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An Opinion: Bullshit Jobs

What people consider to be bullshit jobs, are actually not, it's that they are commonly wrapped up in bullshit procedures.

These procedures typically appear when there's an initiative to reduce costs. The easiest and cheapest way to employ an unskilled person to do a skilled job is to hand them a book of 'procedures' on their first day and say "Everything you need to do and know is in this Book". No time consuming cross-training required, no hiring of expensive people who already know the skill. As the Book of Procedures enables you to rinse and repeat the process with every new hire, you are no longer invested in keeping 'talent' within the organisation; good people leave once they realise that the job is 70% procedure vs. 30% actual work... No matter, there's always The Book, let's hire another grunt from the employment queue.

However, because you are filling up your organisation with unskilled workers, errors become more common place. To reduce the error rate, you introduce some extra checks and balances to ensure that the job is being done correctly. These extra procedures go in to The Book. The ratio is now 90% procedure vs. 10% actual work.

People who actually know how to do their job, having learned it well, or had previous skills, get frustrated that most of their workload is 'make-work' following all the extra procedures, and the people who have no skill, just follow the The Book, because they know no different, and it keeps them out of trouble.

Meanwhile, somewhere upstairs in the boardroom, people in grey suits are patting themselves on the back as operating costs have fallen, profits are up, and incidents are down. Creating The Book of Procedures is now considered a valuable skill in it's own right, so the people who care about climbing the managerial pole devote large chunks of their time adding yet more processes to the The Book, and thus the cycle continues, until several roles in the company are nothing but endless procedure creating/tracking without any actual product output.

There's still the problem of a high attrition rate amongst the middle tier staff, but hey, there's always more fish in the sea right?

View the original comment on Hacker News.

Author: Matt Owen
Date: 05 October 2018