16 October 2013

phoney work ethic, minimum productivity

● Paradoxes of mediocracy #3:
a phoney emphasis on “working hard” coincides with fewer and fewer useful things actually getting done.
– On the one hand, employees of both sexes engage in macho competition about who is working hardest, has most commitments and ‘responsibilities’, has to deal with the most emails, etc. Those who are not seen to be ‘working’ in this strenuous fashion are derided as lazy.
– On the other hand, it gets harder for the ultimate supposed beneficiaries of all this ‘work’ to get products or services they actually want.
Possible explanation? The ‘work’ which everyone is so busily competing to perform is largely self-referential and producer-driven. More cynically, the phenomenon can be regarded as an expression of a desire (and accompanying ideology supporting the desire) not to do anything for other people that will benefit them.
“Sorry, I am much too busy to help you.”
“Sorry, I cannot do that particular useful task you refer to, as I am a highly trained and qualified manager.”
The phoney emphasis on work may also represent a rejection of the bourgeois/aristocratic ethos of being relaxed – though there are of course ways and ways of being ‘relaxed’. As with many key matters of psychology, verbalising the crucial distinguishing features can be difficult.
Running things with a light hand on the tiller, while paying careful attention to detail when you do intervene, could be one way of expressing it. Contrast this with its inversion: breathless activity for its own sake, with minimum concern for ramifications or the finer points of implementation.
A total absence of useful output may pass completely unnoticed in the case of a non-market service, given that ‘consumers’ are not spending their own money, usually have no choice, and may even be getting the ‘service’ imposed on them against their will.