Late August Survival Guide: How to Look Like You're Working

Last Updated Aug 24, 2009 3:15 PM EDT

Dear Stanley,

It's August, and I don't feel much like working. My boss is off doing this and that, the rest of the guys are off someplace, and I'm here at the office for some reason. I had a vacation earlier in the summer, but that seems like a long time ago. Can I just bag it and pretend I'm an executive?

Signed

Too Productive

Dear Chump,

Of course you can take it easy. Why shouldn't you? But there are ways to do it. First, make sure to do your basic work so you don't get totally busted. If you have something to do today, and somebody would be mad at you if you didn't, then do it first thing, just as I am doing right now. When that is done, it should still be high morning, the day stretching before you like a pleasant, sandy beach. The trick is to employ one or more techniques in the vast range of strategies that executives use to make their lives more pleasant than ours. Ways to be "working" while you don't feel like it include, in escalating order of comprehensiveness:

  1. "He/She has stepped away." This tactic clears up to 30 minutes of time in which you may have, credibly, simply disappeared for either biological or other personal issues;
  2. "He/She is in a meeting." Nobody has a right to know what kind of meeting you're in. Even high bosses will not say "What kind of meeting?" when told this, although later you might want to offer a meeting you might have been in. So if you're "in a meeting" with yourself at a local boutique or department store, it's rare that anybody will ever challenge that meeting (particularly when they are in the same kind of "meeting"). If you do this too often, however, with no tangible work product, you might find yourself under scrutiny;
  3. "He/She is at a meeting outside of the office." This is essentially No. 2 on steroids;
  4. "I don't have him/her right now." This is for people on the West Coast who have assistants to answer the phone for them. It's a strange locution that is perfect in its own way because it conveys ABSOLUTELY NO INFORMATION WHATSOEVER. You call somebody and are told that their switchboard does not "have" them. Have they gone to Mars? Are they in the hospital on life support? At the local watering hole sucking down a plate of pasta pesto? Working their butt off in some hot conference room? You just don't know because they don't "have" him/her. Brilliant!
  5. "He/She is working from home." I'm working from home today. I have coffee. There is a deer eating my roses in the back yard. When I'm done with this, I'll make a couple of calls. This afternoon, I will take a nap.
BlackBerry volume today appears to be down about 75 percent. You know what? I have a feeling that I'm not the only one who has stepped away, is in a meeting either here or outside the office, or is working from home. I suppose you could try to reach me, but they don't have me right now.