There’s an old comedy skit where the funny character keeps answering the question, “what are you doing?” with the sing-song answer of “maAYKin copies!”
As with most comedy, it is funny because it’s true – we know these people. In the business world, it’s important to be productive. The only way to be productive in most people’s eyes – especially the eyes of your boss – is to be physically busy. And that’s where the copy machine comes in.
The copy machine may be one of the single greatest business enhancers, and productivity killers, of all time. It was great because you could make copies! quickly. It killed productivity because too many people realize that they could look busy by making copies of various documents.
Unfortunately, the best time to realize what they are doing is after they’ve been fired. I’ve had to “let go” several people over the years, and eventually we get around to reviewing all their documents. It’s been unfortunate that only too late do I realize that this person, who is getting paid a healthy salary, spent a large portion of their workday making copies. This tells me several things.
First, I found out way too late.
Second, they should have been fired much earlier.
Third, they should never have been hired at all.
Here’s the hard part. Making copies isn’t the only way someone can look busy without truly being productive. Today there’s email, and networks, and so many other things that the creative employee can do to appear busy – yet they are not so overtaxed.
So, the next time you pass the boss while you’re heading towards the copy machine, think about what you’re going to say. After all, there has to be something more to life, and to your business, than “making copies.”