This one is for managers and supervisors. Here’s a simple test that may be revealing: when you walk around, do the people you manage ALWAYS look busy?
Even on a factory floor there are pauses, lulls, and interruptions. In the cube farms of the modern office (which I detest), real work isn’t accomplished by the constant pounding on keyboards.
If your people are always, always busy, it’s likely that they’re not actually working. They’re putting on a show. A special, “look busy” show for just one audience member: you. I call it “productivity theater.”
If that’s the case, they’re not working at all. “Looking busy” isn’t getting work done. Your staff is wasting time to make you feel good. Great managing there, Bucky.
Busyness isn’t a good measure of productive work. The only useful measure of productive work is the result. You can ask for results on a schedule and receive good work, but the “manage by walking around” to see if everyone is busy is probably slowing down actual work.
I’m not suggesting that you stop walking around. What I am recommending is that you let your staff know that you don’t care about how busy they look. Talk openly with the people you work with and find out how they best work and what they need. When you walk around, ask how you can help to make their tasks easier. That’s your job as a manager: to help your staff get work done.
And get rid of the productivity theater. It’s not that entertaining. It’s a symptom of a broken workplace.
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