Busy Bee Syndrome – When Companies Mistake Busyness with Productivity

Busy Bee Syndrome

Productivity is an elusive quality for many companies.

Ironically, the more a company pursues productivity, the more it seems to slip through its fingers.

Additional resources end up clogging up the works. More rules, structure, and process create unneeded delays and bureaucracy. When activity does occur, companies tend to recognize busyness instead of progress.

Does your company promote the right behaviors to increase productivity, or has inefficiency become a self-fulfilling prophecy of your company’s busyness?

Busy But Not Necessarily Productive

Run, run, run. Do more. Do it faster. Do it for more time.

That is the mantra that many companies have adopted, especially as they try to do more with less in the current economic environment. Yet, running faster and constant busyness are not the answer. For many companies, these efforts are less than productive, even self-destructive.

Companies assume that if they assemble the largest group of “busy bees” that all of the work will get done.

From MacMillian’s dictionary:
Busy Bee – “Someone who is always busy doing things.”

Sounds good, right? Someone who is always busydoing things.

Yet, the questions that need to be answered are, “Is anything worthwhile being accomplished? And are results being effectively delivered?”

It doesn’t matter how much busyness occurs if nothing of quality or importance is being done.

“Too many companies mistake busyness with effectiveness.” (Tweet Quote)

Worse still, is when companies reward this busyness.

Too many companies mistakenly recognize the following employees:

  • The employee that sends the most email.
  • The person who works the most hours.
  • Individuals who create the most documents and paper.
  • The last one to leave the office.
  • The employee that takes the least amount of vacation.
  • The road warrior who logs the most travel.

All of these seem like pretty busy individuals.

But, are these truly signs of efficiency? Do these measures mean that anything impactful is getting done. Not necessarily.

They could be hard-working high-output individuals. And in rare cases, they are.

However, here is a different thought: Are each of these examples actually danger signs?

Signs of bad behaviors and non-productive habits. Signals of personal problems. Even telltales of illicit money wasting behavior?

Could each of these individuals actually be costing the company?

Wasted hours, wasted resources, wasted money. Even the loss of other employees who decide they aren’t going to put up with the silliness any longer.

Rewarding the Wrong Behavior

Busyness isn’t the same as productivity.

Productivity is about getting things done… the right things at the right time.

Busyness on the other hand is about constantly working. Doing, doing, doing… often with little regard for priority or importance.

Busyness can result in many things done, but not necessarily the right things.

Busyness drains resources ranging from people to money to energy to time.

Busyness prevents companies from planning, forming strategies, and taking decisive action.

Busy companies burnout. Busy companies don’t close the deal. And busy companies will lose every time to effective competitors.

It’s Not About Activity, It’s About Results

Take a look at your company. Are you rewarding busyness instead of productivity?

How could you better measure results instead of metrics such as hours and emails?

Busyness and motion often mask true effectiveness and impact.

Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the behaviors your company is actually driving, and the activities resulting from those behaviors.

Question: What examples have you seen of companies reward busyness instead of productivity? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

6 thoughts on “Busy Bee Syndrome – When Companies Mistake Busyness with Productivity

  1. Hey Craig, a friend of mine used to joke about how nobody noticed that he never got much done! Since the company had more than 100,000 employees over the globe, he had ample opportunities to appear ‘busy’ enough and not get noticed! A perfect example!

  2. In my mastermind group we provide a weekly written report of our activities in the past week…but we can only report on results, not activities. Thus, “worked for ten hours on website design” is not reportable, but “put up landing page” is. Knowing that busyness doesn’t count really helps us focus.

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