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Working Hard, Hardly Working

By kitten in Culture
Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 09:28:36 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

Three years ago, I was working at a small company as the unofficial IT director / all-purpose computer bitch. I was laid off in early 2003, but to this day, the job presents me with difficulties; namely, that of telling prospective employers what I did, and for that matter, what the company itself did. I have virtually no idea what this company's function was, despite working there for over a year and a half, although I did learn how to spew an amazing amount of marketing jargon without thinking. As for my role there, it was essentially vast tracts of doing absolutely nothing, punctuated erratically by moments of panicking and crisis-defusion, usually involving something truly earth-shattering like the CEO not being able to print her email. When asked by interviewers "What did your company do?" I am forced to mumble vaguaries about consulting and hope they leave the issue alone.

I learned something else at this job -- something besides the ability to keep a straight face while discussing proactive prioritization of mission-critical objectives that will leverage end-to-end supply chains to maximize profit potential in the e-marketplace. I learned that trying to look busy and productive is much more difficult than actually doing work.

The reasoning here is this: If you're actually doing work, you can focus on it, even if you don't like it. When your boss comes round demanding to know what you're up to, you can tell him, show him on the monitor, provide actual progress reports, discuss problems and solutions, and so forth. It may be tedious, depending on what you're doing, but it usually isn't very stressful.

On the other hand, if you have nothing to do, and can't find anything to do, you have to have a prepared list of action items (translation: "things") to talk about when he saunters by your desk and wants to see what you're doing, because for some reason, "nothing" just isn't an appropriate response to the question "What are you working on?" in the corporate world. "Fuck all" and "jack shit" are even less favorable, accurate as they might be.

To compile this list you have to invent plausible-sounding things that don't actually need to be done, which nobody will be able to determine their level of completion, and that nobody really cares about anyway. You have to invent explanations as to why these things need to be done. It's also best if the things you're pretending to do are things your manager won't understand, or that sound so technical or mind-numbingly boring that he won't ask for details. And you have to have have enough of these fake workloads that you can answer the question several times a day without repeating yourself too often over the course of a week. Conjuring up phantom work that fits all of this criteria is a full-time job in and of itself.

But being able to covertly read from your list of falsified action items isn't enough. Sometimes your boss will just wander by on his way somewhere and idly glance at your desk or computer screen, so you have to look like you're doing something as well; evidently, managers don't like to see how much your railgun accuracy has increased in Quake III. You need to find important-looking papers to spread out on your desk, with pen in hand as though you're making corrections in the margins. Ideally you'll also have things that simulate work on your computer screen at any given time: memorandums, spreadsheets, network diagrams. Anything that has a progress bar that increases slowly but visibly is invaluable; I think I must have defragged the drives on every machine in the office in command-line mode at least every other day.

As if all this wasn't enough, you still have to find something to actually do to occupy your time when you aren't fielding questions about what you're not doing.

Most games are out of the question, for obvious reasons. It can be done, but it requires half your attention on the game and half devoted to keeping your eyes and ears open for approaching footsteps so you can alt-tab back to your spreadsheet; it is also too easy to get so far drawn into the environment of rocket launchers, hidden treasures, and enemy defenses that you don't realize your boss is standing behind you until it's too late. IRC is a good choice for some who are able to use the excuse "It's a technical support forum" and be believed, but there are many managers who wouldn't accept this -- and how long can you really stare at an IRC channel and nothing else? Surfing the web is only acceptable if you could plausibly get away with the line, "I'm checking the code on this site to get an idea of how they solved this problem I'm having," but this only really works if you're realistically involved in web development in your company.

In my position, I could get away with both IRC and clomping through the interworldwebnet on a limited basis -- but I couldn't be "asking technical questions to this support group" or "checking javascript code" all the time. I had to find something that would entertain me and not draw undue attention to the fact that all I was really doing was holding the chair to the floor with my ass.

It was about that time that I discovered the joy of screenplays.

I had a lot of movies I just hadn't ever gotten round to seeing. I couldn't watch them at work, but I could do the next best thing and read the scripts for them. They gave me something to do, excercised my mental abilities to some degree, and looked nice and boring (and therefore work-related) on the computer screen. I found that reading screenplays was an incredibly efficient way of devouring a two-hour story, and it gave me a great deal of insight into the actual process of writing scripts for screen and television formats, which is something I was already interested in.

Screenplays are usually easy to find on the net. There are several sites devoted to hosting them or at least giving you links to other places you can find them.

I've been reading a stupid amount of them lately, my interest recently reasserting itself with my acquisition of a Palm IIIe. Screenplays online usually come in one of three formats: pdf, which is obnoxious; plain text, which is the most common; and HTML, which is usually just the plaintext wrapped in <pre> tags for some reason. With the latter two, I can strip out any HTML code, convert the file into Palm format, and load the entire document onto the Palm, allowing me to read the screenplays anywhere, and with the soothing green backlight I can read in bed without having a 40 watt light shining in my face.

In the past two weeks or so, I've read Gattaca, The Abyss, Lost World, The Matrix, Back To The Future, Men In Black, Total Recall, Alien (all four of them, plus about a dozen unproduced submissions for Alien 3), Neuromancer, Dave, Predator, Blade Runner, Castaway, As Good As It Gets, Ghostbusters, American Beauty, Suburbia, Carnivore, Equilibrium, Independance Day, and a handful of others, with a few dozen more in the queue.

Action movies are difficult to read in screenplay format -- long unbroken narratives about who is shooting at whom and what blows up when. Movies that rely heavily on visual presentation and editing (such as Eternal Sunshine) usually aren't even worth reading, because the effect obviously doesn't translate very well, although you can get a sense of exactly how much directional control the screenwriter has over the final product. I have found that, in general, comedies and light dramas are the easiest to read -- and by easy, I mean that one can get an excellent sense of what the film would be even without having seen it.

The screenplays fall into fairly straightforward but often overlapping categories: Those that are for movies you've seen, those that are for movies you haven't, those that were never produced. There are scripts based on books you've read, scripts based on books you haven't read, scripts based on movies you've seen based on books you haven't read and vice versa -- and then there are the various drafts of scripts in various states of revision.

Sometimes those can be the most illuminating, as you get to watch the progress and evolution of the story, from treatment, to the first few drafts, to the final shooting copy. Delving into this area is not for the weak of heart -- some of the most beloved movies started out as utter abominations.

Take Star Wars, for instance. The first draft was entitled "Adventures of the Starkiller" and was about a boy named Luke Starkiller. Most of the intended film had him mucking about on a planet -- not Tatooine -- and whining to his buddy Biggs. Darth Vader wasn't Luke's father and wasn't what we've come to know as the Sith -- he was just some vaguely mean-spirited guy who could do magic tricks. Leia wasn't a princess -- she was just eye candy that still lived at Uncle Owen's house (Owen is a Jedi, by the way). Jedis were called "Bendus", their power comes from some kind of stupid crystal, and all the stormtroopers had lightsabres. My friends and I have a running joke about Lucas' inability to write, and the early drafts seem to vindicate our theories. A sample of this garbage:

I am Lord Darth Vader, first Knight of the Sith, and right hand to His Eminence Prince Espaa Valorum, the Master of the Bogan. You will not mock me, or my Master; for the Ashla is weak, and the FORCE OF OTHERS cannot save you now...
Truly, it makes me want to cringe.

Back To The Future was just as bad. Marty and Doc aren't friends -- Doc is just some crazy old guy Marty uses to make bootleg videos for sale. Doc invents a time machine out of a refrigerator, powered by Coca Cola, and gets shot by the FBI instead of Libyans. Instead of a dog named Einstein he has a monkey named Shemp. There is no 88 miles per hour, and the line "One point twenty one gigawatts! Great Scott!" was originally "4200 rads? Good god!" which doesn't quite have the same impact. Marty eventually returns to 1982 by driving the fridge to a nuclear bomb test site and waiting for the bomb to blow up. As we know, when he returns in the film, everything is more or less the same, except that Marty's father is more confident and thus more successful in life. But in the script, Marty's return sees a sort of 1940s alt-future, with servant robots, 62 states of America, flying cars, time-travel wars, and everyone is still listening to Perry Como and dancing the mambo. As for his experience in 1955, it bears only the most passing resemblance to the film version, thank the gods.

In fact, this script is so mind-bogglingly terrible that I'm amazed it got produced at all. I'm afraid that if I were in charge of the studio at the time, and this screenplay came across my desk, I would have had the writer dragged into my office and executed on the spot.

But as I said, this is all part of the experience of script-reading -- watching the changes made, the revisions and alterations, and the overall evolution of the idea from original treatment to final film. If you have even a passing interest in looking behind the scenes at the driving mechanisms of this type of storytelling, do yourself a favor and download some screenplays.

And if you have no interest at all in the art of filmmaking, it'll at least give you something to do at work when you aren't shifting your paradigm.

Hundreds of scripts to peruse, from popular to obscure to unproduced.
Plenty of others in various formats.
Dozens more, mostly science fiction and fantasy.
Look here if you can't find the one you want anywhere else.


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Best cock rock band?
o Def Leppard 10%
o Bon Jovi 2%
o Van Halen 9%
o Scorpions 9%
o Guns N Roses 21%
o Motley Crue 5%
o Cinderella 0%
o Whitesnake 6%
o Warrant 1%
o Poison 2%
o Skid Row 0%
o Twisted Sister 5%
o Europe 5%

Votes: 133
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Related Links
o several sites
o convert the file
o Hundreds of scripts to peruse
o Plenty of others
o Dozens more
o Look here
o Also by kitten

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Working Hard, Hardly Working | 121 comments (90 topical, 31 editorial, 0 hidden)
Neuromancer? (1.80 / 5) (#16)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 01:41:07 AM EST

wtf? That's not a movie.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

It wasn't a movie, you're right. (2.66 / 6) (#19)
by kitten on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 01:48:57 AM EST

But Gibson did write a screenplay for a potential movie which was never produced. It follows the book pretty well, but there are several highly significant differences, particularly the ending.

Check it out if you're interested.

I never saw Johnny Mneumonic, but I read the short story, and I understand the movie was widely regarded as crap. I intend to read the screenplay for that soon, as well, but I'm not sure if a movie based on Neuromancer would do any better. I'm not sure Gibson translates well to celluloid, for part of what makes him special, in addition to the story he tells, is his writing style -- something I'm not sure film can capture.

Then again, I'm not sure the screenplay for Johnny was written by Gibson. That might make an enormous difference.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Gibson was involved. (none / 2) (#48)
by Mr.Surly on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 10:45:29 AM EST

I think Gibson was the primary screenplay writer. I remember being stoked when I heard about the movie, since Burning Chrome is still one of my favorite books. Unfortunately, it was indeed shit.

[ Parent ]
Mnemonic (none / 2) (#80)
by ffrinch on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 03:35:23 AM EST

Gibson did write the screenplay, and he's said that he did like the movie as it was shot. Sadly, that version was mangled by the studio/distributor for mass release. With luck there'll be a director's cut DVD put out at some point, so we can see if it was actually any good or not.

"I learned the hard way that rock music ... is a powerful demonic force controlled by Satan." — Jack Chick
[ Parent ]
director's cut (none / 2) (#89)
by eudas on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 06:11:35 PM EST

even so, how different could it possibly be? it'll still be 90% the same footage...

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

The difference can amaze. (none / 3) (#99)
by kitten on Thu Jun 17, 2004 at 02:49:35 AM EST

Editing and directing can have a huge impact on these things, for better or worse.

A crappy director can ruin a good script, but even the best director can't save a bad script.

You may not have liked the Matrix (for example) but the Wachowskis are very technically competent directors. Think of what the Matrix would have been like in the hands of your average soap-opera director.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Matrix (none / 1) (#66)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 09:13:58 PM EST

I guess I haven't read Neuromancer in a while.. forgot that the network was called the matrix. Score another blatant ripoff for the Wachowskis.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
movie (none / 2) (#75)
by voltron on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 01:41:02 AM EST

i think gibson could translate very well onto film, but not in any conventional way.

[ Parent ]
It wasn't crap (2.75 / 4) (#88)
by epepke on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 02:21:04 PM EST

It was the kind of crap that still stinks if you immerse it in liquid helium. Take the female character, remove her built-in mirrorshades and make her look like an old barfly, turn the dope-fiend dolphin into some sort of deus ex machina, put in a totally unneccesary subplot, and add some computer-generated special effects that would make Amiga users wince then years before, and that's what it was. The only good part was the monofilament in a ring.

Actually, Keanu Reeves probably could have played a decent Gibson stock sociopath but wasn't given the chance.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
It's official, k5 loves screenplays. (2.62 / 8) (#20)
by Psycho Dave on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 01:49:01 AM EST

Anyway, I've long suspected that George Lucas was a bit of a hack. He totally sold the world on the idea that Star Wars was this long story he has just been parceling out two hours at a time the past 26 years, like it's the Colonel's chicken spice or something. I don't believe it, neither do I believe that most sci-fi/fantasy trilogies are thought out in advance (like say, The Matrix--no way the series was all thought out ahead of time, or the Lord of the Rings...hahaha, just kidding.)

Lord of the Rings (none / 3) (#56)
by kallisti on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 04:44:00 PM EST

Of course, I can't remember the source (possibly Orson Scott Card's book on writing), but I heard that Tolkien in fact did make up LotR as he went along. Apparently he got to Bree and the meeting with the mysterious ranger and he had no idea who the stranger was.

[ Parent ]
What I meant was... (2.33 / 9) (#58)
by Psycho Dave on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 05:11:31 PM EST

Look at Star Wars (the first one, I refuse to call it "A New Hope") or The Matrix. Both are fairly self-contained stories, though the universes they imply are often lush for expansion (which is why they are favorites for franchises). Sci-fi flicks are expensive, and risky. For every one that hits, ten miss the mark by a mile.

So you get one that does connect with mainstream audiences and makes a shitload of money. Suddenly the same studio executives who were making the producers kiss their pinky rings to get one more effects shot in are hailing them as geniuses and sending hookers and cocaine to their new pad on Melrose. Soon, they're living in a bubble where everyone says everything that drips from their pen is genius. Fanboy idolation doesn't help either.

Unfortunately, the fanboys are cruel and fickle. They will turn on you faster than a rabid dog or a  popular girl in middle school. It's good the air got taken out of Andy and (huh-huh) Linda Wachowski early--they can go back and possibly create some more interesting work. Lucas psychosis has been fed for as long as I've been alive. Just look at the documentaries on the Star Wars prequels DVDs--surrounded by Yes Men, with no one to stand up and say Jar-Jar was a bad idea.

The moral of this story is, find someone who will give you honest criticism and cherish them. Be it at work, in a relationship, wherever. They will save you from more mistakes than you will ever know.

[ Parent ]

-1, bigot (none / 2) (#77)
by Mizuno Ami on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 02:22:46 AM EST

I was going for a 3, but then you laughed at the sex change. He or she or whatever he wants to get called probably knows a lot more about masculinity than you. You have to before you make a decision like that.

[ Parent ]
Of all the bigoted things I've written here... (none / 1) (#98)
by Psycho Dave on Thu Jun 17, 2004 at 01:19:37 AM EST

...you're the first one to call me out. Kudos.

(you politically correct, liberal, tool of the establishment.)

[ Parent ]

Is this a joke or something? (none / 0) (#113)
by ksandstr on Tue Jun 22, 2004 at 02:58:19 PM EST

I mean, the thought of the "wachowski brothers" becoming, um, the "wachowski siblings" is surreal enough to momentarily peg my weird-o-meter. As in, I'm kind of expecting them to marry each other any time now, if this turns out to be true.

It's also a funny thought that someone who'd explicitly want to ditch their masculinity (naughty bits included) had some hidden knowledge with regard to it that the rest of us had somehow missed.

I guess what I'm asking is, has this bit been confirmed at all?

Gegen kommunismus und bolschewismus und terrorismus, jawohl!

[ Parent ]

I used to read them... (2.66 / 9) (#21)
by myrspace on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 02:04:33 AM EST

but the formatting soemtimes gave them away. I get the 'Is that really work related or are you just procrastinating your procrastinating bitch' and quickly alt tab to excel to pretend it was some important maths thesis reference or soemthing.

Also, avoid scripts by cary grant namely Jay And The Silent Bob, Dogma, Mallrats etc. Trying not to giggle is even harder than trying to look busy.

I usually avoid the early drafts because well, simply because. On the other hand a good reading experienc would be Big Fish (which visually turned out exactly as I had imagined it from reading the script except for the bit where they reach a fork in the road. Being left handed, I visualised the fork branching out left, but it branched right in the movie hinting at a right handed director/art lead)

On the other hand, if you can't read scripts you can always play nethack and pass it off for some network diagram or something. I think someone mentioned that before.

+1 FP you shot your foot (1.09 / 22) (#22)
by muyuubyou on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 02:07:43 AM EST

Showing off your looking-busy-but-doing-shit skills won't help you find a job. Especially when your resume with your real name is two clicks away from your K5 profile, Mr Andy Zebrowitz from Roswell, GA.

I loved the article, though. Keep it up.

Should I be impressed? (none / 3) (#25)
by kitten on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 02:22:29 AM EST

I mean, if I was concerned about my information being out in the open like that, I wouldn't have it right there, freely available.

Also, who said I was looking for work?

Finally: At this point, if I was ever interviewed by a K5 user, I think he or she would have an awful lot more to consider than this one article.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
of course you shouldn't be impressed (1.00 / 4) (#31)
by muyuubyou on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 03:29:53 AM EST

It was quite obvious.
I mean, if I was concerned about my information being out in the open like that, I wouldn't have it right there, freely available.

Then why have you taken it down?

You should add some meat to your CV instead of taking it down and putting a goatse pic in place.

Also, who said I was looking for work?

Your "HIRE ME" link? You probably took it down too, but I'm too lazy to check.

BTW I would hire you regardless of the aforementioned skills, if I had something for you.
You write OK and can use a Palm. More than the average Joe.

[ Parent ]

Then what was the point, really? (none / 3) (#34)
by kitten on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 04:23:59 AM EST

Just to be obnoxoius?

Same reason I replaced it with a goatse picture. :P

That HIRE ME link has been there for years. It's there in case anyone stumbles across my site and feels like throwing me a bone, regardless of my current employment status; I've always been willing to look at other opportunities if they arise.

As it happens, I am looking for work, but as I am now going back to school, I'm looking for bullshit work like waiting tables or something -- where nobody cares that I slacked off during my tenure as a corporate asskicker.

Regarding "add meat to the CV", in the US, we generally don't use CVs. An American employer, by and large, wants to see the abbreviated, bulleted version -- hence, the resume that uses ACTION WORDS like CREATED and DEVELOPED and GETS ON WELL WITH NECROPHILIACS. Not having much experience with CVs myself (as an American), I've come to understand that they are much more in-depth, and often include information that US employers just don't care about.

And if you thought my resume was dull, you should have seen some of the ones that have come across my desk. Page after page of dreary "Responsiblities included..." descriptions in fractured, mangled English, complete with lists of skills such as "Use email" and "Search internet". Compared to the average resume of someone with the same sort of work experience as I have, mine reads like a Shakespearean sonnet.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
WARNING GOATSE LINK (2.00 / 6) (#27)
by Torka on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 02:43:07 AM EST


[ Parent ]
i should have suspected... (none / 0) (#28)
by myrspace on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 02:47:55 AM EST

something was wrong with the 'resume' when only a picture appeared in at the center of the page. (browses without images)

[ Parent ]
you should be embarrased for that....NT (none / 0) (#119)
by yuriwho on Sun Jun 27, 2004 at 03:29:40 AM EST

[ Parent ]
For screenplay and screenwriting information (2.75 / 4) (#33)
by toulouse on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 03:44:09 AM EST

there's a great site which was originally put together by Terry Rossio, a mainstream screenwriter who co-wrote 'Shrek', 'The Mask of Zorro' and both 'Pirates of the Caribbean's.

It doesn't contain screenplays, but is more to do with the art and craft of screenwriting, shining very interesting light on the business climate, and the politics of Hollywood particularly. The most interesting sections for this are the 'Columns' section (all written by either Rossio himself, or his writing partner, Ted Elliot) and the 'Indy Pros' section (columns written by friends and acquaintances in the business). They go quite a long way to explaining what a fucked-up business it actually is.

In more direct relevance to your article: I managed to happily kill almost a week's work of slack work time reading this stuff.

'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki

What is wrong with you people? (2.16 / 6) (#36)
by kitten on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 04:44:31 AM EST

Look, I like the Scorpions and all, but there's no way they should be beating out Van Halen or Bon Jovi. Have you all lost your minds?

And why doesn't Motely Crue have even one vote yet?

I'm gratified to see Guns N Roses in the lead, but come on, people. I swear.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
What's wrong with you? (2.50 / 4) (#46)
by codejack on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 09:10:23 AM EST

You're the one who put up the "best of the worst of the worst" poll :P


Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
no wonder you were laid off (2.66 / 9) (#37)
by ljj on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 05:21:47 AM EST

But perhaps you have a future in writing.


must admit (2.50 / 6) (#38)
by the sixth replicant on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 05:25:14 AM EST

I become a screenplay junkie while i was living in Rome without a TV or laptop, so I spent my sparetime downloading scripts. Got into a lot of TV that way too (the scripts of Buffy are very good)

+1 to you kind sir


I'm an Ego Whore (2.30 / 10) (#39)
by alby on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 05:59:08 AM EST

Just to mention this story, "Four Unproduced Screenplays", that I wrote for K5 a while ago.


great stuff (2.60 / 5) (#42)
by fleece on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 08:26:08 AM EST

draft screenplays, I had no idea. What a great read. First time I've read something all the way through on K5 for ages. +1FP

I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
The illusion of labouring... (2.77 / 9) (#47)
by tap dancing lenin puppet on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 10:33:22 AM EST

I currently work for a medium-sized (50-100 employees) web design firm, and understand entirely about the concentration required to generate the impression of working where there is no work.

Occasionally, I hit a low spot in assigned tasks, so I goof around a bit.  Surf the web, visit Kuro5hin, etc.

When I'm working, I can listen to music, have MSN opened in the background, read the BBC and no one thinks much of it (I can also wear shorts and sandals to work - in fact, I am today).

When I'm not working, creating the illusion of work becomes an encompassing task.  I must find websites which look like they are related to my job, I must keep Word documents open, I must think of things to write in my notebook.  I can't listen to music, because I may be caught reading Kuro5hin/Slashdot/BBC/CBC/Pravda if the boss should come to talk to me.

So it's easier just to work.  As a result of this phenomenon, I tend to just ask for more work whenever I finish what I'm doing, even if it is just busy work.

blah (2.60 / 5) (#49)
by kwm on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 11:16:56 AM EST

if you're lucky enough to have the privilege of wearing headphones while working, audio books are a great way to occupy yourself.

looking busy (2.87 / 8) (#51)
by modmans2ndcoming on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 01:19:45 PM EST

it is not only much more difficult, it is much more important.

if you are super productive and completed all your tasks for the day and then just sat around enjoying a cup of coffee and reading a book as a reward for working so hard, some stupid middle manager is going to come across you and then go right to your boss claiming that you are not working which will bring your boss down on you and ask you why you are being lazy which will force you to explain that you finished all the work for the day, or the week, which will cause your boss to give you more work and scold you for being lazy.

this is a big problem in the business world. they punish the most productive workers by loading on them 2 times the amount of work as normal, and reward the lazy workers by relying less on them and more on the productive workers which lowers the work load of the lazy workers.

Hmm (none / 2) (#53)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 02:07:47 PM EST

this is a big problem in the business world. they punish the most productive workers by loading on them 2 times the amount of work as normal
Oddly enough, that's never happened to me!
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
do you look like your not busy? (none / 1) (#62)
by modmans2ndcoming on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 08:40:27 PM EST

if not then you have learned to look busy which keeps your boss from thinking you need more work.

[ Parent ]
I do try to look busy (none / 2) (#85)
by Cro Magnon on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 10:20:30 AM EST

but I don't decieve my immediate boss. If I'm out of work, I tell him. But there are still periods (like now) when I don't have enough to keep me busy.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
People just want to be rewarded. (2.87 / 8) (#86)
by A55M0NKEY on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 11:31:34 AM EST

People come to work, for the most part, so they will get paid every X weeks. The ones who go to a workaday job do it for the money, plain and simple.

People put in the 'extra effort', for the most part, if they are bucking for a raise or a promotion.'

But if there isn't much opportunity for a raise ( for instance a cap on what you can earn in your position ) or if there isn't much opportunity for a promotion ( or if the employee *doesn't want* to be promoted because that job is more of a headache than it is worth ), then the only reason to do any work at all, is the desire not to get fired, or to strategically build up a reputation for being a 'hard worker' where it will be visible and not require too much actual work so as to enable one to do even less work in the long run without being thought of as lazy. To get away with the most, it is necessary not to take every opportunity to get away with something. This makes you *look* 'honest'.

Honest isn't the right word to use for a real 'hard worker'. The term tastes of a supposed moral superiority, that hard workers do not have over the less hard working. You come to work, they pay you. This is a voluntary arrangement for both parties. If they don't like your level of hard workingness, they can fire you, and if you don't like how much they pay you, you can quit. Doing as little as you can for your money isn't dishonest, it's common sence. Getting as much as you can for the money you pay someone is not dishonest, it's common sence. Bargain hunters are not theives, neither are stores that overprice their goods.

My output is comparable to that of my peers at work. If I could be rewarded for effort over and above the minimum to keep my job, I could produce four times as much. For twice the pay, I would, which would save the company 50%. But if my job paid me twice as much, there would be more competition from potential employees for the position. Maybe someone would be able to produce 5 times as much as I do now for twice what I make now. As it is, I feel confident in my employment, because anyone they hire will be as expensive as me for the same output.

If they were to replace me with someone with the experience to avoid costly mistakes, and to avoid having to learn how to do everything on the job, they will be as burnt out as me. If they hire an eager beaver out of college, then their inexperience will end up costing the company enough that their lower payrate, and higher work ethic will not make employing them a better deal for my employer than employing me.

It doesn't matter how much time tracking crap they make you fill out, you can always shuffle the numbers to work only as much as you are willing to for the pay.

Sane people do not work their butts off for raises within a position. When normal effort is 25%, a few extra peanuts isn't worth working 300% harder. Most of the time raises are awarded to people who have done something visibly good who may or may not deserve them I.E. Randomly. People will work their butts off for promotion because it enables them to collect a bigger paycheck for the same 25% effort or less into perpetuity. However this is a pyramid scheme. As you rise, you soon you find yourself among the most successful masters of sheisterism in the company - all day long. They spend all day manipulating, maneuvering, undercutting, backstabbing each other as they jostle to be the next to rise one level higher on the pyramid. Spending all day fighting with sheisters in meetings, and in email, unable to drop focus for an instant producing nothing of value doesn't sound very fun...

[ Parent ]

Hardly working. (none / 3) (#52)
by Vainamoinen on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 01:20:44 PM EST

at least on anything I'm paid to.

I have an external studio (sound-proof no less) from our offices.

I have this hammock dangling from the beams ...

appearing to be busy... (1.83 / 6) (#54)
by rmg on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 02:36:30 PM EST

well, like most workers, i'm not too keen on my employer. i do whatever i can to waste its money. for example, i post on kuro5hin a lot. but there's so much more i do to keep productivity low and punish them for giving me only three weeks paid vacation.

for one, whenever i have to write code that other people won't read, i make sure it's broken in subtle ways that won't be noticed in testing. like one time i wrote a helper class whose destructor overruns a buffer in the payroll code and makes it so it randomly drops people's paychecks. it was classic. of course, this class is in some obscure file that only i look at and it's extremely complex and esoteric, so no one but me would ever figure out what the hell is going on. lol!

that's what's great about being a programmer. it's so easy to fuck them back. and you hardly have to work at all anyway! best gig ever.

your daily shot of schadenfreude

dave dean

I think (none / 0) (#65)
by finality on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 09:08:02 PM EST

you accidentally posted this to the wrong website.
This account has been anonymised. If you can give a good reason why, email rusty@kuro5hin.org, as he is obviously lacking one.
[ Parent ]
wow (none / 2) (#67)
by yoders on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 09:15:48 PM EST

please tell me you are kidding. you are talking about getting back at an employer because they did what exactly? Hired you? Give you a paycheck? Give you *three* weeks of vacation?
"It doesn't work, but that's okay because we finished ahead of schedule" --anonymous
[ Parent ]
come on, three weeks is nothing. (2.42 / 7) (#68)
by rmg on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 09:24:05 PM EST

i can hardly settle my business in barbados in five days, leaving me only sixteen more days to visit my wife's parents in thailand for christmas and somehow squeeze in a vacation in the summer. it's nuts.

i'm sorry, but living like that just isn't worth 95k a year.

your daily shot of schadenfreude

dave dean
[ Parent ]

Grrr... (none / 1) (#108)
by tap dancing lenin puppet on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 09:48:06 AM EST

i'm sorry, but living like that just isn't worth 95k a year.

As someone who works pretty damned hard and makes around 30k a year, allow me to say...

Smashes beer bottle and wields broken bottle neck

I kill you!!!

[ Parent ]

It's like William S Burroughs said (3.00 / 4) (#73)
by JayGarner on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 11:58:45 PM EST

You got 'the policeman inside', son <points at forehead>.

[ Parent ]
Deplorable! (none / 1) (#79)
by Shajenko on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 02:44:26 AM EST

You should be ashamed of the things you are doing! It's just wrong!

You also shouldn't do things like unplugging a server when no one's around, throw out important papers from files, leave lights and water on overnight, and all sorts of other things that could cost the company money!

[ Parent ]
this one pc tech I knew (none / 0) (#105)
by phred on Thu Jun 17, 2004 at 06:46:53 PM EST

he used to visit a users desk, insert the 98 boot floppy in the pc, have the user reboot the pc, step out, then come back and look shocked like the pc really bit the dust. I got a kick out of that, the key is having the user do the reboot.

Mild stuff tho I know.

[ Parent ]

Yeah (2.66 / 6) (#55)
by Anonymous Hiro on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 03:29:37 PM EST

For most people telling lies is quite stressful. IMO it's good to keep it that way, so you tell as few lies as possible.

Unfortunately after many years of marketspeak some people can no longer tell the difference. Their conscience has been seared or something.

My ex-boss once said I needed a course on "business writing". So I asked him why? He said to present things clearly AND concisely to customers.

I said that I already could already do that. But turned out that's not actually what he really wants ;). He wanted more BS.

Wouldn't it be easier for a customer to understand "The proposed firewall will be used to control network traffic between network A and network B. In our experience it's a pretty good fit for the job - because it supports ABC, XYZ, etc which is what we think you want and need, and best of all, it's cheaper than the other firewalls we know of that meet the spec."

Rather than the usual bullshit that takes up a full page or even more?

You save a lot of space and time once you take out the "leverage blahblahblahblah bullshit to synergize blahblahblah more multisyllabic bullshit".

I mean, it's weird+funny+disgusting that so many people seem to agree all that is bullshit, and yet many continue to use it, consider documents with lots of it as "professional", and a "good thing".

Of course perhaps it may mean that proposals for some stuff would be just a few paragraphs, and there wouldn't even be a proposal for some other stuff, coz the customer with half a brain will quickly figure out that it's useless ;).

I personally wouldn't want to spend so much of my life writing bullshit. Coz even if you cut out the bullshit, often there's actually a lot of true or nonBS stuff left to write.

it's really not that hard (none / 2) (#82)
by DominantParadigm on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 06:29:00 AM EST

Subject: Firewall for A and B

The proposed firewall meets the required specifications.  Compared to the other firewalls we have tested(X, Y, and Z), it will have the lowest cost over its useful lifetime.

As per your request, the firewall will be used to connect Networks A and B.  It should meet all future requirements, including support for ABC and DEF.

Caller:So you're advocating bombing innocent children? Howard Stern:Yes, of course!

[ Parent ]
Yah (none / 1) (#84)
by Anonymous Hiro on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 10:17:53 AM EST

Yah that's better.

I've been working on a proposal over the past few days, so was too lazy to spend time to make the example shorter :). I was modifying an existing proposal template, and some parts were almost puke-inducing.

After all that exposure, maybe I'm on my way towards writing more and more marketspeak without realizing it!

[ Parent ]

Be creative (2.50 / 6) (#57)
by Orion Blastar on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 05:03:24 PM EST

calling yourself an all-purpose computer bitch is not a very good title. Calling yourself an IT Manager is a much better title and may actually be more accurate.

If they ask you what you did, say that you wore many hats. You did tech support work and training (helped your boss print out an email), that you supervised and managed others (saw what your coworkers were doing), and did research (web surfing). If they ask you for details, say that you signed a non-discloser agreement with your former employer and a lot of your research work was top secret.

If your boss asks what you are doing, say you are thinking of a way to solve a problem that has been affected your department, and now you lost your train of thought because he/she distracted you and you had the solution, but now you forgot it. How would they know if you had the answer or not. Say you were trying to find a way to increase productivity and motivate the coworkers into doing their projects instead of goofing off. Apparently that is what you wrote about anyway, trying to find something to do because you had nothing to do. If your boss catches you sleeping, say you were meditating and think better with your eyes closed.

If they do ask what you were researching, tell them prior art, that would cover your script archiving activities. Just do not tell them what art you were looking at.

I only say these things because coworkers have used them to get out of work, and use excuses to cover themselves when they got caught goofing off.

One coworker avoided work by becoming the office snitch and rumor-monger. He would take pictures of coworkers and their cubicals, record conversations with a voice recorder, break into voicemail and find private messages, report what he found to management to get people in trouble, and whatever dirt he could not dig up, he made up in rumors. He would Photoshop pictures, edit audio, do what he could to get fake evience. He would also plant evidence when a coworker was not in the office in their cubical so that managers can find it. All of a sudden someone who took a vacation that day had porno mags, empty scotch bottles, pepto bismo, perscription medication with the name worn off the labels, sex toys, and other things in their desk and trashcan, etc. After the manager sees all the evidence and writes up the coworker, the snitch removes all the evidence so the victim never knew why they got fired. According to my contacts, the snitch still works at my former employer. They'd fire him, but he has evidence on the managers and threatened to take them down with him if they let him go.
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***

That shit's tight (none / 1) (#70)
by Nigga on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 11:34:40 PM EST

I give that snitch fucker his props. That's some straight hu$tling right there kids. Pay attention.

The fuck happened to Nigga?
[ Parent ]

Damn, I am going down that path (none / 0) (#72)
by JayGarner on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 11:57:30 PM EST

One of my coworkers is falling asleep all the time. I am trying to catch it on film but he has some one-eye-open catnap thing going on so it's not so easy.

I probably wouldn't use it against him, though. I just want a picture of it.

[ Parent ]

Actually, that's what I do. (none / 1) (#78)
by kitten on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 02:23:27 AM EST

If they ask you what you did, say that you wore many hats.

My resume is laden with that kind of garbage. I have stuff in there like "Created customized desktop builds to facilitate homogeneous end-user environment" (installed Office XP).

Don't misunderstand -- I did quite a lot at that place. If it involved computers, or even anything vaguely electronic, I was the go-to guy for anyone in the office plus a crew of field employees in various parts of the country.

The difference is, that all the stuff I did was spaced out over a year and a half or so, and it's what normal people would probably do in a month. So like I said, there was a lot of downtime.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Bonus points for the self-contradictory quote. n/t (none / 0) (#114)
by ksandstr on Tue Jun 22, 2004 at 03:00:21 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Good article. (2.00 / 4) (#59)
by anticlimax on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 06:36:00 PM EST

I was always good at shirking projects for the major part of the day when I worked in some unmentionable company's IT department. My desk and cubicle was situated in such a way that it was impossible to see my monitor without actually walking behind me, and seeing that I would always place obstacles around the entrance (I got the idea after reading a book about the defenses of Normandy on D-Day), I would have plenty of time to Alt-Tab and bring up an IDE.

On a given day, I would probably play about 4 hours of Counterstrike, 2 hours of Yahoo Chess, and do about 45 minutes of actual work (I took long bathroom breaks too). I ended up getting canned because our company eventually jumped on the outsourcing wagon. What a bunch of pricks.

You boss should be fired (none / 2) (#60)
by svampa on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 07:06:02 PM EST

Your boss has a task to acomplish, and some resources (you and other workers), he must schedule sub-tasks and asign them to people.

What you mean is :

a) Your boss doesn't know what resources are available, and doesn't know what to do with them.
b) Your boss is doing exactly the same you do, that is, nothing but look busy... so we should wonder what hell your boss's boss is doing

If you have no boss, the guy that hired you should be fired. He hired a person nobody know what for

I guess your company is near a traumatic restructuration that will fire 50% of its staff, and probably you will be one chosen ones

You didn't read this very carefully, did you? (none / 2) (#64)
by kitten on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 09:04:02 PM EST

I said I was laid off in 2003. After working there for a year and a half, I think they figured out I wasn't doing much.

Although, ironically, once I left, they found out how much "behind the scenes" stuff I was doing that they never knew about -- things that were keeping their sorry asses up and running.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Also (none / 2) (#71)
by JayGarner on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 11:54:31 PM EST

It's funny how everyone focuses on you slacking off at work, when that was really like the first 10 minutes of a Simpsons episode, where they set up the story for the remaining 20 minutes, and the main point of your article is how reading movie scripts is kind of a cool/fun thing you've found.

[ Parent ]
Also (2.85 / 7) (#76)
by kitten on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 02:10:49 AM EST

I'm sure they're all super productive at work, the entire time they're there. Yes sir, not one among the whiners here would even get up for so much as a cup of coffee. Roll in early, churn their work out at an intense pace until closing time, and then ask to stay late -- that's the way they do it.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
actually.. (none / 1) (#96)
by QuantumG on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 11:56:53 PM EST

it wasn't the fact that you were unproductive that worries us, it is the fact that you lie through your teeth about what you are doing.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
Yeah sure (none / 1) (#106)
by kitten on Thu Jun 17, 2004 at 10:10:35 PM EST

"Sir, I'm not doing anything because there's nothing to do and there never is. To be honest, you're paying me for no reason and if I left, it wouldn't make a difference to the company, seeing as how there's never anything for me to do."

I'm sure you'd say that.

As I explained to Michael Crawford below, this isn't to say I was useless to the company -- only that the workload was stretched out over such a ridiculously long time that I'd accomplish in six months what others would probably do in a month or two. I was doing an awful lot of "behind the scenes" stuff that my bosses probably never knew about or regarded as unimportant -- which is also why I was laid off in early 2003.

Ironically, it wasn't long before they realized all the things I had been doing to keep stuff up and running, that they took for granted.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Agreed, but (none / 0) (#97)
by JayGarner on Thu Jun 17, 2004 at 12:09:00 AM EST

I'm not sure your assumption that they're employed is valid.

Anyhow, I've worked with programmers where if they had spent the whole day screwing around instead of concocting spaghetti code from hell, we'd all be better off.

[ Parent ]

Dunno. (none / 1) (#81)
by vectro on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 04:37:14 AM EST

I do some consulting work here and there. I recently discovered that one of my clients has no idea whatsoever why it is that they pay me money.

Doesn't make them stupid, just means that they have more important things to worry about. I think people tend to assume I wouldn't be generating billable time if it wasn't necessary.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

Huh... (none / 2) (#61)
by nomic on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 08:09:04 PM EST

I must be doing something wrong then.

In the first quarter of this year there was some bit of busy work to finish. Although boring, it was necessary. The only problem was that there wasn't any other work scheduled.

I let my boss know that there was a lack of work, but at least I could finish what we have. So, I took my time and finally finished the work by the end of the quarter.

Next quarter, there's no work. I talk to my boss about it. Nope, nothing significant. He came up with some busy work they'll throw away. Then I talked to his boss, the VP. He said he'd talk to my boss. Still nothing. But they assured me my job was safe and they needed me.

I interviewed with another company. Oddly, I now have a lot of work to finish with my final two weeks here. I'll be getting a substantial pay raise from the new job and a lot of interesting work.

Go figure.

Efficient working practices and honesty. (3.00 / 8) (#63)
by Etherael on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 09:00:22 PM EST

I just finished an 80 hour week, probably about which 30 hours involved sitting there waiting for a problem to arise, I was doing development on a database system and always finished my tasks before everyone else in the project.

Even though I made no secret of the fact that I was oftentimes quite unbusy, surfing random websites, refreshing my history, studying 1964 Konfrontasi and stuff while I was idling, and when asked what I was doing, quite bluntly saying "Nothing, at the moment, do you need any help?" I never got hassled about it.

I think it's the attitude you take when you are confronted with someone asking what you're up to, if you act defensively, they will naturally assume that you have something to hide, if you act in a helpful fashion, they may be quite satisfied and leave you to go about your business.

Thirty of those hours were double time and I'm a contractor, too, I'm just now getting used to the fact that people genuinely will pay you to sit around doing whatever you please *as long as* you are prepared to be instantly responsive and helpful when your assistance is required, it's really quite a good deal in my opinion.

I noticed someone else saying that efficient and productive workers who finish earlier are punished with more work, this was the case with me, I was doing more than everyone else, but if you genuinely enjoy your job, is that really a punishment? If I can assist my colleagues by taking some of the burden that they're struggling with, and probably enjoy the mental challenge of the work to boot, I don't think that's much of a punishment personally.

ya ain't in europe (1.83 / 6) (#69)
by bankind on Tue Jun 15, 2004 at 10:42:47 PM EST

this type of silent rebellion, like the slave that leaves some cotton on the bush, is destroying American productivity. I suggest you think about what your laziness does for everyone else in having to pick up your slack.

Don't come crying to me when you're the one working 80 hours a week making socks to export to China. Once again, I must conclude a debtors prison would solve most of these petty, middle class sins.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman

Didn't he point out (none / 0) (#83)
by wurp on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 09:37:27 AM EST

that is company had nothing for him to do?  AFAICT his choices were to make his boss stop pretending there was nothing for him to do (therefore getting himself fired & helping no one, since the company isn't doing anything useful anyway) or satisfy his boss that he was doing bullshit meaningless work which was all he had to do anyway.

Assuming what he says is true, his slacking wasn't hurting the company.  I suppose the truly stand-up reaction would be to hunt down the funders & tell them what's up, but I imagine they would be upset with him for informing him their investment was stupid.
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]

well (1.75 / 4) (#87)
by bankind on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 01:38:47 PM EST

poliitical expression limits productivity, but it sounds to me that reading screenplays during paid working hours equals theft. It is a shame that these people don't loose a hand for this sin.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

bullshit (none / 2) (#90)
by QuantumG on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 08:50:25 PM EST

By pretending to do work he's misinforming his manager who cannot utilize him as a resource so he goes and finds someone else to do the work. If when his manager approached he said what he was honestly doing he would be assigned work to do, even if it was pointless busy work it would be something which adds value to the company (which reading scripts is not!) If he was in a job like mine where the work is assigned in fits and starts even though a good half of the employees are slacking most the time then he'd have justification for doing this kind of stuff at work.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
Read again. (none / 1) (#91)
by kitten on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 09:17:07 PM EST

wurp said, Didn't he point out that is company had nothing for him to do?

Which is true. I explicity stated that there was nothing for me to do. Then you come back with this brilliant gem: By pretending to do work he's misinforming his manager who cannot utilize him as a resource so he goes and finds someone else to do the work.

He didn't have to find anyone else to do work because there was no work to be done. In case you're unaware of how the corporate world operates, managers frequently ask "What are you working on?" without the intention of determining your availability for additional assignments. They're just asking to make sure you're doing something.

If there's never anything to do, and you don't bother hiding that fact, all that'll happen is you'll get laid off (not exactly fired since fired implies you were dismissed for doing something wrong, whereas laid off implies you lost the position when the company decided your salary wasn't worth whatever you were doing).

So are you seriously suggesting that everyone should openly admit they aren't doing anything? What would that accomplish?

By the way, managers don't care if you're working on something if they have something else for you to do. Usual dialogue goes like this:

BOSS. What are you working on?
YOU. I'm doing $STUFF.
BOSS. Okay, well, when you're done, I need you to do $SOMETHING_ELSE. (alternative: Okay, well, drop that for now and get to work on $OTHER_ASSIGNMENT.)

In which case you'll get the assignment whether you claim to be busy with something else or not.

mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
I again call shanigans (none / 1) (#92)
by QuantumG on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 10:06:19 PM EST

Lull periods happen and managers know this. As long as I am at my desk and available to do work when asked my manager doesn't care what I am doing. Why? Because he knows that he has no work to assign to me. He'll never fire you or "lay you off" because that would reduce his little empire by one employee. When the shit hits the fan he needs you available to pick up the ball and run with it. Now if you happen to never be available to pick up that ball because of all the shit you're pretending to do then eventually he is going to fire your ass because you're useless. Perhaps you're simply not aware of the conversations that go on between people who are not slackers.

Manager: What are you working on?
Employee: Nothing.
Manager: Why not?
Employee: You havn't assigned me anything.
Manager: Why didn't you come to me when you had no more work to do?
Employee: I asked you want you wanted me to work on after I handed in that report and you said you'd get back to me.
Manager: Oh. Well Bob needs help with the fooby report.
Employee: Ok.

Of course, in your workplace Bob would have had to struggle through the fooby report on his own because your manager was unable to do his job thanks to his employees lying to him about their workload.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]

Yeah, unless of course (none / 2) (#93)
by kitten on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 10:14:13 PM EST

The company is strapped for cash and looking for ways to cut spending (e.g., layoffs). And if the manager is just asking for the sake of asking, and not to determine your availability for additional assignments (which is often the case, I remind you), the dialogue looks more like this:

Manager: What are you working on?
Employee: Nothing.
Manager: Why not?
Employee: You havn't assigned me anything.
Manager: Why didn't you come to me when you had no more work to do?
Employee: I did, and you said you'd get back to me. In the meantime I couldn't find anything to do on my own.
Manager: Oh. Well.
Employee: Did you have something for me to do?
Manager: Not right now. I'll get back to you.
Employee: Ok.

Pretty soon he'll figure out the truth, which is that there isn't a hell of a lot for that employee to do at this company, and he'll have to decide whether keeping the employee on the payroll 8 or 9 hours a day is worth the once or twice a week he actually has something for the employee to do -- maybe he could do without that employee, or give those occasional assignments to someone else, and save the employee's salary for the company to spend on more useful things.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
IF that were the case (none / 2) (#94)
by QuantumG on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 10:29:53 PM EST

Then the company would be in seriously bad shape and you shouldn't want to work on a sinking ship anyway. Show some professionalism for fuck sake.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
plenty of work here (none / 1) (#95)
by shokk on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 11:03:42 PM EST

Heh sounds familiar. In my side of the corporate planet, when a manager comes by to ask "What you are doing?", it is just a feint of idle chit chat before they dump another project on you. "Oh you were working what I asked you to do this morning? Well this here is your new #1 priority. By the way, why didn't you get that other thing done that I asked you for yesterday? The thing I gave you this morning...I already announced it to the company." Enter micromanagee hell, where the managers' project management skills consist of swinging a shovel full of projects at a small crowd of people stuck in the 9th circle...if they hit you, the project is yours. Woe be unto those whose office is closest to the manager's for the path he takes stops at the closest occupied one at which a project will be deposited. Let him who hath understanding recon the number of the projects...it's number is 666. Forget about schedules, it's all needed NOW. And everything is Priority 1. By the way, we don't plan on hiring anyone within the next year to take some of the load off and if anyone leaves we plan on calling that successful cost saving rather than hiring a replacement. Worse than having nothing to do, is having too much to do to the point of complete inefficiency. I can feel my system thrashing...
"Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart, he dreams himself your master."
[ Parent ]
A Bank (none / 3) (#110)
by katie on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 12:32:10 PM EST

I used to work for, assigned priorities 1-5 to things. They were SO badly organised that the flailing sucked up so much time that they never got to do anything prioritised 2-5. So people just started to assign everything a "1".

Eventually, they came up with the neat idea of having a "1*" when they couldn't do all the "1" things.

I left before I found out what happened next...

[ Parent ]

Third option (none / 0) (#117)
by irrevenant on Sun Jun 27, 2004 at 02:43:54 AM EST

A third option is to look for another job elsewhere.  Years spent looking busy are years that could be spent learning a job and moving up the ladder.  They'd certainly be less boring, IMO...

[ Parent ]
I can't believe... (2.00 / 4) (#74)
by Zerotime on Wed Jun 16, 2004 at 01:25:06 AM EST

...that you voluntarily read the entire script for Neuromancer.

"I live by the river
With my mother, in a house
She washes, I cook
And we never go out."

IRC (none / 2) (#100)
by eeg3 on Thu Jun 17, 2004 at 03:00:45 AM EST

and how long can you really stare at an IRC channel and nothing else?

Eh... you'd be surprised. IRC is life! Don't believe me? Look at some IRC stats pages.

-- eeg3(.com)
Says the schmuck... (none / 0) (#112)
by piranha jpl on Mon Jun 21, 2004 at 09:37:54 AM EST

that surpassed me.

- J.P. Larocque
- Life's not fair, but the root password helps. -- BOFH

[ Parent ]
Tech Noir (none / 1) (#101)
by Robert Acton on Thu Jun 17, 2004 at 07:28:53 AM EST

Seems like a good time to share my experience with any students here planning a career in I.T., based on the feeling that they enjoy computers. Or, come to it, anyone proactive enough to switch careers mid-life.

Consider a degree in something outside your comfort zone instead. Geology, commerce, language, whichever. You'll learn and grow a whole lot more -- I'm talking orders of magnitude -- and your working life will likely be far more rewarding than one based around programming and fixing machines that few else care to understand. For all the reasons above and below.

I am cured.

Re: Tech Noir (none / 0) (#115)
by ksandstr on Tue Jun 22, 2004 at 03:19:13 PM EST

That's exactly what I've been telling my friends and other acquaintances these past three years: don't turn your main hobby into a profession (i.e. something you do for others' money). Working in an environment with even a moderate to low amount of micromanagement tends to kill all the fun you'd get from the hobby even outside working hours, and that kind of shit really isn't worth the money unless you're getting paid something really obscene[1].

Too bad that I haven't really got a second profession. Hell, at this point even a second hobby would do.

[1] And by obscene I mean in the range of "work one year, goof off on your savings for four".

[ Parent ]

Forget about looking busy... (none / 1) (#102)
by cione on Thu Jun 17, 2004 at 12:25:27 PM EST

Yeah the days when you are so busy come and go but the days where keeping your eyes open is an issue. You know the drill: rub eyes, drink coffee, repeat as needed. Worse yet is when the the day take about 32 hours just to get to lunch. Ever been caught falling asleep? Thats the worst except for at least now you got a twenty min conversation on why your so tired. Those days suck.

Why do the Unfortunate have all the luck???

Surprising (2.87 / 8) (#103)
by baalz on Thu Jun 17, 2004 at 12:38:07 PM EST

Whats surprising is the number of responses that essentially say "be more productive, don't slack off!".  What I think a lot of people miss is that when you're an employee selling your time to a company, you're not selling productivity, you're selling the perception of value.  Simply, a good employee is whatever employee the boss thinks is good, NOT the one that is the most productive.  If you're working for somebody else, you're not selling/building/supporting widgets, you're selling yourself to your boss (which usually involves impressing him with your widget skills).  Always keep that in mind, because you can easily be fired/laid off even if you're the most productive person in the company.  Its all fine and well to do the work because you enjoy to do the work, but always keep in mind that at the end of the day what keeps the paychecks coming is that you keep your boss(es) impressed.

If you work on an assembly line, it's pretty straightforward how to sell yourself to your boss.  More widgets per hour than average will probably get you a pat on the back.  When working at more nebulous tasks like software development it gets a lot more complicated.  If you can finish that 100 hour task in a week, would it make your boss think you're more valuable?  Maybe not.  Take a look at the following two strategies.

Employee A has a task estimated to take 100 hours, but he finishes it in 40 and bugs his boss for more work.  Boss grumbles because original estimate was off and now he has to reshuffle schedule and find more work for employee A.  Boss grumbles more because employee doesn't always look busy (mostly because boss doesn't understand in depth all the things that need to be done). Boss grumbles even more because corporate bean counters hold him accountable for making sure employee A is 100% utilized, and he has a headache managing that since the whole project schedule is out of whack now. Boss manages to get employee A another 60 hours of work.  Emergency bug fix comes up employee pitches in for a few days consequentially  misses his original development schedule by a couple days.  Boss grumbles because schedule needs to be revised again due to slippage.

Employee B has a task estimated to take 100 hours, but he finishes it in 40 and then spends his effort LOOKING busy.  Emergency bug fix comes up, and employee B does an apparently hurculean job of pitching in for a few days and STILL coming in a couple days ahead of schedule on is original task.

Who is the better employee?  

better employee (2.85 / 7) (#109)
by eudas on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 10:59:44 AM EST

well, it's definitely not the manager.

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

The Pheremones put this story to music (none / 1) (#104)
by mcgrew on Thu Jun 17, 2004 at 06:08:59 PM EST

I recently purchased a TEAC 4100X with 3 heads, 3 motors, and a Sansui 3660, 45 watts per channel, Dolby X, DBX, hi-tech specs, 30 to 20000 hz so I can listen to adult contemporary music ... cranked up to 3.

In my 3-level attached suburban townhouse with a community pool and rec room, 495 p.i. year 1 through 3, 795 p.i. years 3 through 35, thousand others in the 3-blocks square, they don't know I'm there ... unless I park in their parking space.

I traded my GTO for a Jap Jet 300 ZX, then a BMW, 5-speed, A/C, P/B, P/S, 2 bucket seats, sound system hurts my ears, goes fast (55), personalized license plate that says "Sparky" (Sparky) (Sparky) ... but it's in the shop.

[chorus] Yuppie Drone. Yuppie Drone. Yuppie Drone. Yuppie Drone. Yup- Yup- Yup- Yup- Yup- Yup- Yup- Yup- Yup- Yup- Yup- Yup- Yuppie Drone

I wake up early with Mister Coffee, jump in the carpool with Fred and Alice and Charlie so we can drive downtown, predawn, in the express lane, HOV-4, 395, 6 a.m., it doesn't matter ... it still takes an hour to go 5 miles.

I wear a suit and tie but I still have lots of T-shirts that I don't wear - there's no time. I got out of college and freaked, so I grabbed a job with a big corporation that treats me like POOP. But I don't care 'cause the pay's OK and the benefits are great ... Don't ask me what we make.


Me and my lady-person who I met at the happy hour, 4 to 7, at Chumley's Bar downtown during a snowstorm last year. We both love margueritas and Jimmy Buffet, TOOT, jogging, jacuzzis, and shopping at Dart Drug, "Compare and Save," "We will not be undersold." ... (You Bet!)

I trusted George in '72, hated Tricky Dicky with a passion, championed the poor down-trodden masses. Don't call me middle-class. What's mine is mine. I don't like war, but the bread is good. Ronnie's not so bad as Fritz or Carter's hicks. Right is new, left is out, twist and shout. I love my car and house. I love my car and house. I love my car and house. I love my car and house. I love my car and house. I love my car and house. I love my car and house. I love my car and house. I love my car and house. I love my car and house. I love my car and

[chorus twice]

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

Master of the Bogan (none / 0) (#107)
by Cackmobile on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 07:08:25 AM EST

thats awesome. In Oz (more specifically Melbourne) a bogan is a white trash type person.

It's not Melbourne-specific. (none / 1) (#111)
by Zerotime on Sun Jun 20, 2004 at 10:22:21 AM EST

"I live by the river
With my mother, in a house
She washes, I cook
And we never go out."

[ Parent ]
Surprised no one's mentioned this one yet (none / 0) (#116)
by ksandstr on Tue Jun 22, 2004 at 03:38:41 PM EST

Work on some of your own stuff.

This tends to require that you have a clean SSH connection to the outside world and all that, but if people can't tell whether you're working on the whichever XML processing phase of your in-house reporting & billing system or your own XML gadget that organizes your porn collection, there's next to nothing to stop you from putting the rest of your budgeted time to better use than just thumb-twiddling.

Just make sure that you check-in your changes to the revision control system, if you have to use one, at the end of the day, rather than the point when you left off with the official crap. Some anal-retentive managers actually check these things, with the advent of mouth-breather compatible CGI repository browsers &c.


Get A LIFE (none / 0) (#118)
by yuriwho on Sun Jun 27, 2004 at 03:22:39 AM EST

GET A JOB! I sure hope I do not hire you Have you considered trying to succeed in job and life?

Get a grammar book. (none / 0) (#120)
by kitten on Sun Jun 27, 2004 at 08:44:36 PM EST

mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Working Hard, Hardly Working | 121 comments (90 topical, 31 editorial, 0 hidden)
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