Are You Guilty of Fake Work?

January 19, 2011 by Bill Bradley


Title: Getting Your Act Together at Work

Competencies: time management, career development, decision-making, managing self

Who benefits: all employees

Consultant Usage: trainers of workplace productivity/time management, executive coaches

What’s it about? The holiday season is now well back in the rearview mirror.  How are you doing on your resolutions?  Did you make any work resolutions?  Before they get completely lost in the in-basket, maybe you could take some time to focus what you really want to accomplish this year.

For starters, how about stop doing “C” priorities and focus on “A” priorities.  It can make all the difference in how you feel about work and have a long-term positive impact on your career. contributor Jason Fitzpatrick has written a short but effective summary on “fake work” at work.  He starts with a premise that all work should contribute directly to your company’s goals or your professional development.  All the more important if you work for yourself.  And if you don’t have goals, set them.  Now.

How do you know if you are doing fake work?  Some signs are simple.  Do you spend endless hours in nowhere meetings?  Have you become an email junky, no longer separating out the crucial few emails from the endless drivel.

Some signs are more complex.  Do you strive for being increasingly more efficient at that which shouldn’t be done at all (to paraphrase Peter Drucker)?  Do  you produce reports no one reads?

I once got so tired of spending hours each month writing a report that I knew was not being read and wasn’t useful anyway.  So one month I wrote a very nicely worded addendum to the report and attached it behind the last page of the report.  In the addendum I asked basically two questions.  “Do you find this report useful?” and “Would you like to continue to receive it?”  I then added that to continue to receiving this report, please send the addendum back to me. I now had taken a “CYA” action.

If memory serves, I sent it to about 15 people, all the way to the top of the organization.  I don’t need much memory to recall the response.  No one replied.

In retrospect a rather hilarious moment occurred about three months later.  I received a summons to the CEO’s office.  In brief, he asked me where the monthly report was.  I replied that I had surveyed all 15 recipients and none had replied saying they would like to continue to receive the report.  “Well,” he said, “you didn’t survey me.”  I asked him if he received the last one I sent out.  He replied that he had and in fact he had in front of him as reminder to ask me about the report.  I politely asked to turn to the final page.  As the cliché goes, the silence was deafening. 

He smiled, admitted that he hadn’t read it and based on our conversation it probably wasn’t worth doing.  I didn’t know it at the time, but we just stopped doing some fake work.

If you think it through, you could weed out some of that clutter too.  Give the article a quick read.  If you like it, it was based on a 2009 book Fake Work: Why People Are Working Harder than Ever but Accomplishing Less, and How to Fix the Problem

Catch you later.
[tags]fake work, productivity, time management, priorities, prioritizing, decision making, managing self, bill bradley, william bradley, bradley[/tags]

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in Leadership Development, Wellness

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  • Excellent. Confession- much of my fake work as an independent is to avoid….progress! tough decisions! conflict! and especially what I perceive as totally, non-value add work: administrive overhead! Thanks for the reminder to get over it…

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