Digital diarrhea in the workplace has reached pandemic proportions. The outbreak of senseless drivel being typed up, sent out and endlessly forwarded by corporate drones is threatening to swamp every corner of the cubicle jungle, from Jerusalem to Jakarta, from New York to New Delhi.
While electronic mail was once conceived of as a faster, more efficient and eco-friendly way of communicating, the volume of email generated in the digital age has exploded. It turns out that emailing, like any other new technology, requires that we develop a whole new set of managerial skills that many white collar warriors are yet to master. As a result, today’s corporate landscape is dotted with spam-spewing inboxes.
Increasingly, email is where knowledge goes to die. And it’s the chronically lazy who have benefited most from unclear subject lines, lengthy email threads and confused messaging.
In a world gone flat, the ascent of the lackadaisical, slack-jawed moutbreather has much to do with evolving standards of productivity in the workplace. Once upon an assembly line, productivity was defined as an average measure of the efficiency of production, with total output per unit of total input being the universally recognized barometer.
Fast forward to our brave new world, dominated by industrialized nations fueled by service economies. The making of a product has given way to finance, hospitality, retail, health, information technology and other facets of the service sector.
And it is the walking comatose who have reaped the rewards of this paradigm shift since today’s measure of success is not how much or well you produce but rather how involved you are in the delivery of a service – a rather gooey, undefined yardstick.
Lazy but clever, slow-moving dawdlers the world over have filled the procedural void created by a new technology. While earnest, hard working office cogs were commendably skipping lunches, working late and coming in early, a new world order was taking shape. In the blink of an eye an employee’s value began to be gauged not by how much one does but rather by how many different email CCs (carbon copy) one is included in.
Hiding behind teamwork, the unindustrious have turned individual effort into an affliction, to be exorcised away at the next company trust circle.
Call it Corporate Darwinism.
Now, many of today’s tech titans – Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. – achieved fantastic success by combining a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic with a dash of creative genius. Their rise lifted corporate slugs to newly created positions of prominence.
And isn’t it about time that history’s benchwarmers, the shiftless, enjoy the fruits of other people’s labor?
As for today’s remaining men and women of action, acknowledging the passing of one era and the rise of a postindustrial society is an important first step. Next, it’s crucial to adapt: ingratiate incessantly; adopt groupthink as a religion; suspend all doubts and, above all, never stop smiling!
For while fortune once favored the bold, today it most assuredly favors the bland.