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Our Co-workers Aren't Buying How "Busy" We Are

We're all so busy, all the time.

It's especially true on the job where...a new study finds a good percentage of our work peers no longer believe us when we say we're busy?! Let's get busy looking at this new study!

I've blogged about our national tendency to tell everyone how "busy" we are, but now a new study from corporate communications company Havas Worldwide finds 60% of our business colleagues are quietly suspicious whenever we tell them we're "so busy."

As in, they don't believe us anymore. Let's go to the imaginary water cooler conversation, shall we?

Employee 1: Ugh, I'm so busy today. I can't believe how busy I am!

Employee 2 [thinking]: Oh yeah, uh-huh. Sure you are.

Employee 1: I mean, it's crazy-busy. I don't know how I'm going to get it all done. I'm that busy.

Employee 2 [thinking]: Yeah, "crazy-busy." Right.

Employee 1: We'll have to get together soon, when I'm not so busy. What a busy day...

Employee 2 [thinking]: Yeah, that's going to happen. You said the word "busy" at least five times.

This imaginary, hastily-assembled conversation might not be all that far off the mark: The Havas Worldwide study finds 42% of the 10,000 employed adults surveyed admit to "over-stating" how busy they are, so there are surely a few cynics quietly navigating the other side of the conversation. (In fact, the precise number is 60%.)

Throw in social media, where we can trumpet our "busy-ness" to our friends and followers, and that figure zooms to 100%.

So what are we to make of all this? Ultimately, the study reflects our fear of looking the least bit unoccupied, or dare I say it: lazy. Our modern work culture demands that we appear busy at all times, and so we exaggerate accordingly. Too bad verging on two-thirds of those we speak with no longer believe how "busy" we are -- even if we really are doing the work of three employees, thanks to multiple rounds of layoffs.

It takes a brave employee these days to admit to being "caught up on work," which is quite odd because being caught up on work -- and saying so! -- used to be a good thing. It indicated an efficient, productive employee able to meet quotas and deadlines. A talented employee on top of his or her game. Being caught up was something to brag about at work. Now we earn our kudos by reminding others constantly of our frantic busy-ness and just-trying-to-keep-up-edness. It's a big change in workplace culture.

So let's honor our hard-earned downtime by admitting that it happens. You go first. I'm too busy today.


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