Fake Work is Destroying America!

Fake Work is Destroying America!

Written by Mark

Topics: Freedom

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Fake work is evil. Fake work is cancer.  Fake work kills.

Fake work has crept into a crevice or corner into an office near you.

And it is destroying America!

Fake Work (FW): A project or task that keeps one or multiple people busy yet has no productive value.  It serves to keep an illusion alive that there is still something of productive value being achieved.

Office Space made fake work famous. The Office made fake work routine.  Your company has made fake work part of day to day operations.  We laugh because it’s funny.  We laugh because it’s true.

And we accept it. “Work for work’s sake”.

Sometimes we know it’s FW.  Sometimes, FW is conveniently disguised.    Other times, we don’t want to know.  It can even be comforting to have mountains of fake work, fake projects, and fake tasks because then our positions feel more secure.  Your initial response might be:  What the hell is he talking about?!  I don’t do fake work!  Other people do fake work, but not me!  You might even know you do fake work but are OK with it. You get rewarded for it with your paycheck. Fake work has been undeniably woven into the very fabric of how things are done in corporate society.

How many times have you been assigned a task or project and thought to yourself:

How is this even productive?

Is this really what they are having me do?

What is the purpose of this?

I can’t believe how inefficient this is! There has to be a better way.

Fake work makes managers look good, because it appears as though their underlings are busy and occupied with important projects that add value.  It makes employees look good because it appears as though something of substance is being accomplished.  However, fake work does nothing but suck away money, resources, and time away from an organization. How much of the 40, 60, or 80 hour work week is real work being done? With all the “important” meetings, conference calls, endless email streams, and voice mails, it can be difficult to distinguish between real work and fake work. Many times, fake work and real work feel the same. You might even fail to recognize your work as fake and not worthwhile. You assume there is a purpose for your work, but you don’t know what it is. You are unaware that your work actually provides no value. Everyone in the corporate hierarchy whether they are aware or not is involved in some way in the fake work machine.

Fake work factories across the globe pump out draft after draft of reports that nobody will see. People attend useless meetings without a clear agenda that usually result in the scheduling of other meetings. Endless projects have begun without a clear vision or plan for implementation. And there is no end in sight.

Fake work is a cancer without a known cure.

Photo from flickr

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27 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Michael says:

    I always get asked by friends who don’t work in an office setting if it is really like The Office. Yes, I can even find substitutes for the characters. No Pam however, I make my own copies.

    • Mark says:

      I think it’s incredible how accurately “The Office” portrays corporate culture. The success of the show seems to stem from employees identifying with certain elements in the show. This could be from experiences in their own workplace (or previous workplace) etc. “The Office” provides comedic humor and makes light of very serious workplace issues in a clever way.

  2. Biljana Jokanic says:

    I am drawn to everything that you have written so far Mark. This post however is something that I feel compelled to respond to. The way one can test whether he/she is doing fake work is to ask themselves whether the work in question can be accomplished (just as effectively) by someone with general knowledge in Microstoft Excel and the patience to do repetative mindless work for hours on end. This description probably fits any/every individual. Although the patience may be lacking it can easily be reinforced with compensation. As you say Mark, this work does actually feel like work although nothing is being done. This “work” is mentally and physically draining because any muscle that is used repetativley cramps up and fatigues eventually. If you are replaceable and the “work” you do can be done by a person that has no degree in your field of work then you are probably doing fake work. No wonder how so many companies can lay off so many workers and still prosper…

  3. Mark says:

    Biljana, I am glad these posts have resonated with you. I think you make a good point that many jobs over glorified excel based data manipulation jobs. Most of these jobs require a college degree, but many can be explained to anyone who possesses general Excel knowledge. You make wise points about fake work and its real world application with lay offs and replacable employees. Too often employees are suprised to find out how replacable they really are. The ones with the ability to differentiate themselves and see through the fake work, are the ones who will truly prosper.

  4. Jennifer Engelhart says:

    So true and so funny!!!!

  5. Tony Hernandez says:

    Actually this scenario is considered fraud. the ramifications and cost amount to a huge deprivation on the rest of the people who are directly and indirectly effected in the form of higher cost for services, products, etc… as well as varied other detriment. I know where all this can lead and the many facets of ill gotten gains as I am a fraud examiner and have to fish out the truth regarding these types of matters. Today’s biggest area is mortgage fraud by the creditors, this is what I love to find. they take and take, then still cry that it’s not enough until you can prove they were the predators at the closing table! Ever been charged 2 or 3 times for the same service? You should check your mortgage documents. It’s there, the same dog with a different collar. You will also find with a good audit that you are paying for the upkeep of fake work in the form of interest and additional bogus services. Let me shut up, I can go on and on. Great article Mark! I can relate all too well.

  6. jrmoreau says:

    I think something that eats at me professionally is the idea of social media becoming it’s own little industry… it’s just a circular though that makes no sense and I find myself caught up in it as my consulting career… I had to take a good hard look at the products and services I was marketing via SM and I realized that I really would rather sell solar panels, social enterprise products and things that mean something to me… so much effort and so many crappy jobs have been developed to support ridiculous industries that don’t have any value beyond their ability to game the system (Wall Street finance, spammy affiliate marketing, etc).

    • Mark says:

      It is ridiculous how many crappy jobs have been developed to support ridiculous industries or that don’t have any real value. I always wondered at what point in a company’s life does it tip from entrepreneurial spirit and profitability to devolving into having tons of fake groups, working on fake projects, in an attempt to keep their cancerous fiefdom alive? When a company is first starting out these useless and valueless entities within in organization don’t exist. The person (or group of people) that can solve this inverse tipping point problem will be famous and rich. As companies grow larger and larger, the inverse tipping point reaches a pinnacle where things start to go downhill. The company still may remain profitable, but the excesses and inefficiencies start to rise. Think, if someone could solve this inverse tipping point problem or figure out at what stage in a company’s life it started to develop. How many hours of useless meetings, fake projects, and insipid phone conferences could be avoided? How many thousands of dollars would be saved that wasn’t spent on expensive consultants? How much would work actually be accomplishing something that was necessary to the business and not just work for work’s sake?

  7. Good stuff, Mark! “Fake work is a cancer without a known cure.”

    Man … I’m doing so much fake work it’s not even funny. -__-

  8. Mark says:

    Faker work can wear on the soul! There will come a time when you upper cut fake work to the face and it will be no more!

  9. Matt says:

    This is so true! The problem is the modern business environment seems to reward hours worked rather than actual work done. When I had a ‘proper job’ I continually got in trouble with my boss for letting my team do flexible working hours (there was no official policy), as long as they got the work they needed to get done to the right standard, they could work when and for as long as they wanted. Oddly, this freedom never had a detrimental effect on the output of work, but because they didn’t do 35 hours…

    • Mark says:

      Wow, it took a while for me to respond to this. Sorry Matt! Your boss was mad?! His attitude was the detrimental effect! His goal was hours in a desk, and not productive work actually getting done. This is exactly the fail attitude in most corporate cultures! Good thing you did the right thing for your employees. It’s too bad your former boss was so dogmatic and couldn’t get with the times. Thanks for sharing Matt!

  10. Jeff says:

    This is definitely true in school too! The teachers give fake work for homework and assignments, and we give it back.
    I just saw a book called ‘fake work’. Anyone read, seen, heard about and know if it’s any good?

    • Mark says:

      Jeff, you are absolutely 100% right and have touched on a major cause of fake work in the business place. Teachers give fake work and indoctrinate us to be quiet little obedient “workers” in order to prepare us to do the same for a company later on. I have not read the book “fake work”. I just looked at it on amazon.com thought and will order it when I am finished with my current books. Thanks for the suggestion and the note about the problem of fake work in schools.

    • Edan says:

      We really should distinguish between practice which is in a way fake work, but intended to build skill. Homework in this sense is not fake work.

      On the other hand fake work could be described as a curriculum which does not prepare a student for life.

      Another aspect of fake work in school is caused by certification inflation. I once worked in a department where the head only had a high school degree. He managed thirty people. The funny thing was that he was told that he could not hire anyone with less than a bachelors.

      Why do people need to get a collage degree when a high school degree will do? Why a masters when a bachelors will do, etc…

      • Mark says:

        I absolutely agree Edan. If homework is intended to build a skill or expand concepts then it is not fake work. I am not advocating the abolition of homework by any means. However, if homework is assigned just for the purpose of an assignment (work for work’s sake), then it is fake school work. Homework that can be mindlessly completed helps nobody.

        That’s a great point about certification inflation. Title promotions used to be pretty popular at work, though the type of work and salary didn’t change. Senior vice analyst, junior managerial associate, etc. etc.

        It’s true that now, a degree has become a standard for jobs where you don’t need a degree to complete the tasks and where the job has nothing to do with the major the degree is related to. It used to be that a degree was a way to differentiate oneself, and promised a good job. This is not true anymore. As for the great people with a high school degree that are shut out by the requirements? This is an inefficiency and a true fallacy.

  11. Sure, but... says:

    Isn’t cancer a cancer without a known cure?

    Moreover, I think there is a cure for fake work. It’s called real work, and there is plenty of it to be done in the world. All that’s required for a prescription is a desire to not die of “cancer”.

    • Mark says:

      You are right about the prescription! All that’s required for a prescription is a desire not do die of the “cancer”. We can give ourselves the prescription. We have the choice to be a part of the fake work machine or the fake work cure.

  12. Oli says:

    My Brother and I had a similar conversation a few years ago. We came to the conclusion that fake work existed to reduce the unemployment level down to something manageable as well as to enhance the egos of managers who are in jobs they can’t justify!
    The reality is that people will do anything to earn a living. Fake Work is what people who can’t find anything better end up doing.

    • Mark says:

      Oli, Fake work does enhance the egos of those managers that are in jobs they can’t justify! I don’t think there was this big conspiracy to create enough fake work to reduce unemployment. Fake work sort of happened. It’s a systematic scourge that needs to be tackled. Under the guise of “management sees the bigger picture” many people do fake work and don’t even know it.

  13. Meredith says:

    This is partly why I left working offices jobs. Doing “fake work” got to be so demoralizing. Although my current job working in the food industry is much more physically strenuous and less prestigious, I’m so much happier because I’m actually providing a useful service and doing something productive.

    • Mark says:

      Meredith, fake work is demoralizing. There’s that feeling of uselessness on the part of the fake work, and hopelessness in trying to escape it. Congrats on being able to flee the confines and burden of fake work and entering into an industry that doesn’t delude itself with mountains of uselessness where you can be happy.

  14. Mike D says:

    I agree that there is a tipping point in business culture where productivity is set secondary to the growth of the entity itself. I have a theory; it often correlates to the point where a company becomes publicly owned/over 50% investment from outside or non-original sources. Meaning, when a company gets taken over by those who have no real interest in the success of the product being sold and instead in the idea of the company as entity with its own intrinsic value. Middle management grows and puts more obstacles in the way of producing and selling a service/product.

    In regards to education, watch this analysis of the way in which we educate our citizens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=player_embedded

    Finally, I am frustrated with the concept of a ‘job.’ We have started to develop a European philosophy here in America where we are more concerned with vacation and benefits and expect to be told what to do with our lives, given a task and complete it by 5pm and leave. We are losing the incentives that promote creativity and innovation, becoming a culture that promotes laziness and complacency.

    • Mark says:

      Mike, I’ve had this discussion with many people before. Where specifically is that tipping point? If it could be identified, it would change corporate culture, productivity and the world forever. At what point does a company go from focusing on producing and selling a service or product to focusing on the bureaucratic machine and the status quo? When does it become “ok” for management to start putting in those obstacles in the form of useless meetings, task forces, and committees to appoint task forces to hold fake meetings?

      I think focusing on vacation and benefits is welcome, as it allows people to find a better work life balance in their job. The problem you point out about task completion is very real. Tasks to be completed so you can be out by 5 destroy creativity and innovation. I hope that enough people combat the fake work, and don’t just accept it as “part of the job” to make a difference so the destructive fake work process can come to an end.

  15. Tyler Clark says:

    I am a university student at BYU and we are trying to understand more about “fakework.” This is a short 12 question Survey.

    http://qtrial.qualtrics.com/SE

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