Slacking Tips for Work #4: Know your Enemy

Rage Against the Machine inspired artwork

As much as it pains me to say it some people will try to get in your way once you try to slack off during a job you hate even if you tell them that you do. They may reason that it’s your duty because of the (one-sided) contract you signed with the boss. Or maybe it’s just a part of being a good person that you work hard even if you don’t like what you are doing. Or maybe they will blame you for your own decisions and tell you that it’s your own fault and you need to accept the consequences of your actions.

Whatever they may respond with know this: They are the enemy of the slacker.

Whether it is a co-worker who is brown-nosing the boss or the boss themselves or even a customer who (for whatever reason) decides to chide you.

In my experience the last option doesn’t really happen as customers are too busy with their own affairs to care about how you are working. If they need you they will ask and if they ask I would recommend helping them because usually you can help them out and it’s a legitimate excuse to not be doing whatever your boss told you to do earlier. I also thinking getting the customer involved in your lazy war against the job isn’t really fair to them. More on this some other time though.

So you know your environment and you know you want to slack and you are gonna take it seriously. But there’s more! You’ve gotta know your enemy.

To be clear, I am not framing the term “enemy” as something to be destroyed in any physical sense or something to be attacked or treated in a remorseless fashion. I don’t think any of that makes much sense for the aspiring slacker, especially given how much effort, time and energy this may take when you can just get around them instead.

For the most part I argue ways to get over, under or around these individuals instead of trying to go through them.

Also try to recognize that even though they may be acting against your own interests within this specific situation it doesn’t mean they will always be like that. Although it is certainly true that the boss’s interests and the worker’s interests are often diametrically opposed this doesn’t mean that they are always going to be a bad person to be around or talk to or anything like that. This is especially true if you take advantage of mutual interests (genuine or not) and get them engaged in conversations they care about. Hopefully then this will loosen them up and then you’ll be able to deal with them better.

That may not always be the case of course and some bosses aren’t exactly very boss like and a tiny portion of them may even seem more like overly-power co-workers than bosses per se’. I know that was the case in the Walgreen’s I worked in with on of my managers Scott. He didn’t rush me most of the time and was fairly friendly and we laughed and joked a few times and even ragged on management once or twice. He was a good guy and he was one of the few from there that I have fond memories of. He seemed like a genuinely good guy who just had a bad position that he hardly even exercised like he probably could have.

On the other side of things you had this guy named Matt. He was rude, he always rushed me and acted as if I had the mental capacity of toddler or something. It was really annoying and I often felt fairly disempowered about the whole thing. He and I got in a few discussions about video games sometimes but they were always somewhat cursory but he always seemed distant and not very interested in making any sort of actual contact with me. Overall he is still probably one of my least favorite managers. 

What did I do to deal with him? Mostly, I just tried to do my job better and try not to let his belittling and patronizing get me down. It was just me and him at the store and I didn’t really have any support from anyone else to lean on. I pretty much just had to do what he asked or else he was going to belittle me more and I really didn’t want that to happen. So yeah, in that scenario I was in a bad spot and I don’t think even once you understand (in one sense or another) your position in the workplace you will always be able to handle the management. Especially if the space is more confined and there aren’t any co-workers to back you up.

In cases like that you’re going to have to do what you can to get the manager off your back. Whether complying with his wishes or doing it in such a way that it minimizes activity but still gets what they want done (maybe). Other tactics you can use are to talk to other people who have dealt with this manager and what strategies they have employed (no pun intended). Perhaps you can learn from others how best to maximize slack and minimize obedience and belittling. That is the ideal situation in any case.

Knowing who you should try to get around relies on the mark of authority and how others around you refer to it. If someone refers to this mark as something to be deferred to, to only be known through harsh words and closed doors then they are someone to watch out for. So too are the ones who think that this mark reveals a kind caregiver who will help us liberate ourselves (from ourselves, because of course we are far too incompetent to do it ourselves). The latter want to aesthetically dress up the mark of authority while the former want to flaunt it. They are both to be concerned about in their own individual ways.

Those who wear the mark of authority proudly versus the ones who display it nervously are, while both being worthy of concern for the slacker, are not always of equal extent worthy of said concern. I have had managers who are very cautious with their abilities and typically won’t use them unless they need to (Scott is a good example of this) and some who will flaunt it, use and abuse it and so on (Matt applies here).

Knowing you want to slack and knowing the environment (both internal and external) of the workplace are both essential elements to this but if you don’t know your enemy, understand them and can either make friends with them or make them irrelevant (what I usually do) then it will be mostly for nothing.

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