People who don’t work at work

Ruth Haag
Jul 9, 2013


It is interesting to study what people notice and what people do not notice at work. In 1974, my fiancé, Bob, agreed to go on a field trip with my college class to Mud Lake Bog. While I still maintain that the learning experience was worthwhile, to physically understand a kettle lake, land progression and an acid bog, it turns out some people can get poison oak through mud. Bob is susceptible to poison oak. In any event, Bob had to go to work the next day in a suit and tie but he couldn’t wear shoes because of the blistering of his feet. So, he wore flip flops. The interesting thing was that no one noticed! If you act like everything is normal most people do not notice the abnormal.

I have always maintained that most people go to work each day planning to work. It turns out that are a few outliers who go to work planning not to work. If they are any good, they are able to not work and most people will not notice it, because it is not fathomable that someone would do absolutely no work. I had a boss once who came to work an hour late, left an hour early and gossiped with others in the building during the rest of the time. She had managed to cut back on her work load to the point that what was expected to get done could be accomplished by her two full-time assistants. Most of her employees were part-time, and while I was a part-time employee I had no idea what she was doing. It was when I became full-time that I discovered it. She was able to not work and get paid for it for years.

Bob had a boss once who didn’t want to work, so he just found meetings to attend all day long, which is easy to do in most moderate-to large-sized organizations. When a staff member found him and asked him to make a decision he would sagely say something like, “We are going in a different direction from that.” The staff member would be left thinking that the more important people, who were at the meetings, had decided something different, and that the boss was working at a higher level than the questioner.

Unfortunately, I once hired a person who was skilled at not working. She would carry around a pile of papers and briskly walk from room to room in the office. After she ceased to be employed by me, others on the staff pointed out that if I pressed her about a deliverable in a meeting, she would have a coughing attack and have to go to get a glass of water. By the time she came back to the meeting, I would be on a different topic. If a big deadline was looming, she would become very ill and have to go to the hospital, leaving others to do the work.

These non-working people are hard to catch, unless someone who can do something about it observes them and discovers what they are doing.

Here are some characteristics of a person who does not work at work:

 •    They are hard to find at the office, sometimes when they are searched for they are found at home.
 •    They might be in a room, but then they slip out without people noticing.
 •    They have vague answers to pointed questions. The answers make the questioner have to do research in order to respond.
 •    When pinned down, they become upset or angry, often making the questioner feel guilty. This causes others to accuse the questioner of not being sensitive.
 •    If an important deadline is looming, they become ill, sometimes going so far as to go to a hospital, or at least they tell you that they have gone to the hospital.
 •    When their work product is assessed, nothing has gotten done.

If you notice that nothing is being accomplished, you should ask yourself, “It is because the person is not working?” Have fun looking for this.



Visit a unionize automotive factory sometime. The unskilled labor have become masters at avoiding work. All the foreman needed to do was walk into the bathroom and they would easily find several sleeping on a bench with a magazine covering their face. The problem is the union made sure they still kept their jobs. How's that for encouragement? Nothing like finding someone sleeping in the bathroom on the weekend when they were making triple time.

The Big Dog's back



I know 3 guys. 2 retired GM workers, 1 Ford worker. Each of them do not know one another. Each have the same story......they got paid great and messed around most of the time at work. Most would volunteer for overtime because of the pay and the lack of work they actually had to do.

The Big Dog's back

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.


My cousin is UAW. Brags how little he works all the time. And he is an upstanding member of the county Demorat Party.

He's also one of the most racist people I have ever met.

The Big Dog's back

Why of course.

The Big Dog's back

I bet you have Black friends too.


I just have friends.
Do you segregate yours by the color of their skin? I don't.

JudgeMeNot's picture

THE PRESIDENT: How's it going, UAW? (Applause.)
Thanks to the bipartisan trade agreement I signed into law -- with you in mind, working with you -- there will soon be new cars in the streets of South Korea imported from Detroit and from Toledo and from Chicago. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

2cents's picture

I had a friend that in 1976 would punch in at NDH second or third shift and sometime in there slip out under the fence and go out partying then slip back in later to punch out!

JudgeMeNot's picture

UAW members still do it today.

Union Workers Caught Drinking and Smoking Pot on the Job Again


I have to agree with GI Joe on this one. I used to cater dept. xmas parties and almost no work was going on. I really felt like I had the wrong job.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Thanks for the good read, and also, for invoking several memories of one of my favorite films: The Shawshank Redemption.


It is not hard to spot these people right off. I have had the unfortunate experience of having to work with many that did not work and also many that got upset if you did a better job than they did. It's not hard to do a better job if you're working and they're not. One day I hope to not have to work anymore.


hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies..


"I love to work at nuthin' all day."

- BTO, "Takin' Care of Business."

The Big Dog's back

Song made just for you.

Darwin's choice

Ms. Ard ?


Some are called managers. Others are family friends & relatives of the boss. While others are called migrant workers.


Omg this explains a lot about someone I work with or maybe it she is the she in the article


I have seen this. The people who aren't working, or are ineffective, blame one who is. The scapegoat is not a team-player, or an outsider. Until the failed leader is replaced, mediocrity continues.


Had to explain this to my kitchen manager. Some people take, take, take and then want more. This is the worst receipee for success. Remember that success breads success. Surround your self with successful people and soon you will successful. This column is negative. Is your glass half empty then take a good look @ your life...are you happy, do you feel like you have succeeded, do you live well, can you look @ your self in the mirror and say " I like me" , do you worry about what people say about you. Do you sleep well @ night. These are a fee of the things that I think!


Be successful sorry. Few of the things I think. Spelling is not my fortee.


I find at my job the more you screw off, miss work, carp and complain about how rough your job is non-stop, the more you are praised and pampered. Just can't figure it out.


Re: "the more you screw off,(snip)"

So if you bust your *ss, you're given more work?

If that's the general impression, it reads like an entity ripe for downsizing, buy-out or extinction.

Always preferred working on straight commission or being self-employed.

Simple formula: Ya don't work, ya don't eat.


Yep Contango--the more you bust your *ss the more work you are given simply because you've done your job as a person with a decent work ethic. Then again, I also have coworkers who are just down right plain stupid and if given a new task, appear like deer in headlights.

dorothy gale

I have several coworkers who have mastered the art of looking like they're working and several who don't even bother to disguise the fact that they are doing nothing. And they are protected by management, perhaps because they have also mastered the art of a$$-kissing. If you feed the ego of the boss you have nothing to worry about.


AMEN Dorothy!


Re: "you bust your *ss (snip),"

So why the kvetching if you seemingly have no qualms with the Marxian concept:

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,"

So very altruistic of you that you help the slackers keep their jobs and feed their families - you should be proud and less bitter.

The Big Dog's back

Capitalism pooh.


Just ask any local many guys have been fired because they are sleeping on the job, failing drug tests or working the system over......ONLY to be hired back months later AND paid for all the time they were off while they were fired. CRAZY


This is not just a union thing though! Some employees are just lazy. I used to hate to hire kids that are only working because their parents made them get a job!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone