Phaticized work : Gladhanding

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhaticized work is defined as a covert and often unconscious form of corruption in which organizational resources are diverted to personal ends by way of social instincts.

Phatic is a term borrowed from linguistics, where it refers to speech that serves a social function rather than conveying information. For our purposes, phatic refers to any workplace activity that perhaps appears to serve the organization’s mission, but actually serves a social function that either does not genuinely support the mission or undermines it.

Today’s example of phaticized work is gladhanding.

Gladhanding (as we’re using it) consists of spending undue workplace time building one’s own social network, particularly among seniors and well-connected peers. Gladhanders are often perceived as positive go-getters, but what they primarily go and get are promotions, raises, and perks for themselves.

Because they spend so much time maintaining their “face-time” with people who can protect and promote their career, any actual projects they’re assigned tend to be either delegated away or performed in a very casual manner. A successful gladhander is essentially being paid to get raises while other people do the real work.

Watching out for gladhanders is the responsibility of the gladhanded. A peer or subordinate who seems to make opportunities for face-time every day, is eager to chat every time you pass in the hallway, or even sets up a regular meeting that seems to have little genuine work function may be a gladhander.

Remember, gladhanding is not innocent workplace socializing or valuable networking. Such pro-social behavior has been shown to drive productivity out of an organization. And, by exploiting social instincts and personal ties to gain access to organizational resources, it constitutes an on-the-books form of embezzlement.

The best way to confirm gladhanding is to have a phatic-pragmatic ratio assessment done on their work by a third party reviewer and the person’s co-workers and subordinates. This sort of serious workplace discipline is the only way to eliminate phatic corruption.

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