FUNNY BUSINESS – Show You’re Working, That’s All That Matters – Anuvab Pal

I’ve always loved the idea of face time.A beautiful workplace concept suggesting -even if you have no work to do -you hang around literally to show your face to your boss. To say to her, “Look. I’ve not gone home. I am here. As evidenced by this. My face.“
A boss can revel in the fact that she keeps employees in office till 9 pm and, therefore, can show her seniors, “Look, my team works so hard.“ But this is meaningless when the mind of the employee is somewhere else, most probably on Flipkart.
Essentially , studies have shown that no one really works throughout the day . People work in bursts of about 45 minutes, then go have a cup of tea, then come back and work, then gossip, etc. Actual productive work on a workday is probably only three hours. Within the 10-to-8 workday , if none of the other stuff existed -office politics, pleasing the boss with sycophantic praise, helping a colleague with some errand, the mild flirting, planning the off-site -you could get in at 10 am and be home by lunchtime.
So, the real question: is my employee able to get the work I’ve given him to do, regardless of how quickly he does it? And if he is abler to do it, shouldn’t the reward for efficiency be leaving early -and not seen as a guilty thing with colleagues whispering, “Half-day , huh?“ As a friend in HR explained, “We live in an age where showing you are doing something is far more important than actually doing it. Other peop le’s approval -their `likes’, as Facebook tells us -of your showing, is what drives the world. The photo of the meal you’ve eaten, the celebrity you’ve seen, the beautiful part of the world you stand in front of, to keep a digital album of your good life, to essentially show. It is exactly the same in the workplace.“
So what keeps the archaic idea of the whole office day going? Apparently , the `showing’ or acting out of a lot of work being done.
There are different kinds of acting methods employed to show the boss hard work is being done. Employees who sit around chit-chatting suddenly start talking aggressively to clients on the phone when the boss walks by .Some pace up and down talking loudly on the phone and get even louder near the boss’ cabin to indicate -timing being the basis of all good acting -how aggressive they are.
Then there are those that may not have hit their targets, but try to get any moment they can to get a word in with the boss, not work-related, just to build a private relationship. There are some who try to earn the role of confidante, snitch, former of cliques, the funny guy with the witty quips and mimicry of colleagues. There are some who just want to beat the traffic and stay late, but pretend it’s the work that’s keeping them late.
An employee at a leading multinational in Mumbai explained this to me, “I am a mother of two. I come in. I do my work. I try to go home as quickly as I can when I’ve got everything done. That should theoretically make me a good employee. I’ve realised that it is a disadvantage. I’m not spending enough time creating a character and performing for the office. I need to fit into a character. Doing `a show’ so my audience can say , `Look, she’s a mother, but she’s doing conference calls at midnight! Wow!’“ The goal has always been pleasing upward. The boss. We love hierarchies in India and a boss in the office gave us something to be servile to, so we would get rewarded. All this acting was for that. However, MNCs have changed that as well. So now nobody knows whom the performance is for.
The lovely reality of modern organisations is that there aren’t clear lines of top and bottom. All modern organisations are made up of evolving organisational chart reporting lines, continually reorganising. So, by the time an employee figures out who is above him and who below, it changes again, making the person below his boss. Just to be careful, one should be nice to the photocopying boy because he may just be the new VP of a new division not yet set up.
As the HR person summed up, “When on show, you don’t know who is watching and why he is important.So everyone is your audience: from the sweeper to the CEO. You are always the character you’ve created in office. That’s what takes up all day .“

Source : The Economics Times
Date: 5th Feb 2015

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