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All Your Rushing Around Looking Busy Is Doing No One Any Good

Slow down, Mr. Production.
Photo via Flickr/CC.

They're everywhere. Maybe you've seen one (or 50) of them. It was likely only for a femtosecond—this very important and busy person blew past your desk, brows furrowed, and barked a few vague words in your general direction, you schlub. They were definitely either tapping at or blabbing into their phone, possibly on hands-free (the absolute worst).

They're having a moment. Indeed, today is the age of the rusher. Our technologies foster them. Our open-concept work spaces are designed in such a way that they allow rushers to dart and lord about freely, the freak and speedy (hopefully non-bloodlusty) love child of Patrick Bateman and Phillip the Hyper Hypo. (Face it: Typically they're male.)


Maybe that's you. Maybe it's not. Either way, you're fucked.

You're fucked if you're a rusher because the reality is you're likely not any more productive than your colleagues. Your looking busy is a front, and everybody can see through it. Which is precisely why you're likewise fucked if you're a tortoise caught in the rusher's wake: You're dealing with loads on unwanted stress caused by Mr. Production, whose very-important-busyness can have crippling ripple effects.

"The productivity of entire teams can go down," WIlliam Arruda, a New York City-based personal-branding consultant, tells The Wall Street Journal. "If you have one person rushing into meetings at the last minute and tapping a pencil through the entire session, it changes the cadence for the entire group."

And more often than not, the rusher has no idea. Not a clue, whatsoever.

As part of an exercise to shake sense into rushers, Arruda will ask anywhere from 10 to 20 of Mr. Production's co-workers to provide him with written feedback on a "seemingly frivolous" questionnaire, which includes this gem: If I were a household appliance, which one would I be?

Arruda tells the Journal that chronic rushers "are shocked when co-workers liken them to 'a blender whirring around at 9 million miles an hour.'"

It's an apt comparison when you look at trends in office designs. Know all the little happy humans that populate those cheesy watercolored "here's what the new building will look like" posters? Architects used to draw them in focus. Nowadays, they're blurred. They're busy. They're all rushers. Look at them go.

Do they have a choice beyond the illustration, in the harsh real world? Not really. Open-plan office designs give bosses an all-seeing eye, something Ben Jacobson, co-founder of Conifer Research, Chicago, likens to pure physics: "…no one wants to be seen as the slowest moving object in the solar system. You have to keep up with the Joneses—literally," Jacobson tells the Journal.

The solution for the Joneses, the rushers, is simple: Slow down. Come up for air. Pretend you're on camera. Do you really want to come off like that? Of course you don't. Just don't go thinking anyone should #pray4u.