Bartleby, the Scrivener

Anyone?  The art of work avoidance from The Atlantic.

The Art of Not Working at Work
Consider the last novel by David Foster Wallace, The Pale King, in which an IRS worker dies by his desk and remains there for days without anyone noticing that he is dead. This might be read as a brilliant satire of how work drains liveliness such that no one notices whether you are dead or alive. However, in the strict sense of the word, this was not fiction. In 2004, a tax-office official in Finland died in exactly the same way while checking tax returns. Although there were about 100 other workers on the same floor and some 30 employees in the auditing department where he worked, it took them two days to notice that he was dead. None of them seemed to feel the loss of his labors; he was only found when a friend stopped by to have lunch with him. 
How could no one notice? I talked with over 40 people who spent half of their working hours on private activities—a phenomenon I call “empty labor.” I wanted to know how they did it, and I wanted to know why. "Why" turned out to be the easy part: For most people, work simply sucks. We hate Mondays and we long for Fridays—it's not a coincidence that evidence points towards a peak in cardiac mortality on Monday mornings. 
There are, of course, exceptional cases. According to a Gallup report from last year, 13 percent of employees from 142 countries are “engaged” in their jobs. However, twice as many are “actively disengaged”—they’re negative and potentially hostile to their organizations. The majority of workers, though, are simply “checked out,” the report says.


Popular posts from this blog