Workaholics Anonymous [WA Meeting #1]

All work and no play made Jack a dull boy. Now, Jack has grown up and all work and no play makes him beam, and say stuff like: “Well, what can I do! I am a workaholic.”

How has something that made Jack a dimwit as a kid now become his sole sense of pride?

You see, when Jack began work, he was told things like his job title, his respect, his dignity, his hair, the true essence of his life, the money he’ll make are all directly related to how much ‘longer’ he works. Inspired and wanting to be intoxicated, Jack drowned himself in an alcohol of work. The puffy eyes, the checking on you, and the impressive ability to be irritated at all times is a result of the hangover from the ‘longer’ work for the last ten years. Now, Jack has his promotions – an array of awards cover his desk – and he may just be on the brink of something big if he keeps working like this for another 10 years.

And I kinda want to stop him.

There’s a ten ton elephant sitting in the middle of room with a tattoo on its face that reads: I am a workaholic and I know it. And instead of asking the elephant to go on a diet and make some space, workplaces feed it with a fruit of awards, wash it in a river of dough and condemn an innocent group of mammals called middle managers.

Jack is that elephant.

The problem with Jack is not the fact that he works hard, but that he starts to measure everyone else on his Jacked-up scale of workaholism. For Jack, your worthiness is directly proportional to how much longer you work. Leave before Jack, and he will sneer at you. Leave on time, and he will openly mock you. Leave early, and the elephant called Jack will go berserk. The next day Jack will make it a point tell you about how hard he worked while you were slacking off back at home. This tendency to induce guilt is my greatest qualm with Jack. So, to keep up with the Jacks, you stay on even if that means randomly typing stuff.

Jack’s central belief is: the more he works, the more he gets done. Let’s assume that’s true. What isn’t true though is Jack’s inherent supposition that whatever he is working on must be important. Jack’s checklist always has 27 things to do, and his idea of a productive day is how many of the 27 he gets done, even if 25 of those are absolutely useless. As he starts running out of things to do on the checklist, Jack starts inventing new things to do.

And he has meetings.

Meetings are his breaks – his meta-coffee. The meetings are never less than an hour. You know everything in that meeting can be accomplished in under 10 minutes. You know it because you are taking notes and you see how, after 10 minutes, Jack is talking about random things.

Jack’s great at something though; He’s a great delegator. He will take what must not be done at all and delegate it to 7 different people. And the longer you work on it, the more easy it is to impress him. Go back to him with a solution in an hour and he will treat you like you are some lazy imbecile.

This approach to work frustrates any hope for innovation. All of this focus on everything-in-my-mailbox-is-urgent-and-important-and-must-be-responded-to-or-delgated-to is pervasive. It’s the reason why everyone starting out at work begins to wonder how any of what s/he is working on even matters. The answer: It matters because the elephant said so. The truth: It doesn’t matter, but you should do it anyway because that’s the only way you can become the elephant someday.

It’s easy for Jack to read all this and say, “That’s true. I see people like that. I, however, am now one of them. I leave late because there’s no traffic at that time.”

Well, Jack, I know you have your defense. And that’s why we having a second meeting.

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