Podcast: Busy Signals

There is such a thing as “good” busyness – that baseline euphoria you feel when you’re humming along, pummeling your to-do list like it owes you money. There’s also such a thing as fake busyness – that absurd phenomenon where adults convene in an office and pretend to be doing important work stuff.

Look over at your employees or coworkers. Which type of busyness do you see? Are you sure? Join us as we discuss the telltale signs of a culture that rewards fake busyness and some things managers can do to help employees focus on being productive instead of acting productive.

Episode Transcript:

Frank Butler  0:17  
Hello busybodies, welcome to another episode of the busyness paradox. I’m Frank Butler here with Paul Harvey.

Paul Harvey  0:23  
Good day.

Frank Butler  0:23  
Good day. So one of the things that Paul and I obviously like to talk a lot about, or maybe not necessarily talk a lot about, one of the things that we really tried to preach here on the business paradox is that

Paul Harvey  0:35  
We do preach now that we’re a church.

Frank Butler  0:37  
Yes, we are a church now. That’s right, we are the church of nixon.

Frank and Paul  0:39  
Not that nixon

Paul Harvey  0:41  

Frank Butler  0:43  
But one of the things that we do talk about relatively frequently is trying to keep your employees from having to always use that impression management technique of looking busy, right? Don’t just make them be there for eight hours a day, or whatever it is, you know, don’t make them look stressed or busy or take the george costanza mode of looking annoyed.

Paul Harvey  1:01  
Not necessarily making them look busy and stressed, but providing the environment in which they feel the need to

Frank Butler  1:08  
That’s right. It’s the culture, right? The organizational culture of having to feel like you’re stressed and or, you know, to look like you’re busy in order to get rewards, or whatever it is. And one of the things that something we really haven’t talked about maybe alluded to, is this idea of you are one of those people who like looks busy talks about being busy all the time. But are you really getting anything done, right? There’s two types of people, those who are getting stuff done. And they get busier and busier, because they’re the ones who do get things done. But then there’s those that are always like, oh, man, i’m so busy. And they’re always busy, but they’re taking longer to do things than somebody else, because they don’t really work to get things done fast. Right? So I think it goes back to an episode we did covers, like, what if you’re too good at your job? And so people keep coming to you. And so you keep getting more and more work? Because you get stuff done quickly? And stuff like that. I mean, there’s people who game the system, right? They know how to impression manage, look like they’re busy. But are they really getting things done in an effective and efficient manner?

Paul Harvey  2:06  
Now, there might be more than just those two kinds of people. Those two kinds of people do comprise a large portion of many workplaces.

Frank Butler  2:13  
I feel that’s true. Yeah. 

Paul Harvey  2:15  
Yeah. And I guess I don’t want to miss the point that oftentimes, it’s not like 100% true, but oftentimes, the people who are always telling you how busy they are, and the people who aren’t, we often think, oh, that person who’s constantly stressed out telling us how busy they are. They’re really busy. They’re real productive. But oftentimes, it’s the one that that’s not complaining, that’s not talking about how busy they are, because they’re too busy working to talk about how busy they are the quiet, sneaky, ninja productive employees that go under the radar. And that’s, that’s what we want to avoid.

Frank Butler  2:46  
And they’re the ones who keep getting more work, because they are the ones who are getting things done, right. They just keep working, they keep plugging along, and yet the expectations are always on them. And it’s just weird, because it’s like, hey, you’re you’re penalizing? Right. In a sense. It’s not that you’re penalizing them. I mean, I don’t think that’s necessarily the right word to say. But it kind of is.

Paul Harvey  3:04  
It’s not the thinking. But you know, the fastest way to get job xyz done is send it to bob, bob, get it done. Right? You’re not saying like, oh, let’s punish bob, it’s, that’s the fastest way to get something done.

Frank Butler  3:16  
And that’s a challenge, too, because that employee is doing such great work. We are continuing to use them because they’re very efficient, they’re effective. And yet, they’re the ones who are truly ending up doing so much more work that’s better for the organization than maybe the people who are using more of the impression management techniques like the george costanza model, right?

Paul Harvey  3:36  
They’re getting the promotions or recognitions or whatever.

Frank Butler  3:39  
Yes, yes.

Paul Harvey  3:40  
It’s all backwards. 

Frank Butler  3:41  
It is. And I think this goes back to sort of one of the things that we keep trying to, I guess, reinforce on this podcast is this idea of how do we make sure that managers are evaluating the right things, not the sort of impression management technique type things or whatever it might be? But how are we measuring the right things.

Paul Harvey  4:03  
And it’s challenging because as human beings, we tend to focus on the things that we can see that are tangible to us. That’s why the george costanza method is so effective. And if anyone is like, too young to have been around in the 90s, for that episode, or for seinfeld, in general, his tactic was, he had nothing to do at his job. And he was afraid of getting fired, I think or downsize because he had nothing to do. So he decided to just act really annoyed all the time and just be pulling his hair out and stomping around the office and it worked really well.

Frank Butler  4:31  
So he was working for the yankees, right? I think he was working for the nba ga. Yeah. And it was one time he was working a crossword puzzle. And he was like, ah, you know, he’s like, all flustered and had the glass windows to the offices and people would walk by and see that he’s like, ah, you know, cuz he couldn’t figure something out and they would walk out like, oh, gosh, he’s under so much stress. You got i’m so fired anyway, but that was because he was naturally he was he came across as overly stressed and it was a funny sort of situation.

Paul Harvey  4:59  
They were concerned for his health, he was gonna burn himself out. Now in that one, did he end up getting traded at the end of that as if he was a player, like sent to like some factory in mexico or something or’s that a different episode?

Frank Butler  5:10  
I don’t remember. Oh goodness, I don’t remember. It’s been a while. I think that’s a different episode, but

Paul Harvey  5:14  
Also with the yankees. But anyway, like so many seinfeld episodes back in the day, it really tapped into something that a lot of people do, but don’t really think about, which is kind of like, I guess, I guess that comes from seinfeld stand up career. That’s kind of like what a lot of that kind of comedy is about. But to my knowledge, that was the first time anyone really kind of acknowledged this tendency of fake busyness as a tool for looking good, basically. And so back to what you’re saying, Frank, the reason it works is because that’s something that managers don’t have to go looking for. They can just see it. 

Frank Butler 5:46
It’s easy, right? It’s a

Paul Harvey 5:49
It’s a behavioral proxy that’s an indication of productivity. Just gonna assume that that person is really productive.

Frank Butler  5:55  
I’ve been using this term a little bit more as of late, but it’s a red herring. Right? It’s one of those that you see it, you think it’s a good estimator of something. But it turns out that it’s a terrible, terrible thing to use, because it truly doesn’t measure what you think it measures. Now, again, we’ve talked about, like, distracting from the thumb should be looking at you. Yeah. And it’s like, the thing with that is that it’s a red herring, for sure.

Paul Harvey  6:20  
Is that something red herrings do by the way?like, I use that term a lot myself like this. Is that a thing? Like, “Oh, that darn red fish distracted me from what I was doing.” Is this a problem people have that i’m not aware of?

Frank Butler  6:32  
I do not know what the etymology of red herring is.

Paul Harvey  6:35  
I guess it has something to do with fishing, I would assume but I really don’t know.

Frank Butler  6:38  
Yeah, I mean, i’m looking up here it says the term was popularized in 1807 by english, polemicist william cobbit who told the story of having used a strong smelling smoked fish to divert and distract hounds from chasing a rabbit. 

Paul Harvey  6:54  
That is not what I would have guessed. Okay.

Frank Butler  6:57  
Isn’t that just strange? I would have thought it was like a, I guess it’s because it’s fish. And it’s not actually a herring. Right.

Paul Harvey  7:04  
Well, herring is a fish.

Frank Butler  7:05  
Well, yeah. I mean, it’s it’s a fish, but it’s like, it’s weird. That’s like, I guess it was a herring that he was doing. I don’t know it… that’s funny. But yeah, it’s a red herring. Right. Again, using something visual like that, to make a determination of whether or not somebody’s doing their job effectively. Right. It’s kind of like how governments you too, right, oftentimes, people like road projects is let’s go look what the government’s doing. Because it’s visual. And education doesn’t have that same short term, sort of highly visual outcome.

Paul Harvey  7:36  
Hadn’t thought of that, but…not in that context anyway.

Frank Butler  7:38  
Right. But I mean, I know that’s something that, you know, education is hard to sort of see the value in, because it takes so long and it is a lot of it is not necessarily, I don’t want to say it’s intangible, but the the outcomes of that take a while to manifest and

Paul Harvey  7:51  
You have to go digging for them.

Frank Butler  7:52  

Paul Harvey  7:52  
They don’t just slap you in the face, right? Where someone’s saying, ah, i’m so stressed out or busy all the time, right? You can just be sitting there flossing your teeth. And you see that like, oh, that guy’s really busy. I just did my evaluation. Great. Yeah, most of us aren’t quite at the george costanza level, where it’s a strategic plan that we’re gonna do this. It’s just something we sort of do. Frank is being distracted by something.

Frank Butler  8:16  
I’m recording on campus in our I on our podcast room. And actually, I have a surprise visitor in the room, which is my wife. And she’s, she’s hanging out here, because we have a thing at 11. And she just wanted some water. So…yes.

Paul Harvey  8:32  
Put her on the show.

Frank Butler  8:33  
Well, I mean, I guess I could probably get another mic set up here. I don’t think I had before. 11 now. Yeah, probably not. I got the mic. I don’t have another set of headphones in this office. Because sarah’s I think back now too. But again, I you know, I love having this room in the campus because it’s earliest in the college. We just have an awesome.

Paul Harvey  8:53  
I want to figure out what they did with that room. Like, why does it sound so good in there? I don’t see any sound treatment or anything.

Frank Butler  8:59  
There actually is more sound treatment that

Paul Harvey  9:01  
I see square walls.

Frank Butler  9:03  
I mean, the ceiling has got the audio stuff, the insulation, but we havethere is some sound deadening in here some it’s not a lager, it’s enough that actually sort of helps us with that much. It doesn’t take a lot. I don’t think if it’s in the right place. Yeah. It’s it sounds good in here. But that’s a distraction, too. But no, I you know, I was a red herring. It’s a red herring. It’s a red herring. I do think though, thinking about this idea of busyness and in what Paul mentioned earlier is accurate. Not everybody falls in sort of these categories. I think this these are opposite ends of a continuum, almost right. We’ll use impression management techniques to say, oh, no, i’m too busy to maybe avoid getting given something that you would otherwise get given. Like, I know that I’ve used it before to avoid something I don’t really want to do. And it’s not that i’m not busy and I couldn’t be doing other things. It’s just more along the lines of I don’t want to add that to my plate because I don’t think either importance, or I don’t think it’s gonna get the value of my attention.

Paul Harvey  10:00  
And that’s the thing, everything you do means you’re not doing something else, that something else might be staring at the television or doing something useless. Or it might be something else. It’s important, I shouldn’t say something useless. It’s something else. It’s that there’s a call that the opportunity cost. And so that’s the real tragedy of fake busyness is that you see so many millions of people spending their eight 910 hours a day at the desk, seven, six of which they don’t really need to be there. I mean, that’s a lot of your life pretending to do something. Yes. I mean, it’s absurd is what it is.

Frank Butler  10:34  
It really is. And that’s just it. It’s like, companies oftentimes are reinforcing those behaviors of looking busy. And that adds its own levels of stress, because you’re not intentionally, but yeah, and you think about it, too. It’s like this whole idea of the impression management, like it’s, it might not even be something that you realize you’re doing as impression management. But more after that you’re modeling people who have been doing this, and you can see that they’re getting rewards and success. And so you imitate those behaviors, and it becomes sort of this cultural norm, right? And it’s bad for everybody. Like it’s even staying late to work, right? That’s one of those things, it’s that that’s part of that idea of business. Oh, no, if you leave at five, and everybody else is staying at six, even though you might have finished all your jobs for the day, that’s sending the wrong message, you might get passed over for promotion, or a merit based raise or something along those lines.

Paul Harvey  11:23  
I remember one day back in my corporate life, walking out the door at like, 530 or something. And someone’s standing there in the doorway saying, you’re going home. Yep. Yeah, most of us are staying to like seven or eight tonight. And i’m standing here waiting for the pizza delivery guy. Is it really? Why? Because all we got that slide deck due tomorrow. I like those 12 powerpoint slides that we’ve been hammering over all day long. Yeah. I’m not spending another minute my life on those stupid slides. Done. They’re not done now. I mean, how many man hours that we put into these freakin slides at this point? How much are we paid? If we break that down per hour? How much money have we sunk into this damn slide deck already? I’m going home?

Frank Butler  12:01  
Well, and you think about it, too. It’s like to change one word, or add to

Paul Harvey  12:05  
That’s what it would be like, should there be a comma there or not? And I mean, yeah, like, there was like a look of confusion and disdain on the guy’s face as I walked out the door, like, wow, he’s really not turning around. And he’s going home. Yeah, goodbye.

Frank Butler  12:19  
 well, you think about that, too. 

Paul Harvey  12:21  
This wasn’t my boss or anything. This is just another like a co worker, right? So go into your point about the reinforcement and from the culture.

Frank Butler  12:28  
Right. And what I think about that, too, is that you’ve got this idea of, hey, i’m going to watch, or i’m going to spend all this extra time, at that level of attention of detail where I know you’ve experienced it, I’ve experienced it, where you get tunnel vision, because you’ve been working on something so much that you can’t see any errors anymore, right? When you see errors that aren’t there, right. And this is the whole thing is like, it’s good to have people walk away from stuff for a little bit, get some rest, and then they get fresh eyes on it. I mean, how many times have you been told to set a paper aside and come back to it later, if you’re struggling with something or, you know, you’re, you’re missing something or, you know, even even when we send a paper off to be reviewed, and we get to revise and resubmit. And then you read again, you’re like, oh, my goodness, like look at all these things that we spent so much time trying to submit and all the errors. It’s

Paul Harvey  13:14  
Actually a really interesting phenomenon. Like the way you catch typos in your emails. The second you hit the send button. Oh, my goodness, right. Yeah. Like taking your mind off of the thing you’re focusing on oftentimes allows your mind to kind of do what what it does best, like let it regulates its own attention. Whereas you’re you’re forcing its attention on one specific thing, and that the psychology like the neurology is really fascinating, but i’ll show i’ll cut myself off. But yeah.

Frank Butler  13:40  
Yeah, it goes back to the church of niksen. Not that nixon.

Paul Harvey  13:42  
Not that nixon

Frank Butler  13:43  

Paul Harvey  13:43  

Frank Butler  13:44  
It’s good to give your brain a time to just 

Paul Harvey  13:46  
You’re right.

Frank Butler  13:47  
Do nothing. 

Paul Harvey  13:48  
I wasn’t setting you up for that. But that’s exactly right.

Frank Butler  13:50  
It’s beautiful. I mean, I just took that opportunity. You lobed it up. And I just 

Paul Harvey  13:55  
I did, I lobed it up without even knowing it. Praise niksen.

Frank Butler  13:57  
Praise niksen. 

Paul Harvey  13:58  
Not that nixon, 

Frank Butler  13:59  
Not that nixon. Goodness. This is what happens when we move.

Paul Harvey  14:04  
For those who have not listened to past episodes. Nixon is a dutch term, which means doing nothing for the purpose of letting your mind 

Frank Butler  14:11  

Paul Harvey  14:11  
Reinvigorate itself. Refreshing.

Frank Butler  14:13  
It’s like taking like small moments a lot of times right to so for example, instead of being on your phone, while you’re getting some coffee or something like that, just watch the coffee from the keurig brew or whatever it is that you’re doing. You’re just taking a few minutes of time to just be in that moment. Like staring and just letting your mind just shut down in essence, right? Don’t check emails, don’t do anything else. Just watch it. You know, just it’s like a it’s like a mini…

Paul Harvey  14:39  
Watch the leaves blow in the trees outside or whatever, just whatever works for you.

Frank Butler  14:43  
Yeah, just just take a couple of minutes out of your day, different parts of the day. And then the general idea is that kind of get longer periods. I mean, it’s not. It’s meditation is like a form of it in a sense, but meditation is obviously typically a much longer exercise in a sense. I’m not saying go meditate, i’m just saying, hey, if you’re gonna go and get yourself a cup of coffee, and you’re pressing the button on the keurig, don’t check your emails don’t work, just watch the coffee drip. Or if you’re making tea, now watch the water bubbler, start bubbling the water. And don’t do anything else, just focusing on that and let your mind just. And I think broader, it’s also like, hey, you go on vacation, i’m a big proponent of this idea is that companies should encourage you to not use your devices, not check your email, and in fact, provide incentives around that. So you can detach from the job for a long enough time to come back refreshed. And that’s, I think, an act of it too.

Paul Harvey  15:41  
And that’s a good way of killing busyness, killing fake busyness, in the culture of your company, do stuff like that, and very visible signals that we don’t want you to be working all the time, which also means therefore, we don’t want you to be pretending to be working all the time.

Frank Butler  15:56  
And that’s actually a great way to sort of segue this into that. Part of is this is 

Paul Harvey  16:01  
Damn right. 

Frank Butler  16:02  
Activities of what you can do to start killing this culture of busyness in your organization, in the first one alone is being just cognizant of terms like, oh, I can’t i’m too busy, or oh, gosh, i’m so busy or oh, you know, whatever, anything that surrounds this sort of idea of doing things that are actually not what the company values at the end of that being busy is not a value.

Paul Harvey  16:28  
Signaling busyness. Right, busyness is not a value. 

Frank Butler  16:30  
Busyness is not a value. 

Paul Harvey  16:32  
Don’t let it become one. 

Frank Butler  16:33  

Paul Harvey  16:33  
Well, it’s already becoming one probably so stop it from

Frank Butler  16:36  
Right, new modeling model new behaviors, right? So

Paul Harvey  16:40  
And signal new behaviors. Like you just said, you know, we will reward not working on vacation, as some companies have started doing as crazy as it sounds, right. That’s how far this thing has gotten.

Frank Butler  16:50  
That’s right. It’s amazing, right. And then the other part of that, too, is if you are a manager, and you do work long hours, and you feel like you need to because of the nature of your job, and you’re okay with it, that’s fine. Don’t submit your employees to that right center at home be very cognizant of a, it’s friday. There’s nobody who’s going to call us at this point, go home, it’s four o’clock, go home and send us home.

Paul Harvey  17:12  
I’m working. So you have to be working right now. Cut that…cut that nonsense out.

Frank Butler  17:16  
Yeah, lead. You know, as we said before, it’s like lead people manage things, that’s a great way of leading people by being the leader by sending them home by not having them to think that to get into your good gracious grace, where the duration is good graces and goodness, my gosh, to get into your good graces that they need to be imitating your behaviors. Don’t encourage him discourage those types of behaviors. 

Paul Harvey  17:45  

Frank Butler  17:45  
And if you’re a manager, and you’re doing that kind of stuff, too, you might want to consider what you’re doing in your job. 

Paul Harvey  17:49  

Frank Butler  17:50  
That could be offloaded to somebody else to help you out. Right? I mean…

Paul Harvey  17:54  
Are you just picking up busy work for yourself, without knowing it, we don’t often say like, oh, here’s some busy work. I mean, sometimes we do. But we often, especially when you’re in a management position, you got lots of juggling lots of balls. At the same time, you don’t take time to assess your own efficiency. Or sometimes you’re aware that you’re doing something the inefficient way, but you just feel like you don’t have time to learn how to do a more efficient way of

Frank Butler  18:16  
That’s it right 

Paul Harvey  18:17  
Doing it 

Frank Butler  18:17  
Not learning it, taking those couple extra minutes might have taken to just be more efficient at it down the road. Even if it’s something that you’re going to do again, it’s worth those five minutes sometimes.

Paul Harvey  18:26  
Like learning how to automate software stuff. So many times, in the busier parts of my life, I’ve said, guy, I wish I knew how to like do basic scripting, to automate certain things, I don’t have time to learn it now. But down the road got to use that downtime, you do have to prepare for the legitimate busy times. So we’re not so busy 

Frank Butler  18:44  
Yeah it’s, I think there’s a lot of times that we don’t practice that are just stopping going, okay, nothing is going to happen if I take an extra 10 minutes to do this, or I push this part of it to a little later in the day. So I can actually learn something that will better myself that will actually help me do my job more effectively. And sometimes it comes down to making that call of i’m doing the work of two people, it’s time for me to start making the case that I’ve got to split this job into two and we got to hire someone, they feel it

Paul Harvey  19:14  
And do something to fix the situation. Don’t just let it linger on forever, because it will go on for as long as you allow it to.

Frank Butler  19:19  
And then of course it gets into those ideas of exploitation, then are we exploiting our people. And that’s not what you want, either. You know, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of that argument. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re creating an environment where your employees want to leave, or they’re looking for jobs, especially when you get into these environments like today where jobs are relatively available, despite the challenges of changing jobs or anything like that, but I mean, when there’s other jobs out there that are more flexible, that might actually be taking the rights, stances on stamping out business or letting people be more hybrid work and focused, you know, whatever. It’s just

Paul Harvey  19:57  
The flip side of that is a lot of companies have shortages right now, so people are being forced into dual dual roles sometimes and…

Frank Butler  20:04  
Right. That’s true, too. 

Paul Harvey  20:06  

Frank Butler  20:07  
But at the same time, it’s like those companies that are probably struggling more are the ones who probably don’t value their employees in a way, that’s

Paul Harvey  20:14  
How they end up in that position. That’s right. Good point.

Frank Butler  20:17  
You know, they’re probably expecting more than they are wanting to give good blood. So that goes back to work on trying to stamp out those cues of busyness. Right, those busy signals like busy signals, like a phone baby been very clear, you know, signals that, like people are busy channels, right? Very clear, like things that indicate that something is occupied improperly and doesn’t need to be right.

Paul Harvey  20:46  
The thing that we all do how eat healthy has been crazy. It’s like the default answer in the us. So it’s not surprising that that culture spills into a lot of the workplaces. But it doesn’t have to.

Frank Butler  20:57  
It doesn’t have to mean it’s change is hard. But it’s about change. Change is hard, especially changing culture. Yes, very hard. But it’s about creating new habits. You know, I guarantee everyone’s had a habit that they’ve had to solve at some point, whether it was not smoking or not chewing gum, or, you know, whatever it is, you know, the change is hard, but it’s so worthwhile at the other end of it. Because of the outcomes really, this is one of those things that it’s about creating new habits and getting rid of the ones that have become pervasive in the in the culture so that’s that’s a step one, right? That’s…

Paul Harvey  21:30  
The benefits are immediate of this, by the way, and you know, some habits are hard to break, because the benefits are like quitting smoking. It’s like, well, actually, this sucks right? Now, this isn’t better. All you know, you’ll thank yourself down the road. But with with this, yeah, putting an end to fake busyness, you’ll, you’ll you’ll reap the rewards of that. Everybody right away. Yes. Like, oh, this is so much better. That’s right. I can just have a conversation with a co worker and not feel like oh, geez, we have to be working.

Frank Butler  21:54  
Yeah. And I think that gets back to then the second thing is that 

Paul Harvey  21:58  
Are you pulling this from that article, by the way?

Frank Butler  22:00  
I am not, just these bullets. 

Paul Harvey  22:02  
Okay, I just we…preparing for this episode, we were going through some different articles that I was gonna say if we’re, if we’re pulling the straight from an article, we should probably mention what that article is, but

Frank Butler  22:11  
I’m going off the top of my head right now.

Paul Harvey  22:14  
This is

Frank Butler  22:14  
Busy signals was a new one, I liked it as it’s like this is where we get the creative juices going. 

Paul Harvey  22:18  
Improv. That’s right. 

Frank Butler  22:19  
That’s right. We’re just riffing right now. But I think that’s an easy one, I think we’ve talked about a little bit already with the leadership modeling it like modeling the behaviors you want. Leading by example, was a really big one. And I think one that’s always important is don’t micromanage your people, but rather, communicate with your people find out what’s good, what’s bad, you know, listen to the, to their issues. Sometimes it’s it’s about petty little things, or do you think or petty little things that go on between employees, and so on. Those can be really informative in a sense of trying to find the underlying challenges that are causing issues in the office, right? And being responsive to that, because that helps you then understand multiple things, right? If you communicate, and you find out where the disagreements tend to be, you can start removing these challenges, because people have to figure out how do I need to work around this situation, which makes it not great anyway. And it can create new busyness that doesn’t need to be there. But to if you’re also talking to them and understand what they’re doing in their jobs, you can start getting a sense of am I overworking them, or what can I measure that will be a better proxy than them looking busy.

Paul Harvey  23:26  
Basically, you’re just learning more about the actual moment to moment of their jobs, which you can’t get yourself lost in as a manager. But if you don’t know anything about I mean, think about how fake busyness happens in the first place. If managers knew exactly what their employees are doing all the time, what the job actually entailed. They would know like, well, that can’t be taking 50 hours a week, but they don’t know. Right? That’s why fake business works. And it’s a conundrum paradox of sorts. So we don’t really want micromanaging. But on the other hand, micromanaging would kind of make fake business go away, in a sense, because they’d be like, well, actually, you’re just opening and closing the same excel spreadsheet, again and again and again, to look busy here. Why don’t we find something else for you to do? Why don’t you go get yourself a cup of coffee or

Frank Butler  24:11  
That’s it, go get yourself a cup of coffee, like take yourself a break pause. Don’t just do this stuff to be occupying time, right? I like that idea there too. And I don’t think it’s micromanaging in the sense of micromanaging, I think what it is, is you’re out there going, hey, they’re doing this and I guess it kind of is to an extent is because you’re not making things owners, you’re not adding tasks, you’re finding ways of taking tasks away, which I think is as part of a manager’s job is to get stuff out of the way your employees so they can be more efficient and effective at getting their job done.

Paul Harvey  24:42  
Yeah, don’t recruit employees into your own fake business please, for the love of god. There’s nothing worse than that. Yes. It’s kind of like my powerpoint deck example earlier, those 12 slides, you know, that was for some plant manager to present to like the senior vice president of something like none of us working on until the wee hours of the morning or whatever, we’re going to be the ones you know, presenting anything. And it had nothing to do with us it was for someone else, right. And we all knew this was a truly nuts, like, we all knew that all these numbers from, you know, our small sbu unit of the plant, these are all gonna get rolled together that numbers, they’re gonna get rolled in with other numbers, they’re all gonna get sort of massaged to meet the quarterly, whatever goals and analysts expectations, like, everything’s gonna be sort of mushed around changed anyway. So what the hell are we doing here? Like, why are we wasting our lives anyway? Getting sucked into someone else’s fake busy work.

Frank Butler  25:33  
And I think that’s a valuable sort of lesson to think about. It’s like…

Paul Harvey  25:33  
Damn, right, it is. 

Frank Butler  25:33  
And what was really problematic about the example you give about these 12 slides is why didn’t somebody who had more authority, you guys, you’re spinning your wheels at this point, right, go home? Let’s look at it real quick in the morning. 

Paul Harvey  25:33  
Very valid question. But I think, you know the culture was so… It was so baked into the culture that I think the higher level people they saw it as a good thing. Good. Good. Yeah. Give it a few more hours. That’s good. Yeah, that that means it’ll be better.

Frank Butler  26:03  
And it’s not. It’s never, never not. And I think it goes back to sort of something we discussed with woody, right, we’ll see. Is this the perceptions that you have of maybe somebody being abusive as a supervisor or not? Right? It’s your personal…

Paul Harvey  26:17  
Tendency to perceive abuse.

Frank Butler  26:19  

Paul Harvey  26:20  
Where others might not. 

Frank Butler  26:20  
Right. And, you know, i’m thinking about these like toxic cultures and stuff like that. Well, this is why some people think cultures might be toxic is that, hey, they’re expecting us to give our lifeblood to do these jobs. And it’s like, you see it as like a waste of time and effort, because all it does is it means you’re spinning your wheels to no gains. 

Paul Harvey  26:39  

Frank Butler  26:39  
That’s it. 

Paul Harvey  26:40  
And so what did I do?

Frank Butler  26:41  

Paul Harvey  26:42  
I go, I left, quit. And that’s not what you really want, either. That’s how cultures perpetuate themselves. I’m sure you’ve heard of that. Attraction, selection, attrition. Yep, you attract culture attracts similarly minded employees, and hires similarly minded employees, and those who don’t really fit the culture have slipped through the cracks like me. I don’t like this fake busyness stuff everyone else does. I’m not going to change this huge company by myself. I quit. And you know, even if it’s not such a, there’s no almost never any benefit of pure cultural homogeneity. Like, it’s good to have some dissenting voices in general. No, it’s but especially with something like this with like, diversity matters. Yeah. When the dissenting voice is, I don’t think there’s any value in doing fake work for hundreds of hours a month. That’s stupid. I think that’s a voice you want in your organization.

Frank Butler  27:33  
I agree. I agree, completely

Paul Harvey  27:35  
I’m biased because i’m talking about myself here. But I mean, I think that makes sense.

Frank Butler  27:39  
Think about all the 1000s of people are doing the same thing now hit exactly millions of people. Same thing. Now you got me thinking about something different, which we’re going to cover in a different episode now, because you just made me think about this idea of those people who unintentionally create business because they overcomplicate everything.

Paul Harvey  27:54  
Oh, yeah. Oh, over complication.

Frank Butler  28:00  
Yeah. So on the next episode of the business paradox, we’re gonna address that, because that’s going to be a very close, personal example that i’m dealing with at the moment. And I want to love talking about it. And I want to try not to put in a rant hat hat on that. I think it’s something that we could certainly talk about, because there are those people too, who overcomplicate things and then struggle when people tell them that the way they were trying to approach it is wrong. Too much. And then they get frustrated and there creates some toxicity potentially, or just very frustrations or whatever. So that’s going to be on the next episode of the business paradox.

Paul Harvey  28:36  
I might have put my own rant hat on for that night. You got me thinking.

Frank Butler  28:40  
So with that, folks, good day.

Paul Harvey  28:42  
Good day.

The Busyness Paradox is distributed by Paul Harvey and Frank Butler. Our theme music is adapted from “It’s Business Time” by Jemaine Clements and Bret McKenzie. Our production manager is Justin Wuntaek. We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode, and we’d love to hear from you. Please send any questions, comments or ideas for future episode topics to input@busynessparadox.com, or find us on Twitter. Also, be sure to visit our website, busynessparadox.com, to read our blog posts and for links to the articles and other resources mentioned in today’s show. Finally, please take a moment to rate and follow or subscribe to our show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts or…I don’t know, wherever the heck you get your podcasts.

Leave a Reply