Frontiers of Shirking, via Scott Adams

26 July 2006 at 9:41 am Leave a comment

| Peter Klein |

Nicolai and I have written on the tradeoff between productive and destructive “entrepreneurial” behavior by employees. Decentralization and incentive compensation can increase effort, foster creativity, and facilitate more effective use of dispersed, specific knowledge. On the other hand, employee empowerment allows for shirking, rent-seeking, and other behaviors that reduce firm value. (See, for example, this paper.)

Who better to chronicle the newest and most creative forms of shirking than Dilbert creator Scott Adams? Here are his ten tips for looking busy, from the August issue of Wired:

  1. Complain that you’re totally swamped at every opportunity. Use phrases like “up to my ass in alligators” and “jumping from one fire to another” to make your job sound kind of sexy and dangerous.
  2. Carry a piece of paper wherever you go. To give yourself the necessary urgent facial expression and body language, imagine it’s something incredibly important, like a stay of execution from the governor.
  3. Never clean your cubicle. After all, if you had any spare cycles you wouldn’t let yourself live like a pig.
  4. Emailing looks like work. Email friends and family often.
  5. If you feel like talking instead of working, talk to your boss. That counts as work no matter what you’re chatting about. The ideal topic of conversation is how poorly all of your coworkers are performing.
  6. If you wear glasses, leave an old pair on the desk as though you will be right back. Then go home.
  7. Leave voicemails for coworkers at 1:00 am, even if you’re getting up just to take a whiz. If you really want to inspire awe, leave a message for your boss with your thoughts on the company’s outdated filing system at 11:30 pm on New Year’s Eve.
  8. Be sure to get involved in unquantifiable projects. You want to be doing a lot of consulting and advising and attending. Avoid anything with a hard and fast deadline.
  9. Learn to sleep with your back to the cubicle entrance. You’ll have to practice to keep your head from slumping over, but it’s worth it. If you can’t pull that off, try a neck brace painted the same color as your skin.
  10. Bitch about your job as much as possible. This is considered work even though it’s fun.

Bonus: From the same issue, Rainn Wilson’s tips for sucking up to your boss:

  1. Find out where he takes his dry cleaning and pretend you live nearby. That way you can always say, “Hey, big guy, I can drop something off at the cleaners if you want.”
  2. Station yourself in the parking lot before and after work. If you’re the first and last person your manager sees every day, you’ll seep into his subconscious.
  3. Eavesdrop on his conversations, then feed him back his ideas as if they were your own. He’ll think you can read his mind.
  4. Always compliment his dog first, then his wife and kids. Like all fascist dictators, bosses have a greater intimacy with their pets than with their families.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Ephemera.

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Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Peter G. Klein and Micheal E. Sykuta, eds., The Elgar Companion to Transaction Cost Economics (Edward Elgar, 2010).
Peter G. Klein, The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur: Essays on Organizations and Markets (Mises Institute, 2010).
Richard N. Langlois, The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: Schumpeter, Chandler, and the New Economy (Routledge, 2007).
Nicolai J. Foss, Strategy, Economic Organization, and the Knowledge Economy: The Coordination of Firms and Resources (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Raghu Garud, Arun Kumaraswamy, and Richard N. Langlois, eds., Managing in the Modular Age: Architectures, Networks and Organizations (Blackwell, 2003).
Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, eds., Entrepreneurship and the Firm: Austrian Perspectives on Economic Organization (Elgar, 2002).
Nicolai J. Foss and Volker Mahnke, eds., Competence, Governance, and Entrepreneurship: Advances in Economic Strategy Research (Oxford, 2000).
Nicolai J. Foss and Paul L. Robertson, eds., Resources, Technology, and Strategy: Explorations in the Resource-based Perspective (Routledge, 2000).

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