Thriving, striving, ‘just surviving’… or ‘skiving’?



‘Skiving’ is not an everyday term in this neck of the woods (I think Bananarama’s Deep Sea Skiving from the 80s might be one of my more erm… significant recollections of its headlining usage), but I saw this attention-grabber in the Schumpeter column in a recent edition of The Economist:

A guide to skiving: how to thrive at work with the minimum of effort (  )

Skiving, aka shirking in the US, and perhaps aka something within one of the e-enabled ‘creative bludging’ categories here in Australia, has been perkily and poignantly brought under the microscope. Schumpeter initially covers a ‘how to’ perspective. In terms of an action plan for skivers, some subtlety is required. From the good old jacket-on-the-back-of-the-chair trick (leave your jacket always on display so that a boss on walkabout will assume that you are the first to arrive and the last to leave, similar to the Seinfeld episode where George leaves his car at work, and Mr Steinbrenner thinks he’s been working extra hard, though George is not there at all)… to even more subtle “cyber-loafing” strategies in today’s workplace.

More poignantly, the article also mentions “The Living Dead”, a 2005 memoir of life as an office worker by David Bolchover, where he writes that the amount of work he had to do was inversely related to the size of the company that he worked for. The article also mentions that the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration discovered that some of its employees had spent 75% of their time at work watching pornography in 2009. More recently, a German public servant, in a farewell retirement message to colleagues, revealed that he hadn’t performed a stroke of work for the preceding 14 years. Zilch, nada, nichts, nowt.

Clever? Or a pointer to a profound hollowness and disengagement? The personal opportunity cost too…

While living and breathing your employer’s ‘brand’ can, in reality, for even the most earnest of corporate strivers (and, indeed leaders) be a tenuous and intermittent outcome, if (upon deeper reflection) there’s nothing there, why drift… and drift… and drift?

The purposeful skiver will always be there, and self-contentedly so (some of you may be aware of the other George Costanza technique of “looking angry all the time and people will think I’m busy”). What about the rest of us?

Leading your group, sub-contractors and suppliers, and, more importantly, leading yourself within the maelstrom of all-urgent/all-action forces at play in your work-life require exceptional attention. As Stephen Covey said “most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” Getting uplift from just surviving to more purposeful thriving is achievable and can be activated by taking stock of what is important. To you. Your values, your strengths and how you can apply them, are key. Traversing this important but unfamiliar terrain can arrest any drift that may be present. Then we have lift-off.

© Tom Loncar Executive Coaching 2014