Thursday, November 02, 2006


Look how productive I have been today. It's easy when you just grab stuff from elsewhere on the internet and type up a paragraph to go with it. I see a lot of news articles about how American productivity is down. Especially a lot of articles saying things like "so many millions of dollars worth of productivity are being lost each year" due to distractions like fantasy football.

I think these people have their heads in the clouds. Possibly white clouds, more likely brown. All jobs seem to like to measure productivity, despite the irony that the methods they use to measure often slow down work efficiency, not to mention destroying morale. Who likes to be lectured when they leave to use the bathroom? Nobody. But it happens everyday.

Often, employers do not offer any incentive to work faster. At my desk job, if you did the work of two people for an entire month, you would get a 7% bonus. Does that sound like a good trade off, 200% of the work for a 7% bonus?

There is something I call "Sanity time." When I do a big burst of work for a few hours, I often like to work at a relaxed pace for an hour or so immediately following. How is this met by those in authority? I remember a boss's take on one such occassion:

Boss: "Why are you guys just sitting here talking?"
Us: "We've been working. Look at our numbers. We are at 130% of productivity for the day."
Boss: "Yes. But think of how high those numbers COULD have been if you weren't sitting here talking."

And I loved one girl's response to a boss:

"Uh, could you take off of your monitor while you're giving me a lecture not to surf the internet while I work?"

It was a bad sign at the chip moving job that an employee who had been there for 5 years was all excited that she was working at 105% of the requirement. She was working in a selfish manner that slowed down those who worked around her. And THAT wasn't even the worst part of the job. I don't miss it.

The furniture warehouse is easy. You only need to meet 70% of their expectation to keep your job. Anything over 80% is accompanied by a bonus. And worse, the less work you do the better you look. It is all measured by how many loads you move, so the trick is just to put one or two pieces of furniture per load as opposed to the old style of piling stuff on as high as you could. So, in classic fashion, there is a lot of running around while little work is actually being done. And it never fails that the people with the highest percentages are the ones who are also cutting the most corners. Who cares about quality? Not your calculator.

So you can blame fantasy football if you like, but chances are that workers would come up with some other distraction if online sports weren't there. I have a friend who frequently says, "I will sit here and count holes in the ceiling before I do another shred of work for this company beyond what I am already doing." Many people who do work of quality end up with low numbers and are grouped with the slackers. It doesn't make those people very excited to be at work nor very excited to continue caring. I pointed out to coworkers from various levels at the desk job that 4 company workers committing suicide in a 4 year period was a very bad sign and something to be concerned about, but I may as well have been talking to the stapler. Nobody wants to hear stuff like that.

So the trick is fly under the radar. Get a number about 110% where no one will bug you to do more, but don't do so much that your bosses will dump big annoying projects on you that do not result in any additional pay. That is the American Way. Shine on you crazy diamonds.

These are the challenges of producivity.I think it is best to remember: Money will always come and go, but insanity is forever.

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