Schumpeter: a Guide to Skiving | the Economist

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Schumpeter: A guide to skiving | The Economist

10/23/14, 3:56 PM


A guide to skiving
How to thrive at work with the minimum of effort

Oct 25th 2014 | From the print edition
THE best way to understand a system is to look at it from the point of view of people who want to subvert it. Sensible bosses try to view their companies through the eyes of corporate raiders. Serious-minded politicians make a point of putting themselves in their opponents’ shoes. The same is true of the world of work in general: the best way to understand a company’s “human resources” is not to consult the department that bears that ugly name but to study the basic principles of one of the world’s most popular, if unrecognised, sciences: skiving.
The first principle of skiving (or shirking, as Americans call it) is always to appear hard at work. This is the ancient jacket-on-the-back-of-the-chair trick: leave a coat permanently on display so that a casual observer—a CEO practising “managing by walking around”, for example—will assume that you are the first to arrive and the last to leave. The skill of skiving is subtle: ensure you are somewhere else when the work is being allocated. Successful skivers never visibly shy away from work: confronted with the inevitable they make a point of looking extremely eager. This “theatre of enthusiasm” has fooled almost everyone. Policymakers bemoan the epidemic of overwork. But as
Roland Paulsen, of Sweden’s Lund University, explains in “Empty Labour”, an example-packed new book, innumerable studies suggest that the average worker devotes between one-and-a-half and three hours a day to loafing.
The second principle is that information technology is both the slacker’s best friend and his deadliest enemy. The PC is custom-made for the indolent: you can give every impression of being hard at work when in fact you are…...

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