for their time. If so, you get 40 hours of guaranteed presence, but their output will be as little as they can get away with.

You can compensate them for their output. If so, you get a guaranteed minimum output, but their presence will be as little as they can get away with.

That's it, pure and simple. It's human nature, it's incentives, it's market efficiency, et cetera. Punishing people for finding efficiencies in their job with more work just disincentivizes them from doing a better or more efficient job.


....you know, I spend so much time working with junior colleagues these days in which I wind up telling them to work less and rest more? I have spent a significant chunk of time scolding the lab's graduate students for fretfully considering working on the weekend and insisting that they make sure to take back the time with a weekday off if they do work through the weekend; insisting that students go the fuck home to sleep, and encouraging colleagues to rest more, because no one does their best work when they're fried and tired.

moving into motivation and decision-making as a field, the thing that stands out to me all the time is a reflexive desire to work more and more and more in the service of achieving goals and the absence of an obvious benchmark of "enough". rest gets devalued by contrast until a student crashes or something unexpected happens. so insisting that students learn to pause and practice settling and finding other sources of enjoyment is something of a work in progress.

anyway, notions like this are so foreign to my personal experiences, largely because of selection bias (i.e. my industry). but it does make me think: humans love to work, especially if we can define our own work for ourselves rather than working to the definitions of other people. we get joy from achievement, from recognition, from feeling successful. the trick is to provide enough resources and support to allow humans to get those feelings AND ALSO feel safe in the rest of their lives while you train people to execute the things you need them to do.

we need to restructure work and economy to allow people to feel safe and comfortable without being driven by fear. only then can we hit maximal productivity. hey, am I doing it right? am I making the right capitalist argument by framing this in overall productivity rather than quality of life? what are our values here--and how much do those values actually conflict, anyway?
posted by sciatrix at 11:20 AM on April 5 [15 favorites]


DOT re: sales; my firm is dealing with an issue in that we are great at selling but are struggling to hire people to do the work we win. We actually need sales to slow down a bit so we can catch up. This is very counterintuitive for them, of course, and they also have goals to meet. It's frustrating that within the firm people get spooked when you say stuff like this. The idea of slowing down reaaaally makes management twitchy, even when it makes sense.
posted by emjaybee at 11:23 AM on April 5 [6 favorites]


Jesus Christ I wish I could coast, but I failed into IT as a career. Everything is always on fire and no one will pay to give us enough people to put the fires out. And I work at a place that does actually hire full time empolyees with benefits to try to make all this complicated shit not just break all the goddamn time.

QFT
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:28 AM on April 5 [3 favorites]


we are great at selling but are struggling to hire people to do the work we win

This is my company. It's been that way for a while but accelerated after it was bought by a private equity firm 1.5 years ago. Every quarter they talk about all the new clients coming in and how great business is going. But we just don't have the people to do the work to keep those clients happy. We're still down a few people from what we were allowed to have (which is not actually enough people to do the job). Add on to that reorganizing and combining my department with another which means the people we do have are spending time on the other department's work and it all adds up to inevitable failure. And when clients complain a few people quickly get shuffled around to work on the the thing they're complaining about which takes them away from other work that other clients will eventually complain about not getting done. Constantly putting out fires without ever planning on how to prevent those fires from happening in the first place. No wonder people keep quitting. The people on top only care about getting new business. They don't do what's necessary to maintain the business we already have.
posted by downtohisturtles at 12:32 PM on April 5 [10 favorites]


One strange thing to me is "Edward" seems to think his coasting is a bad thing - he's doing it to passive-aggressively punish his company until he finds another job. So he's kind of on management's side.

At my job, sometimes I'm disengaged from my work (or from my lack of work). Other times I'm so engaged that I have to force myself to take mental breaks. There's an ebb and flow to it. And I think that's pretty ideal.

I'm happy that my work is well-received. I'm also happy to fuck around on Metafilter or even fire up the Playstation if I run out of tasks. The bad thing about WFH is the lack of social interaction, but that also means I don't feel pressure to look busy when I'm not.

I feel bad for people with an endless need to be productive, who can't disengage and do nothing for a while. Work doesn't have to be your passion. You're not a failure if it isn't. I wish we could convince Millennials of that.
posted by frogstar42 at 12:39 PM on April 5 [7 favorites]


I wish we could convince Millennials of that.
It's difficult to make someone understand something that their paycheck requires that they not understand- or however that goes. I'm just doing what it takes to stay housed.
posted by bleep at 12:51 PM on April 5 [6 favorites]


I remember when I started at a magazine as the new editor, I was trying to get a handle on how the previous editor had done things, and it quickly became apparent that she managed by crisis (and demeaning people). It was a bit of a trial by fire, because the current issue was in production and I was really on the back foot, trying to figure everything out while getting an issue that wasn't a complete disaster to the mailing house in time. One of the assistants asked me if I'd be going down to approve bluelines and do a press check that night, and I was like, "...buh? Tonight?" and she said, "yes, Previous Editor was usually down in [ultra sketchy No Man's Land under a freeway in the industrial area that no single woman should be in] because they were ready about 3 a.m. and so it was too late for the printer rep to bring bluelines to the office."

I just sat there, stunned. I said no fucking way was I going down there at 3 a.m., and I shouldn't have to--the files should be at the printer before their deadline so they'd be able to bring the bluelines and/or color keys to me, and once approved, I don't need to do a press check. They pay people at the printer for that. Let them do their job. No one knew what to do with me--they were all looking at each other, like, "is she pulling our leg?"

But that was always my goal--getting shit done, on time, well, and treating people the way I would like to be treated. I found all this stuff in my office later--weird sort of diaries the previous editor had written that were paranoid rants about her evil co-workers, lists of grievances of all the people who couldn't be relied upon to do their jobs, all this sort of persecutional stuff, including how the printers were always screwing her over. I was just shocked, and shocked at how people kind of recoiled the time I got mad at myself for fucking something up on the second issue--they were expecting me to throw things at them. I just. I didn't know what to do.

But the weird thing was that I got punished by the higher ups for all of it, like managing by panic and terror was How Things Should Be Done, and since I got shit done fast and reliably, I wasn't doing my job. I didn't mind extra responsibility, I've always been good at juggling lots of work, but I really minded the way it was treated as a punishment--"since you're not busy, I guess we'll give you this marketing project that you can fit in to your busy schedule."

When I finally left that job, I was so happy for the first couple years, until it started happening again--all the stuff I needed to do, I was usually able to finish in decent time, so I got little microaggressions thrown my way, more and more often, until they became just aggressions, and I got increasingly poor reviews--they could never complain about the quality of my work, so they complained about the quality of me.

I don't like living hand to mouth in the feast or famine world of freelance, but I tell you, not having to answer to people who expect you to always be "when in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout" or sitting in meetings with people who think you're worthless, or filling out self evaluations about your work ethic...well, it's a decent tradeoff. I would be Edward and happier, too, if I was.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:57 PM on April 5 [23 favorites]


Can you also start to make documentation about how you got things done so quickly and perhaps present it to the team? Maybe get a deck together for everyone?

OMG. I was just asked to do this... shortly before I got the 2/4 rating for being the most productive team member in 2021.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:16 PM on April 5 [8 favorites]


This thread is enlightening- this thing about sales driving commitments that the building teams do not have capacity for - it's a key driver of all the stress at my job too. We're tearing our hair out producing junk at 100 miles an hour because investment takes $ out of shareholder pockets. What a time to be alive.
posted by bleep at 1:18 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Back around 2000, I had a job where I literally learned how to sleep sitting up, hands on my desk, looking like I was reading some papers. My cube faced a wall, so nobody could see my eyes, and so I got a couple of hours extra sleep over the workweek.

Honestly I'm just here for the stories of people going to absurd lengths to pretend they're working.

I.e. years ago, my fresh-out-of-law-school friend who, despite working for a "laid back" NPO, was still expected to work ridiculous hours per week.

It was definitely noted if you weren't seen to be putting in the hours.

The good news was his private office had its own exit to the stairs leading to the street, the bad news was the energy-saving lights that would go off after a certain period of detecting no movement. So, if he left too early, the lights would soon turn off and boom, he's a slacker.

So he taped some long strips of paper in front of the motion detector, set up a fan, and then set up a timer on the fan. So that way, he could leave undetected and it would still look like he was working. At the "appropriate" time, timer goes off, fan goes off and then eventually the lights went off.

When he told me all this with bizarre pride, I was like "Dude, you need a new job".
posted by jeremias at 2:26 PM on April 5 [20 favorites]


The primary part of his job, the reason he is employed there, is to go out and bring in new business. He flat out says he isn't bothering.

And yet, nobody at his office has noticed this. Hmmmmmmm.

I presume Abehammerb Lincoln works at my giant org?

Just had a conversation with my boss about just doing the best we can and I even said, cautiously, that I can't be point person on C. She said technically everyone should be trained on everything, but...well, if there's some major emergency, let her know, and otherwise...do the best you can.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:46 PM on April 5


OMG. I was just asked to do this... shortly before I got the 2/4 rating for being the most productive team member in 2021.

I'm so confused by this. Almost every job I've had, if there was, say, a 4-star ranking system, then a 3 was "you're on thin ice" or at the very least "we think your performance is sub-adequate"

A 2 would be "you're fired". Hell, a 3 would be "you'll be laid off next time there's a round of layoffs"

I remember learning this the hard way. There was a guy working for me who was way underpaid and in an attempt to get him more money, I tried to get him a title increase. Getting a title increase is not easy but getting a large raise without one was (I was told) nearly impossible. It was delayed almost a year because on my previous review of the guy I didn't give him 5/5 in every category. I thought the ratings were, you know, like books or movies, where a 4/5 would be "strongly recommend but not the absolute best ever." But the first title increase was rejected because why was I submitting someone who wasn't 5/5 in everything for promotion???

So now, if rating a coworker or employee, they get 100% on everything, they're the best. This is true even if I think the guy kinda sucks at his job. I'd only give less than 5/5 to someone I really thought should be immediately fired.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:19 PM on April 5 [10 favorites]


I.e. years ago, my fresh-out-of-law-school friend who, despite working for a "laid back" NPO, was still expected to work ridiculous hours per week.

I knew a young lawyer that always left a spare suit jacket on his chair and a half drunk cup of coffee on the desk, and never turned off his computer, so it would always appear that he was still working and had just stepped out. It was a deliberate and careful tableau.

It was definitely noted if you weren't seen to be putting in the hours.

In my experience, it's not enough to just put in the hours. You have to be seen to be putting in the hours. Which is why the law firms are among those really pushing to get people back to the office.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:46 PM on April 5 [5 favorites]


I knew a young lawyer that always left a spare suit jacket on his chair

every generation thinks it invented sex slacking

(before it gets promoted and becomes salty about it)
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:01 PM on April 5 [4 favorites]


I had a job where we were only allowed to give ourselves 3s (out of 4) because if you gave yourself a 4, that meant you were perfect and "no one is perfect." Our raises were tied to the ratings we got on our evaluations (both our own & what our boss gave us) so it was really just a way to give us a smaller raise (that is if we even got a raise at all).
posted by edencosmic at 4:58 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


I failed into IT as a career.

Same here, pretty much...although my particular position is one where I'm in a small-but-absolutely-crucial-to-the-business niche where I both administer and program for one of our main user-facing systems. There's me and one other guy (who is also my boss), and we know all the pitfalls and land mines and bits that are held together with duct tape (from when one of the last guys retired ten years ago) and where all the bodies are buried. (We very recently brought on a third guy, and we're gently leading him through the graveyard with a shovel, metaphorically speaking. He hasn't run away yet.)

For as much as I complain about it and how not-glamorous it can be, it's honestly one of the best jobs I've ever had. It's relatively low-stress, my boss is incredibly laid-back, and as long as I'm available during core hours and my work's done, I do what I want. My only real gripe at this point is that I'm underpaid...but all of the other intangible benefits make up for a lot of it.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:10 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


My organization has a 5 star ranking. Literally everyone is, as far as I've heard/been told, given an overall rating of 3, for "meets expectations" so that they don't "have" to give a raise, every single year. You can only score higher than 3 on any one thing if they give you lower than 3 on something else so it all averages back to a 3, which is what used to happen to me before I got my current 1-stars-only manager. (I like her otherwise, but lord, it hurts every time I think of that.) 4 or 5 would supposedly venture into raise territory, but that doesn't happen except for union-negotiated pay bumps. 1s are "not at all meeting expectations" and I should be canned for those, but see above.

Oh, fun story for this thread: my friend is working on contract and yesterday was complaining about another on-contract idiot who didn't take a work computer, said he couldn't do the job on his home computer, kept trying to get her to do his work, etc. Today he's...."moved on" from the organization and apparently deleted whatever he was supposed to be working on. And he was "crucial" and apparently did nothing since his hiring in January, and was making $80 an hour.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:28 PM on April 5 [5 favorites]


My workplace uses a 4 star rating, where 3 is expected performance and 4 needs justification for why we might be exceptional in that area. As far as I can tell, raises are completely divorced from performance and everybody seems to get a 2-ish% raise which doesn't keep up with inflation or my property taxes. My takeaway from this is that the entire system is screwed and I should have stayed in a unsatisfactory union job that I had 22 years ago because at least the salary progression and promotion schedule were transparent.
posted by mollweide at 5:37 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


American management reeks of extroverted narcissism. Hey, thanks for all your patience, dedication and flexibility when we needed you to work from your sanctuary. Now get back to the office because we arbitrarily said so (unlike the group across the street who do the same work with a 100% remote option).
posted by onesidys at 5:56 PM on April 5 [5 favorites]


I'm so confused by this. Almost every job I've had, if there was, say, a 4-star ranking system, then a 3 was "you're on thin ice" or at the very least "we think your performance is sub-adequate"

A 2 would be "you're fired". Hell, a 3 would be "you'll be laid off next time there's a round of layoffs"


We were confused too, until we all started comparing notes recently on the union email list, and figured out that the vast majority of employees are being given "2" ratings -- even many of us who are getting praise from our managers.

Apparently "1" means thin ice. A small number of people get "3", and almost nobody gets "4". The default "2" is obviously preordained by the powers that be, to avoid giving too many large bonuses (and perhaps to keep people on edge?).

4 or 5 would supposedly venture into raise territory, but that doesn't happen except for union-negotiated pay bumps.

We are discussing whether, in our next union contract, to just insist on increasing the size of the annual bumps that everyone gets, and shrinking the discretionary bonuses/bumps, since the system for the latter is so obviously distorted.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 7:47 PM on April 5 [4 favorites]


When you say "union" it makes more sense

The places I work, they can give you raises or not give you raises, there's no rules or agreements or any kind of pressure. If there's a union and an understanding that performance = raises then of course they're going to try to lowball everyone. If there's no stakes, 4 stars for everyone.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:55 PM on April 5


“Merit pay” is the term to search for on that, Artiface_Eternity, and it is wildly, terribly inequitable at a basic level — searching for that term should get you plenty of material to use to get rid of it.
posted by curious nu at 7:57 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


(I have also never had a full-time office-based job where the actual work took up 40 hours a week.)

To do all of my assigned work, and to do it properly, would take me fully 75 hours per week every week. Except for the weeks when there is so much of it that to do it properly would take 100.

Since none of us are paid for a 100 hour work week,* that means that only about 40-60% of our work ever gets done. And once you've accepted that enormous margin of failure, well...what can it hurt to go do some laundry or read Metafilter?

*To be clear: our wages are fine. Our company actually pays rather above average for the industry. At my level I am paid enough that I work closer to 55 or 60 hours most weeks without feeling particularly abused. It is entirely a case where, as people noted above, our Sales department just racks up wins unchecked, to resounding praise, without anyone ever pausing to consider how we'll resource that work. And we are paid for hard work, not for actual literal fucking miracles.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:57 PM on April 5 [7 favorites]


I am currently in a workplace kind of like the ones discussed upthread. After a series of interesting devolutionary events took place (which I resisted because they were unethical) I decided to get out. I take my work pretty seriously (I work in mental health) and applied for a job I had no experience in but knew I could do well (supervisor) that pays nearly half again what I make now (eyes twinkle) and I was hired; I got the call from HR the other day. I am waiting for the formal written offer which should arrive this week. It's a great agency that is stable, well managed, and generous with pay and benefits and steadfastly supports what we do (I am a Peer Specialist). I cannot wait to give my notice at my present job and get the hell out of there where I can finally be a good supervisor to people that work with me, treat them with respect and actually care what happens to them.

Right now there's a lot of those micro aggressions ranging into straight up aggressions from co workers who are quite offended that I raise ethical issues about how folks are getting care. My present supervisor is leading them. They are jaded, burned out, don't care for themselves and really hate the clients. I am days, possibly even HOURS from telling them "not only am I leaving, but I will be in a better place". Every time I get a cynical ration of shit from those folks I think to myself how good it is going to be to get out of there.

Work does not have to be that bad; dammit they are making it be bad. I plan to resist that trend. Chance of a fkn lifetime for me, and I feel so good. I've had some really shitty jobs over the years, and finally this one is gonna be good.

I truly wish anyone in a bad workplace the chance to get out of there. My heart goes out to every last one of you. There is more to life than working for nasty people.
posted by cybrcamper at 9:06 PM on April 5 [13 favorites]


So I work in a different country, with different labor laws, where at least for us, the company doesn't fire anyone unless they fake an illness (and like legit fake, broken arm with no doctors note, not the random days people take when they just dont feel like working that day) or they steal company time (i.e. clock-in and then go shopping).

So what we have is a situation where people cannot be fired, and also an incentive scheme where high-level management is paid partially based on how many people are working under them. There are whole departments of useless people here, but for some reason they will not admit the situation and instead, fake being just incredibly busy all the time (real example: folder on the network drive needed to be moved to a different place, so the person individually copied each file in the folder to the new location, and could do no other work because they are so busy). It is a real talent to be able to make yourself look busy on one-hour's worth of work. I absolutely don't fault them for that, take advantage if you can really.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:06 AM on April 6 [4 favorites]


but for some reason they will not admit the situation and instead, fake being just incredibly busy all the time

I recently read this, in "Coffeeland", about the Victorians:
The productivist view had equated business with goodness. According to the gospel of energy, the extraction, concentration, and application of the energy latent in nature to profitable ends was "the eminently moral supreme purpose to be achieved."
We're still living in that moral world. It's odd to think of it as a new thing, but it seems to be, at least in terms of a dominant moral philosophy. Did Jesus say "the busy shall inherit the earth"? Did Cicero or Confucius or Zoroaster? Did any previous ruling class flaunt how much it worked rather than how much leisure it had?
posted by clawsoon at 7:29 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]



oh no


I read this yesterday while at the workplace frolicking instead of working because there sometimes is not sufficient blithering stupid work to fill up the whole day and there sometimes is so much that you can't do it steadily without loss of mental tone so you have to take some time to, whatever, listen to podcasts or music while fucking around or read comments about how work is bullshit. I made a rule that I'm not allowed to log in to Metafilter at work. If I let myself do that, the balance will be way off into poisonslackland and mental tone will again suffer, so no matter how desperately much I want to comment and favorite, I can't. So I waited til today when I'm off work to come in here and say:

oh no


Hilarious and perfect. Made my post-slog/pre-flow extended middle-of-the-workday goof-off break period appreciably more delightful. Thank you.

Later after everybody stopped yacking in the halls and got TFO of the office I stopped dicking around and walked around and around and around the empty building with my sharpened red pencil encouraging the subjects and the verbs of the grad student of the tenure-seeking faculty member I love best to agree and picking away steadily and patiently at the jargon until all the knots untied and it all made beautiful sense. So peaceful and meditative and lovely. I really do love my job although it is unquestionably largely bullshit. The parts of it that are not are really not. The parts of it that are deserve to be surfed over in the manner least likely to cause injury. In this way I remain in peak condition to serve my employer the best I can, despite my employer.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:54 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


“Merit pay” is the term to search for on that, Artiface_Eternity, and it is wildly, terribly inequitable at a basic level — searching for that term should get you plenty of material to use to get rid of it.

Yep, we've got good union leadership, and they're all over it.

The issue is that we do have a certain number of employees who are really attached to the idea of merit-based raises -- people who really don't want to let go of the belief that "I am smart and a hard worker, and will get special rewards from my employer for being better than everyone else."

So we have retained them as an element of our contract, along with the automatic increases that everyone gets.

But I get the sense that there's a lot of sentiment for shrinking the merit-based portion of compensation in the next contract, and just making the automatic bumps a larger share, because people are increasingly aware of the games management plays when they're given any discretion at all.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 8:24 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


that means that only about 40-60% of our work ever gets done. And once you've accepted that enormous margin of failure, well...what can it hurt to go do some laundry or read Metafilter?

YUP.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:16 AM on April 6 [4 favorites]


I don't think our IT department are rated but if they were I assume they'd all be rated as shite. I found out this year that they only check whether our lecture spaces are properly set up for lecturing at the end of term, they're too busy at the start of term.
posted by biffa at 2:41 PM on April 6


BWAHAHAHA

oh, oh I’m sorry biffa, but… how do they get away with that?
posted by clew at 3:21 PM on April 6


Hahahaah, not my job to set up rooms but somehow I am not surprised to hear that they are too busy at the start of the term to do that. Probably takes them all term just to go through all the avalanche of requests that pour in in the first few weeks.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:58 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


I also work in marketing which is historically full of some of the biggest and most useless pieces of shit in the modern working world

And here was I believing the only reason I held the same opinion was having spent my working life in IT on the engineering side.
posted by flabdablet at 5:58 PM on April 6


Back around 2000, I had a job where I literally learned how to sleep sitting up, hands on my desk, looking like I was reading some papers. My cube faced a wall, so nobody could see my eyes, and so I got a couple of hours extra sleep over the workweek.

In the eighties I worked in the Molson Brewery in Toronto. Whenever the production line was stopped for an outage of some sort the workers fought over the limited number of brooms so they could stand around holding them and doing nothing while looking like they were doing something.
posted by srboisvert at 4:41 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Another banger from Ed Zitron: The Return To Office Rodeo
posted by General Malaise at 12:08 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Loving that link:

"What happens after these return-to-office articles stop being written and we approach something approximating normality? Nothing. That’s what happens. Nothing changes for a single person, and articles like this help empower companies to keep abusing employees."

Every cent that’s spent trying to con workers into returning to the office is money that could’ve been spent on making their lives easier in the workplace, but corporations have been allowed to use these anti-worker, pro-hegemony cult events as positive corporate PR that makes it seem like they care."


Also, y'know what, it saves money (literally) for employees to work from home (no gas! maybe not getting infected with covid!) in this time of inflation and whopping gas prices. But we can't have that, donchaknow. Also, as someone who isn't a tech worker and who only gets offered donuts (if I'm in the office) to go back, that shit just pisses me off. I'm tired of hearing about the effing privileged tech workers and their whining about bidets or whatever.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:06 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


NYT: What ‘Severance’ Gets Right About Infantilizing Office Perks
I’ve come to think of these corporate toys and rewards as the work equivalent of the cheap prizes you win at a carnival after emptying your wallet to play the games. The difference is that the point of the carnival is to have fun, and the prizes are incidental. In the workplace, this is just a laughably terrible trade-off. Who wants to give up the two hours a day they gain by not commuting for a coffee mug?

The pandemic has reminded employees that novelties in the office are also perfectly accessible at home. If you’re really missing unlimited bags of SkinnyPop White Cheddar and a short PlayStation break, you can experience the joy of both without leaving your home. Suddenly things that seem kind of nice because they are little dashes of pleasantry in what may be an otherwise sterile work environment are relatively banal in the context of working from home.

And that’s really the point of these superficial and sometimes infantilizing inducements: They are shiny things designed to draw your attention away from the ways in which a focus on productivity and profits can be damaging to workers. So when the company pats you on the head and offers you a tote bag or an occasional employee happy hour, it begins to feel like a bit of an insult.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:17 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


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