Rosmarin Program Services

Program development, Strategic planning, Leadership coaching,

Make-work

Do you insist that your employees stay busy? 

When your staff have a fluctuating workload, there will be times when there is less than a full day’s work for them to do. What do you do then? It’s tempting to ask them to “do something useful” (essentially “do something unneeded to give the illusion of productivity”). This is make-work or busy-work. 

What possible harm could come from doing make-work? Plenty. 

  • It reinforces the concept that busyness is what people are paid for, not impact.
  • Once the make-work has been done, it often takes up someone else’s time to review it or take further actions. This eats up others’ time, which they may not have to spare. (“Make-work makes work”.)
  • It discourages “down time” or “slow thinking” time where people can reflect, recharge and make valuable connections. 
  • It encourages people to fill their time 100% with planned work, no space for unexpected asks.
  • When work gets busy again, the make-work is dropped, often unfinished or unsustained, which can lead to a tacit feeling of failure.

Have you been guilty of asking others to invent make-work?

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