Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Look of Busy

Just the other day I was riding the train home from the University and noticed an ad up for Diana Krall's CD - "Look of Love". She was obviously displaying this look while posing for the picture. I don't have this look. When I rise out of bed like she was, I have the look of frumpled (that would be frumpy and crumpled working together). Since I don’t have this “Look of Love”, I pondered on the looks that I do have – and one popped into my mind right away. While working for the government these past few years, I have had to develop and hone the “Look of Busy”.

The “Look of Busy” is a necessary evil while working for the government. During my first few months at the government, I kept asking for more work, completing things way before they were due always let people know that I had more time to do more things. These actions were met with scorn and disdain. I quickly came to realize that the government enjoyed moving at the pace of a water buffalo and so I had to slow right down and meet the expectation of not getting much done. It’s so opposite from the real world of work! If you ask for more work or complete your projects on time or *GASP* before they are due, people start to think you are slightly dull and perhaps mentally challenged. After all, the work is just “so hard and complex”. Obviously, the only reason I was finishing on time or early was because I wasn’t doing it correctly and I am dumb. So, in an act of self preservation, I developed the “Look of Busy”.

What does the “Look of Busy” look like? It’s a complex look that takes years to perfect.

Stage 1 – Develop a furrowed brow while people talk to you and give you work.

Stage 2 – Bring 5 inch binders shoved full of useless documents printed from the internet to all meetings and shuffle through them constantly. Make sure to mutter intermittedly and take copious notes at the meeting. Some people have found that loud, mournful sighing helps.

Stage 3 – Create a disarray of papers, file folders and reports on your desk that have no use whatsoever. People will steer clear of your desk because you are already working so hard!

Stage 4 – When management gives you new things to do, give extended project deadlines: “Well, that would take a non-busy person about 3 weeks to complete…today’s February 12….taking my workload into consideration *SIGH*…I could probably get it to you by September 1. I hope that works, it’s the best I can do.”

Stage 5 – Create non meetings to fill up your calendar so that when people go to book a meeting with you your schedule is completely booked up. Put the most unimportant things you do in your calendar. Some people that have earned the equivalent of a PhD in the “Look of Busy” have calendars like this:
8:30 – 9:00 – Arrive at work (late)
9:00 – 10:00 - Fill water bottle from water cooler on opposite side of the floor and see how everyone is doing on the way back.
10:00 - 10:30 - Coffee break
10:30 – 12:00 – Check email, make personal phone calls to relatives in different countries and pay bills.
12:00 – 1:30 – Extended lunch
1:30 – 3:00 – Print off useless documents from the internet and shuffle papers
3:00 - 3:30 - Another coffee break
3:30 – 4:15 – Do a few moments of actual work and turn it in late due to the ‘hectic schedule” of all government employees.
4:15 – 4:30 – Leave work (early)

Now, I only made it to Stage 3 of the “Look of Busy” and I found it wore on my soul! Imagine how it would be to work there for 35 years! Apparently the pension really helps…or so they say. Most of them could tell me exactly how many minutes they had left before their blessed pension kicked in. Now, all I can do is feel sorry for them as they work diligently at not working.

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