'Michelangelos of Work Avoidance,' or, How to Get Paid to Lo

by Vault Education Editors | December 15, 2010

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What are the classic office loafing tactics? I'm not asking because I want you to learn them, of course. I'm asking so you can spot the malingerers and secretly judge them while grinding out another important but thankless project.

Columbia Business School professor Eric Abrahamson, in a recent Forbes piece, pointed out some classic tactics employed by people who get paid to do nothing—"Michelangelos of work avoidance," he calls them, Dalis of dawdling, as I will now not likely call them. Here are a few mentioned in the article.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind:

"If people don't think of you, they can't give you work," Abrahamson says. Other ways to accomplish that: Arrive at different, unpredictable times of day. Work from home. Set up your schedule so that you frequently change locations.

Put on a Happy, Clueless Face

"The principal here is that you try to give work to a person and come to the conclusion that they can't even understand the instructions," Abrahamson explains. In such a case most bosses will figure it's easier to do the work themselves.

I Did That

A time-tested tactic for work avoidance: Take credit for the work of others. Especially popular in academia and in political circles and among senior executives, the idea is to grab the glory for a project that you merely supervised or got started rather than spent hours executing.

Tech-Enabled Hoodwinking

You can program your e-mail to send messages in the wee hours while you're asleep, to give the appearance that you're toiling away at 2 a.m. Or you can program your computer screen, on which you're playing your 17th game of solitaire, to display an Excel spreadsheet at the press of a key if you see the boss approaching. "It's a whole new loafing medium," Abrahamson says. "Cyberloafing is the work avoidance of the future."


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