There’s something that’s been on my mind for a while, and I think this can serve as a warning to those in their twenties who have the idea of spending the next 40 years of their life working for some other man.
A long while ago, I started working a new job. It seemed like typical work, but before too long into it, my supervisor started suggesting certain procedures. You probably already know that a “suggestion” from a supervisor usually comes down to “do as you’re told, or there’s gonna be trouble”, but there’s something more to that particular instance: the procedures that he was suggesting did nothing to make my job more productive, they actually did just the opposite.
It didn’t take long to figure out that for the supervisor it was a matter of pride, or that the person I was replacing didn’t put up with the guy’s shenanigans (my co-workers told me as much).
Because we’ve grown up watching a lot of television, we’ve had it drilled into our impressionable little heads that it’s the hard workers who are the winners, and that if we keep at it, management will eventually take notice, and we’ll achieve that sweet payoff. Of course, as we grow more cynical over the course of our exposure to the real world, we eventually realize that our collective work ethics are being harvested to make other people rich.
In the workplace wilderness, those who actually produce value are prey animals. Their natural predators are those who produce bloat.
Bloat predators usually don’t do much of anything. But when they smell blood, then they’re off to get a piece of the action. This happens when there’s a problem somewhere.
Those who produce value can usually get by without the help of a bloat predator. Often, solving a problem is as simple as making an adjustment to a value or two in a process. However, the bloat predator is out to justify his existence, so he’ll continue to hack away at the issue long after the matter has been solved to the satisfaction of the rest of production. A problem solved by simple adjustments can be expanded into extensive record-keeping, periodic procedures, purchases of new gadgets (that aren’t guaranteed to work), redundant measurements, and on and on.
While the productive prey can attempt to confront a bloat predator, the matter usually won’t go well for the productive, as the typical bloat predator would just label them as problematic, and end up having their way because they tend to be more connected (they know which nuggets to blow).
Over the course of my work life, I’ve encountered bloat. There’s not much that one can do about it. When it gets excessive, it might be time to start looking around, as the company you’re working for might soon be going nipples-up. If you’ve got a side-hustle, it might not be a bad idea to put more energy into that, even if just for mental health. But if you can somehow manage to become self-employed, that might be ideal. In that case, you can decide for yourself how much bloat would interfere with productivity (ideally, it wouldn’t).
But in most workplaces, unproductive people who produce bloat are a fact of life. And for those who produce value, they are a vexation.