Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

The Odd Reaction – Karma and Pretending to be Busy

with 2 comments

Many years ago, I remember reading a comic about workplace (presumably Dilbert?). It says something like this – If you want to gain promotion fast at your workplace, pretend to be busy and make your table to be as a messy as possible. Workers who are perceived to be hardworking tend to get promoted easier.

I did not really take it seriously that time and just treated it as mere comic.However, I realized the comic actually has some truth in it.

What I noticed recently in many organizations is managers tend to have a maximizing-mindset. It doesn’t matter how many hours you’ve spent working or how many tasks you have completed on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but if you’re seen to be doing nothing on Friday, managers will have the tendency to chuck something for you to do even if it is just an insignificant task. They want employees to be busy. They want to maximize every single drop of employee’s sweat.

By the law of Karma every positive/negative action will attract a similar reaction or energy. Therefore, if the manager always have the intention to fully maximize the employee’s time, then the employee, in return, will want to take back their time from the manager – by being lazy, not motivated to complete their work or … pretending to be busy.

Before we go further, let’s imagine two scenarios where the culture of pretending to be busy DO NOT exist :

Scenario A : Mr. X have done all his two days of task on Thursday and so he is free on Friday. The manager see Mr. X lazing around his working table doing nothing. The manager chucks in more task for him to do. Mr. X feels unfair because his effort of completing all the tasks by Thursday is rewarded with more task.

Scenario B : Mr.X have not completed his two days task yet but he is already given more tasks to do by the manager. Mr.X feels exploited since the manager is not giving him any room to breathe.

At the end of the day, this will bring a lose-lose situation. The employee is not happy because the manager keep maximizing them. The manager is not happy because the employee is not busy enough.

And that’s when pretending to be busy is a solution – A perfect solution. The employee is happy because they are given less work when perceived to be “busy”  and the manager is happy to see his subordinates are “busy” doing work.

HOW DELUSIONAL! Delusion makes people happy! And I know it is nothing new.

Adding to the point above, to a typical mind, pretending to be busy is so much more desirable and motivating especially when the paycheck is by duration (monthly). In other words, it doesn’t matter how much work you do because the monthly paycheck is already static. There’s no extra incentives or motivation for doing more work.

I have never deliberately act busy before but I can guarantee this pretending to be busy tactic will work in many organizations because most typical managers have this maximizing mindset. So how can organization prevent this culture of pretending to be busy from spreading? The solution is to balance the Karma. To balance the Yin Yang. To balance the seesaw. Balance.

  • Managers must throw away their maximizing-mindset and become more task-oriented or result-oriented. Eg. If the employees finish their weekly task by Wednesday, and if there’s nothing important left for them to do for the entire week, then let them off by Thursday and Friday.
  • Provide alternative incentives/motivations apart from the monthly paycheck. Eg. Give tasks to employees based on their strength and let them enjoy the task process. Give them some recognition, etc.
  • Managers must sincerely appreciate the work and contribution of their subordinates. Appreciation and positive feelings are contagious. Positive action/energy attracts positive reactions.

I believe there are still many more other ways that we could do to balance things out.

PS: Well, actually I’m just exaggerating to use the word Karma. But I think it is cool to use the concept along.


Written by elan85

February 13, 2009 at 1:05 pm

2 Responses

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  1. when i read this articl, all i could think is why would u encourage the employee’s to pretend to work? in a job its the man who works the hardest who gets rewarded & succeds in life. there is nothing to be learned here.


    May 21, 2011 at 3:36 am

  2. I thought it was a very good article. It might work if the employee is gaining nothing when he does extra work. Or he should complain to higher ups of course but it was a good article nonetheless.


    March 26, 2012 at 10:10 am

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