How to Pretend to be Working

We have all done it, whether you admit it or not.  I am not writing about this to promote laziness or show you how to cheat at work.   Many hard working, top performing professionals, have to resort to this  or should because of one of these scenarios

  • You work for a company that has a “workaholic’ culture.  Most consulting and banking firms are like this.  I think you know if your company is like this.
  • You work for a boss that values face time way too much – someone who probably thinks if he had to be a workaholic to get ahead, you better be as well. Otherwise, you are just not dedicated enough.  Sound familiar?
  • You work on a team where other members emphasize face time – a friend was dinged on his review because someone he works with told his boss that he is taking many calls outside his cubicle.  They failed to mention that he is always the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave and is delivering results where others can’t.  Unfortunately the boss was not wise enough to see through the biased feedback.

So what do you do?  Well, ultimately, you should find a job in a company that truly values your skills and results over face time and quit this one.  However, since the economy and job market is bad right now and quitting is not a practical option.  Then perhaps pretending to work  at times can help you maintain the hard work image that the company/boss demands and also give you more family time.

Wired published a good list of tips on how to pretend to be working. This is very useful if you value work life balance but need to portray that you are working constantly including nights and weekend.  I especially like the email timer idea and also the idea to take off your mobile signature so that you can reply to an email from a party and it looks like you are at home working.   The fact that Wired published this tells me while it’s meant to be somewhat funny, many people can related to its necessity at times.

I wish I practiced more of this when I worked in consulting.  I was a very dedicated, devoted consultant – 80 to 100 hour weeks working on nights and weekend and many away from home.  I worked hard, but not so smart and I was caught in the web of climbing that ladder build by other workaholics.

I dream of a day when we no longer have to deal with this BS in any company and you can help me achieve this dream by eventually quitting the crappy job and finding one based on meritocracy.  In the meantime,  the tactics above can at least help you beat them at their own game.

Good luck out there!


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great article! the link to the wired article doesn’t seem to be working 🙁


I couldn’t load the Wired URL. but great article!! I know exactly what you mean… 🙂


I just love reading all these articles. Thanks for finding such passion in this subject and sharing it with the world! 🙂

FYI – I tried clicking on the link “how to pretend to be working” in this blog entry but I got an error message saying the address is not valid.