Beware the cunning minimalist in your midst

Never have so many been so worried about losing their jobs while feeling so reluctant to do them.

This thought shot to mind last week as the new year was upended by worrying new strains of Covid, a fresh round of lockdowns and more job cuts.

Close behind came another idea: there has never been a better time to study the ways of the cunning minimalist.

This is a species of worker, common to every office, who instinctively knows how to avoid the tiresome, invisible work that makes life easier for colleagues but gains little attention or credit.

Instead, they focus on high profile stuff. The boss’s pet project. Work that gets noticed, inside and preferably outside too, because doing it makes one more marketable and thus invincible.

I wish I could say I came up with the cunning minimalism term that so aptly describes this unvirtuous circle of craftiness, but I did not.

I heard it the other day from a despairing friend who was trying to work out how she and her husband could juggle another spate of home-schooling and childcare on top of their demanding jobs.

“Both of us have always believed that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead, so that’s what we’ve always done,” she said. “But it’s killing us now so I’ve decided we have to be cunning minimalists and be more strategic about what we do or don’t do to get by.”

She was joking, mostly, but not entirely. The trouble was that she, like me, was so averse to the idea of shirking that she had never worked out how to be a successful minimalist, cunning or otherwise, despite years of close observation.

The first time I noticed a master in action I was working in an Australian newsroom that, like a lot of other places, had a rota for weekend shifts. Everyone was on it except for one middle-aged reporter. His absence meant that everyone else had to do a bit more work.

“How come he doesn’t have to work on Sundays?” I asked a manager one day. The manager’s face clouded as he explained the man had refused to do weekend work and no one, including the editor, was inclined to make him.

This did the man no harm at all. He proceeded to glide from job to golden job in a career that glistened with awards, acclaim and book deals.

How did he do it? The same way I have watched countless others do it in every place I’ve worked at since. He was grumpy and slightly intimidating, so managers disliked asking him to do something if a nicer, more agreeable person could do it instead.

He was also an expert at saying no, a skill the nicer people often lacked, and adept at staying onside with the boss and the boss’s most powerful lieutenants.

Crucially, he was rarely in the office, which meant he avoided being asked to do things in the first place.

Covid-19 has upset this strategy in two distinct ways. First, hiding outside the office can be less of a foolproof ploy if everyone is working from home and managers feel the need to keep a closer eye on who is doing what.

Far more importantly, dumping extra work on colleagues has gone from being vaguely unpleasant to potentially dangerous.

Before the pandemic took hold, chronic work stress had become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization officially listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019.

The same year, close to 30 per cent of US workers said they felt burnt out at work “very often” or “always”. Once Covid hit, another survey found 41 per cent of US workers who had managed to keep their jobs felt their work was burning them out.

In other words, the cunning minimalist has become an increasingly risky management problem. The resentment they breed was bad enough in good times, but at a time when so many workers face so much hardship and stress, it is intolerable.

More than ever, companies need staff to be as generous and collegial as possible. Letting the minimalists roam free is not just unfair and unreasonable, it also encourages the rest of us to think about joining their ranks to survive.

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark

Read More

Beware the cunning minimalist in your midst

Never have so many been so worried about losing their jobs while feeling so reluctant to do them.

This thought shot to mind last week as the new year was upended by worrying new strains of Covid, a fresh round of lockdowns and more job cuts.

Close behind came another idea: there has never been a better time to study the ways of the cunning minimalist.

This is a species of worker, common to every office, who instinctively knows how to avoid the tiresome, invisible work that makes life easier for colleagues but gains little attention or credit.

Instead, they focus on high profile stuff. The boss’s pet project. Work that gets noticed, inside and preferably outside too, because doing it makes one more marketable and thus invincible.

I wish I could say I came up with the cunning minimalism term that so aptly describes this unvirtuous circle of craftiness, but I did not.

I heard it the other day from a despairing friend who was trying to work out how she and her husband could juggle another spate of home-schooling and childcare on top of their demanding jobs.

“Both of us have always believed that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead, so that’s what we’ve always done,” she said. “But it’s killing us now so I’ve decided we have to be cunning minimalists and be more strategic about what we do or don’t do to get by.”

She was joking, mostly, but not entirely. The trouble was that she, like me, was so averse to the idea of shirking that she had never worked out how to be a successful minimalist, cunning or otherwise, despite years of close observation.

The first time I noticed a master in action I was working in an Australian newsroom that, like a lot of other places, had a rota for weekend shifts. Everyone was on it except for one middle-aged reporter. His absence meant that everyone else had to do a bit more work.

“How come he doesn’t have to work on Sundays?” I asked a manager one day. The manager’s face clouded as he explained the man had refused to do weekend work and no one, including the editor, was inclined to make him.

This did the man no harm at all. He proceeded to glide from job to golden job in a career that glistened with awards, acclaim and book deals.

How did he do it? The same way I have watched countless others do it in every place I’ve worked at since. He was grumpy and slightly intimidating, so managers disliked asking him to do something if a nicer, more agreeable person could do it instead.

He was also an expert at saying no, a skill the nicer people often lacked, and adept at staying onside with the boss and the boss’s most powerful lieutenants.

Crucially, he was rarely in the office, which meant he avoided being asked to do things in the first place.

Covid-19 has upset this strategy in two distinct ways. First, hiding outside the office can be less of a foolproof ploy if everyone is working from home and managers feel the need to keep a closer eye on who is doing what.

Far more importantly, dumping extra work on colleagues has gone from being vaguely unpleasant to potentially dangerous.

Before the pandemic took hold, chronic work stress had become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization officially listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019.

The same year, close to 30 per cent of US workers said they felt burnt out at work “very often” or “always”. Once Covid hit, another survey found 41 per cent of US workers who had managed to keep their jobs felt their work was burning them out.

In other words, the cunning minimalist has become an increasingly risky management problem. The resentment they breed was bad enough in good times, but at a time when so many workers face so much hardship and stress, it is intolerable.

More than ever, companies need staff to be as generous and collegial as possible. Letting the minimalists roam free is not just unfair and unreasonable, it also encourages the rest of us to think about joining their ranks to survive.

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark

Read More

Beware the cunning minimalist in your midst

Never have so many been so worried about losing their jobs while feeling so reluctant to do them.

This thought shot to mind last week as the new year was upended by worrying new strains of Covid, a fresh round of lockdowns and more job cuts.

Close behind came another idea: there has never been a better time to study the ways of the cunning minimalist.

This is a species of worker, common to every office, who instinctively knows how to avoid the tiresome, invisible work that makes life easier for colleagues but gains little attention or credit.

Instead, they focus on high profile stuff. The boss’s pet project. Work that gets noticed, inside and preferably outside too, because doing it makes one more marketable and thus invincible.

I wish I could say I came up with the cunning minimalism term that so aptly describes this unvirtuous circle of craftiness, but I did not.

I heard it the other day from a despairing friend who was trying to work out how she and her husband could juggle another spate of home-schooling and childcare on top of their demanding jobs.

“Both of us have always believed that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead, so that’s what we’ve always done,” she said. “But it’s killing us now so I’ve decided we have to be cunning minimalists and be more strategic about what we do or don’t do to get by.”

She was joking, mostly, but not entirely. The trouble was that she, like me, was so averse to the idea of shirking that she had never worked out how to be a successful minimalist, cunning or otherwise, despite years of close observation.

The first time I noticed a master in action I was working in an Australian newsroom that, like a lot of other places, had a rota for weekend shifts. Everyone was on it except for one middle-aged reporter. His absence meant that everyone else had to do a bit more work.

“How come he doesn’t have to work on Sundays?” I asked a manager one day. The manager’s face clouded as he explained the man had refused to do weekend work and no one, including the editor, was inclined to make him.

This did the man no harm at all. He proceeded to glide from job to golden job in a career that glistened with awards, acclaim and book deals.

How did he do it? The same way I have watched countless others do it in every place I’ve worked at since. He was grumpy and slightly intimidating, so managers disliked asking him to do something if a nicer, more agreeable person could do it instead.

He was also an expert at saying no, a skill the nicer people often lacked, and adept at staying onside with the boss and the boss’s most powerful lieutenants.

Crucially, he was rarely in the office, which meant he avoided being asked to do things in the first place.

Covid-19 has upset this strategy in two distinct ways. First, hiding outside the office can be less of a foolproof ploy if everyone is working from home and managers feel the need to keep a closer eye on who is doing what.

Far more importantly, dumping extra work on colleagues has gone from being vaguely unpleasant to potentially dangerous.

Before the pandemic took hold, chronic work stress had become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization officially listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019.

The same year, close to 30 per cent of US workers said they felt burnt out at work “very often” or “always”. Once Covid hit, another survey found 41 per cent of US workers who had managed to keep their jobs felt their work was burning them out.

In other words, the cunning minimalist has become an increasingly risky management problem. The resentment they breed was bad enough in good times, but at a time when so many workers face so much hardship and stress, it is intolerable.

More than ever, companies need staff to be as generous and collegial as possible. Letting the minimalists roam free is not just unfair and unreasonable, it also encourages the rest of us to think about joining their ranks to survive.

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark

Read More

Beware the cunning minimalist in your midst

Never have so many been so worried about losing their jobs while feeling so reluctant to do them.

This thought shot to mind last week as the new year was upended by worrying new strains of Covid, a fresh round of lockdowns and more job cuts.

Close behind came another idea: there has never been a better time to study the ways of the cunning minimalist.

This is a species of worker, common to every office, who instinctively knows how to avoid the tiresome, invisible work that makes life easier for colleagues but gains little attention or credit.

Instead, they focus on high profile stuff. The boss’s pet project. Work that gets noticed, inside and preferably outside too, because doing it makes one more marketable and thus invincible.

I wish I could say I came up with the cunning minimalism term that so aptly describes this unvirtuous circle of craftiness, but I did not.

I heard it the other day from a despairing friend who was trying to work out how she and her husband could juggle another spate of home-schooling and childcare on top of their demanding jobs.

“Both of us have always believed that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead, so that’s what we’ve always done,” she said. “But it’s killing us now so I’ve decided we have to be cunning minimalists and be more strategic about what we do or don’t do to get by.”

She was joking, mostly, but not entirely. The trouble was that she, like me, was so averse to the idea of shirking that she had never worked out how to be a successful minimalist, cunning or otherwise, despite years of close observation.

The first time I noticed a master in action I was working in an Australian newsroom that, like a lot of other places, had a rota for weekend shifts. Everyone was on it except for one middle-aged reporter. His absence meant that everyone else had to do a bit more work.

“How come he doesn’t have to work on Sundays?” I asked a manager one day. The manager’s face clouded as he explained the man had refused to do weekend work and no one, including the editor, was inclined to make him.

This did the man no harm at all. He proceeded to glide from job to golden job in a career that glistened with awards, acclaim and book deals.

How did he do it? The same way I have watched countless others do it in every place I’ve worked at since. He was grumpy and slightly intimidating, so managers disliked asking him to do something if a nicer, more agreeable person could do it instead.

He was also an expert at saying no, a skill the nicer people often lacked, and adept at staying onside with the boss and the boss’s most powerful lieutenants.

Crucially, he was rarely in the office, which meant he avoided being asked to do things in the first place.

Covid-19 has upset this strategy in two distinct ways. First, hiding outside the office can be less of a foolproof ploy if everyone is working from home and managers feel the need to keep a closer eye on who is doing what.

Far more importantly, dumping extra work on colleagues has gone from being vaguely unpleasant to potentially dangerous.

Before the pandemic took hold, chronic work stress had become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization officially listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019.

The same year, close to 30 per cent of US workers said they felt burnt out at work “very often” or “always”. Once Covid hit, another survey found 41 per cent of US workers who had managed to keep their jobs felt their work was burning them out.

In other words, the cunning minimalist has become an increasingly risky management problem. The resentment they breed was bad enough in good times, but at a time when so many workers face so much hardship and stress, it is intolerable.

More than ever, companies need staff to be as generous and collegial as possible. Letting the minimalists roam free is not just unfair and unreasonable, it also encourages the rest of us to think about joining their ranks to survive.

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark

Read More

Beware the cunning minimalist in your midst

Never have so many been so worried about losing their jobs while feeling so reluctant to do them.

This thought shot to mind last week as the new year was upended by worrying new strains of Covid, a fresh round of lockdowns and more job cuts.

Close behind came another idea: there has never been a better time to study the ways of the cunning minimalist.

This is a species of worker, common to every office, who instinctively knows how to avoid the tiresome, invisible work that makes life easier for colleagues but gains little attention or credit.

Instead, they focus on high profile stuff. The boss’s pet project. Work that gets noticed, inside and preferably outside too, because doing it makes one more marketable and thus invincible.

I wish I could say I came up with the cunning minimalism term that so aptly describes this unvirtuous circle of craftiness, but I did not.

I heard it the other day from a despairing friend who was trying to work out how she and her husband could juggle another spate of home-schooling and childcare on top of their demanding jobs.

“Both of us have always believed that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead, so that’s what we’ve always done,” she said. “But it’s killing us now so I’ve decided we have to be cunning minimalists and be more strategic about what we do or don’t do to get by.”

She was joking, mostly, but not entirely. The trouble was that she, like me, was so averse to the idea of shirking that she had never worked out how to be a successful minimalist, cunning or otherwise, despite years of close observation.

The first time I noticed a master in action I was working in an Australian newsroom that, like a lot of other places, had a rota for weekend shifts. Everyone was on it except for one middle-aged reporter. His absence meant that everyone else had to do a bit more work.

“How come he doesn’t have to work on Sundays?” I asked a manager one day. The manager’s face clouded as he explained the man had refused to do weekend work and no one, including the editor, was inclined to make him.

This did the man no harm at all. He proceeded to glide from job to golden job in a career that glistened with awards, acclaim and book deals.

How did he do it? The same way I have watched countless others do it in every place I’ve worked at since. He was grumpy and slightly intimidating, so managers disliked asking him to do something if a nicer, more agreeable person could do it instead.

He was also an expert at saying no, a skill the nicer people often lacked, and adept at staying onside with the boss and the boss’s most powerful lieutenants.

Crucially, he was rarely in the office, which meant he avoided being asked to do things in the first place.

Covid-19 has upset this strategy in two distinct ways. First, hiding outside the office can be less of a foolproof ploy if everyone is working from home and managers feel the need to keep a closer eye on who is doing what.

Far more importantly, dumping extra work on colleagues has gone from being vaguely unpleasant to potentially dangerous.

Before the pandemic took hold, chronic work stress had become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization officially listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019.

The same year, close to 30 per cent of US workers said they felt burnt out at work “very often” or “always”. Once Covid hit, another survey found 41 per cent of US workers who had managed to keep their jobs felt their work was burning them out.

In other words, the cunning minimalist has become an increasingly risky management problem. The resentment they breed was bad enough in good times, but at a time when so many workers face so much hardship and stress, it is intolerable.

More than ever, companies need staff to be as generous and collegial as possible. Letting the minimalists roam free is not just unfair and unreasonable, it also encourages the rest of us to think about joining their ranks to survive.

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark

Read More

Beware the cunning minimalist in your midst

Never have so many been so worried about losing their jobs while feeling so reluctant to do them.

This thought shot to mind last week as the new year was upended by worrying new strains of Covid, a fresh round of lockdowns and more job cuts.

Close behind came another idea: there has never been a better time to study the ways of the cunning minimalist.

This is a species of worker, common to every office, who instinctively knows how to avoid the tiresome, invisible work that makes life easier for colleagues but gains little attention or credit.

Instead, they focus on high profile stuff. The boss’s pet project. Work that gets noticed, inside and preferably outside too, because doing it makes one more marketable and thus invincible.

I wish I could say I came up with the cunning minimalism term that so aptly describes this unvirtuous circle of craftiness, but I did not.

I heard it the other day from a despairing friend who was trying to work out how she and her husband could juggle another spate of home-schooling and childcare on top of their demanding jobs.

“Both of us have always believed that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead, so that’s what we’ve always done,” she said. “But it’s killing us now so I’ve decided we have to be cunning minimalists and be more strategic about what we do or don’t do to get by.”

She was joking, mostly, but not entirely. The trouble was that she, like me, was so averse to the idea of shirking that she had never worked out how to be a successful minimalist, cunning or otherwise, despite years of close observation.

The first time I noticed a master in action I was working in an Australian newsroom that, like a lot of other places, had a rota for weekend shifts. Everyone was on it except for one middle-aged reporter. His absence meant that everyone else had to do a bit more work.

“How come he doesn’t have to work on Sundays?” I asked a manager one day. The manager’s face clouded as he explained the man had refused to do weekend work and no one, including the editor, was inclined to make him.

This did the man no harm at all. He proceeded to glide from job to golden job in a career that glistened with awards, acclaim and book deals.

How did he do it? The same way I have watched countless others do it in every place I’ve worked at since. He was grumpy and slightly intimidating, so managers disliked asking him to do something if a nicer, more agreeable person could do it instead.

He was also an expert at saying no, a skill the nicer people often lacked, and adept at staying onside with the boss and the boss’s most powerful lieutenants.

Crucially, he was rarely in the office, which meant he avoided being asked to do things in the first place.

Covid-19 has upset this strategy in two distinct ways. First, hiding outside the office can be less of a foolproof ploy if everyone is working from home and managers feel the need to keep a closer eye on who is doing what.

Far more importantly, dumping extra work on colleagues has gone from being vaguely unpleasant to potentially dangerous.

Before the pandemic took hold, chronic work stress had become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization officially listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019.

The same year, close to 30 per cent of US workers said they felt burnt out at work “very often” or “always”. Once Covid hit, another survey found 41 per cent of US workers who had managed to keep their jobs felt their work was burning them out.

In other words, the cunning minimalist has become an increasingly risky management problem. The resentment they breed was bad enough in good times, but at a time when so many workers face so much hardship and stress, it is intolerable.

More than ever, companies need staff to be as generous and collegial as possible. Letting the minimalists roam free is not just unfair and unreasonable, it also encourages the rest of us to think about joining their ranks to survive.

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark

Read More

Beware the cunning minimalist in your midst

Never have so many been so worried about losing their jobs while feeling so reluctant to do them.

This thought shot to mind last week as the new year was upended by worrying new strains of Covid, a fresh round of lockdowns and more job cuts.

Close behind came another idea: there has never been a better time to study the ways of the cunning minimalist.

This is a species of worker, common to every office, who instinctively knows how to avoid the tiresome, invisible work that makes life easier for colleagues but gains little attention or credit.

Instead, they focus on high profile stuff. The boss’s pet project. Work that gets noticed, inside and preferably outside too, because doing it makes one more marketable and thus invincible.

I wish I could say I came up with the cunning minimalism term that so aptly describes this unvirtuous circle of craftiness, but I did not.

I heard it the other day from a despairing friend who was trying to work out how she and her husband could juggle another spate of home-schooling and childcare on top of their demanding jobs.

“Both of us have always believed that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead, so that’s what we’ve always done,” she said. “But it’s killing us now so I’ve decided we have to be cunning minimalists and be more strategic about what we do or don’t do to get by.”

She was joking, mostly, but not entirely. The trouble was that she, like me, was so averse to the idea of shirking that she had never worked out how to be a successful minimalist, cunning or otherwise, despite years of close observation.

The first time I noticed a master in action I was working in an Australian newsroom that, like a lot of other places, had a rota for weekend shifts. Everyone was on it except for one middle-aged reporter. His absence meant that everyone else had to do a bit more work.

“How come he doesn’t have to work on Sundays?” I asked a manager one day. The manager’s face clouded as he explained the man had refused to do weekend work and no one, including the editor, was inclined to make him.

This did the man no harm at all. He proceeded to glide from job to golden job in a career that glistened with awards, acclaim and book deals.

How did he do it? The same way I have watched countless others do it in every place I’ve worked at since. He was grumpy and slightly intimidating, so managers disliked asking him to do something if a nicer, more agreeable person could do it instead.

He was also an expert at saying no, a skill the nicer people often lacked, and adept at staying onside with the boss and the boss’s most powerful lieutenants.

Crucially, he was rarely in the office, which meant he avoided being asked to do things in the first place.

Covid-19 has upset this strategy in two distinct ways. First, hiding outside the office can be less of a foolproof ploy if everyone is working from home and managers feel the need to keep a closer eye on who is doing what.

Far more importantly, dumping extra work on colleagues has gone from being vaguely unpleasant to potentially dangerous.

Before the pandemic took hold, chronic work stress had become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization officially listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019.

The same year, close to 30 per cent of US workers said they felt burnt out at work “very often” or “always”. Once Covid hit, another survey found 41 per cent of US workers who had managed to keep their jobs felt their work was burning them out.

In other words, the cunning minimalist has become an increasingly risky management problem. The resentment they breed was bad enough in good times, but at a time when so many workers face so much hardship and stress, it is intolerable.

More than ever, companies need staff to be as generous and collegial as possible. Letting the minimalists roam free is not just unfair and unreasonable, it also encourages the rest of us to think about joining their ranks to survive.

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark

Read More

Beware the cunning minimalist in your midst

Never have so many been so worried about losing their jobs while feeling so reluctant to do them.

This thought shot to mind last week as the new year was upended by worrying new strains of Covid, a fresh round of lockdowns and more job cuts.

Close behind came another idea: there has never been a better time to study the ways of the cunning minimalist.

This is a species of worker, common to every office, who instinctively knows how to avoid the tiresome, invisible work that makes life easier for colleagues but gains little attention or credit.

Instead, they focus on high profile stuff. The boss’s pet project. Work that gets noticed, inside and preferably outside too, because doing it makes one more marketable and thus invincible.

I wish I could say I came up with the cunning minimalism term that so aptly describes this unvirtuous circle of craftiness, but I did not.

I heard it the other day from a despairing friend who was trying to work out how she and her husband could juggle another spate of home-schooling and childcare on top of their demanding jobs.

“Both of us have always believed that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead, so that’s what we’ve always done,” she said. “But it’s killing us now so I’ve decided we have to be cunning minimalists and be more strategic about what we do or don’t do to get by.”

She was joking, mostly, but not entirely. The trouble was that she, like me, was so averse to the idea of shirking that she had never worked out how to be a successful minimalist, cunning or otherwise, despite years of close observation.

The first time I noticed a master in action I was working in an Australian newsroom that, like a lot of other places, had a rota for weekend shifts. Everyone was on it except for one middle-aged reporter. His absence meant that everyone else had to do a bit more work.

“How come he doesn’t have to work on Sundays?” I asked a manager one day. The manager’s face clouded as he explained the man had refused to do weekend work and no one, including the editor, was inclined to make him.

This did the man no harm at all. He proceeded to glide from job to golden job in a career that glistened with awards, acclaim and book deals.

How did he do it? The same way I have watched countless others do it in every place I’ve worked at since. He was grumpy and slightly intimidating, so managers disliked asking him to do something if a nicer, more agreeable person could do it instead.

He was also an expert at saying no, a skill the nicer people often lacked, and adept at staying onside with the boss and the boss’s most powerful lieutenants.

Crucially, he was rarely in the office, which meant he avoided being asked to do things in the first place.

Covid-19 has upset this strategy in two distinct ways. First, hiding outside the office can be less of a foolproof ploy if everyone is working from home and managers feel the need to keep a closer eye on who is doing what.

Far more importantly, dumping extra work on colleagues has gone from being vaguely unpleasant to potentially dangerous.

Before the pandemic took hold, chronic work stress had become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization officially listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019.

The same year, close to 30 per cent of US workers said they felt burnt out at work “very often” or “always”. Once Covid hit, another survey found 41 per cent of US workers who had managed to keep their jobs felt their work was burning them out.

In other words, the cunning minimalist has become an increasingly risky management problem. The resentment they breed was bad enough in good times, but at a time when so many workers face so much hardship and stress, it is intolerable.

More than ever, companies need staff to be as generous and collegial as possible. Letting the minimalists roam free is not just unfair and unreasonable, it also encourages the rest of us to think about joining their ranks to survive.

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark

Read More

Beware the cunning minimalist in your midst

Never have so many been so worried about losing their jobs while feeling so reluctant to do them.

This thought shot to mind last week as the new year was upended by worrying new strains of Covid, a fresh round of lockdowns and more job cuts.

Close behind came another idea: there has never been a better time to study the ways of the cunning minimalist.

This is a species of worker, common to every office, who instinctively knows how to avoid the tiresome, invisible work that makes life easier for colleagues but gains little attention or credit.

Instead, they focus on high profile stuff. The boss’s pet project. Work that gets noticed, inside and preferably outside too, because doing it makes one more marketable and thus invincible.

I wish I could say I came up with the cunning minimalism term that so aptly describes this unvirtuous circle of craftiness, but I did not.

I heard it the other day from a despairing friend who was trying to work out how she and her husband could juggle another spate of home-schooling and childcare on top of their demanding jobs.

“Both of us have always believed that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead, so that’s what we’ve always done,” she said. “But it’s killing us now so I’ve decided we have to be cunning minimalists and be more strategic about what we do or don’t do to get by.”

She was joking, mostly, but not entirely. The trouble was that she, like me, was so averse to the idea of shirking that she had never worked out how to be a successful minimalist, cunning or otherwise, despite years of close observation.

The first time I noticed a master in action I was working in an Australian newsroom that, like a lot of other places, had a rota for weekend shifts. Everyone was on it except for one middle-aged reporter. His absence meant that everyone else had to do a bit more work.

“How come he doesn’t have to work on Sundays?” I asked a manager one day. The manager’s face clouded as he explained the man had refused to do weekend work and no one, including the editor, was inclined to make him.

This did the man no harm at all. He proceeded to glide from job to golden job in a career that glistened with awards, acclaim and book deals.

How did he do it? The same way I have watched countless others do it in every place I’ve worked at since. He was grumpy and slightly intimidating, so managers disliked asking him to do something if a nicer, more agreeable person could do it instead.

He was also an expert at saying no, a skill the nicer people often lacked, and adept at staying onside with the boss and the boss’s most powerful lieutenants.

Crucially, he was rarely in the office, which meant he avoided being asked to do things in the first place.

Covid-19 has upset this strategy in two distinct ways. First, hiding outside the office can be less of a foolproof ploy if everyone is working from home and managers feel the need to keep a closer eye on who is doing what.

Far more importantly, dumping extra work on colleagues has gone from being vaguely unpleasant to potentially dangerous.

Before the pandemic took hold, chronic work stress had become such a widespread problem that the World Health Organization officially listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019.

The same year, close to 30 per cent of US workers said they felt burnt out at work “very often” or “always”. Once Covid hit, another survey found 41 per cent of US workers who had managed to keep their jobs felt their work was burning them out.

In other words, the cunning minimalist has become an increasingly risky management problem. The resentment they breed was bad enough in good times, but at a time when so many workers face so much hardship and stress, it is intolerable.

More than ever, companies need staff to be as generous and collegial as possible. Letting the minimalists roam free is not just unfair and unreasonable, it also encourages the rest of us to think about joining their ranks to survive.

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark

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Pence rules out using 25th amendment to remove Trump

Democrats were preparing to impeach Donald Trump on Wednesday in an effort that was joined by several Republicans and comes after Mike Pence ruled out using the 25th amendment to remove the US president.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is expected to vote to approve a charge of “incitement of insurrection” before the end of the day, making him the first president in history to be impeached twice.

The Senate will then hold a trial to determine whether to convict Mr Trump, but it is not expected to begin before the inauguration of Joe Biden as president on January 20.

Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, sent shockwaves through Washington on Tuesday when she said she would vote to impeach Mr Trump.

After her announcement, Mr Pence, US vice-president, issued his declaration that he would not invoke the 25th amendment to the US constitution, which provides a mechanism to remove a president who is deemed by a majority of his cabinet members to be unfit to hold office.

His move undercut a later vote in the House of Representatives, where lawmakers passed a non-binding motion supporting the invocation of the 25th amendment by 223 to 205.

Ms Cheney, a Wyoming lawmaker seen as a future Republican presidential contender, said she would vote to impeach Mr Trump for his role in the storming of the Capitol by pro-Trump supporters that left five people dead.

“The president . . . summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Ms Cheney, the daughter of former Republican vice-president Dick Cheney. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the US of his office and his oath to the constitution.”

Ms Cheney was joined by three other Republican congressmen: John Katko from New York, Adam Kinzinger from Illinois and Fred Upton from Michigan.

Mr Katko said Mr Trump encouraged the “insurrection . . . by deliberately promoting baseless theories that the election was somehow stolen”, while Mr Kinzinger said he “broke his oath of office and incited this insurrection”.

It marked a stark contrast to the situation a year ago when no House Republicans voted to impeach Mr Trump, who became the third president in history after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton to be impeached.

The New York Times on Tuesday reported that Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, was happy that the Democrats were pushing to impeach Mr Trump because he believed it would help the GOP to purge the president from its ranks after four years of turmoil.

The Senate is unlikely to start a trial before the January 20 inauguration of Joe Biden, meaning Mr Trump will have left office. Democrats need 17 Republican senators to abandon Mr Trump to secure the two-thirds majority required to convict him — an outcome that looks very unlikely unless the move by Ms Cheney triggers similar moves by Senate peers.

In a letter to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, Mr Pence said he would not invoke the 25th amendment because “now is the time to heal” after the “horrific events” of last week.

His move came despite reports that Mr Trump and Mr Pence had fallen out following the deadly protests because the vice-president said he did not have the authority as Senate president to overturn the election result.

According to The New York Times, Mr Trump repeatedly put pressure on his vice-president, and at one point told Mr Pence: “You can either go down in history as a patriot . . . or you can go down in history as a pussy.”

Mr Trump later slammed Mr Pence on Twitter just as the vice-president was hunkered down in the Capitol in the midst of the violent attack.

In his first unscripted remarks since the rampage, Mr Trump on Tuesday denied any responsibility for the attack and said the move to impeach him was a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics”.

“I think it’s causing tremendous anger . . . and tremendous danger to our country,” Mr Trump said as he prepared to fly to Texas.

“We want no violence,” he added, as he defended a fiery speech he gave to supporters before the mob stormed the Capitol. “People thought what I said was totally appropriate.”

After his arrival in Alamo, Texas, Mr Trump said he faced no danger of being removed by the 25th amendment. “The 25th amendment is of zero risk to me but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration,” he said.

In addition to the Republican House lawmakers saying they would vote to impeach Mr Trump, several Republican senators, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, have urged Mr Trump to resign.

Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who will become Senate majority leader next week, described Mr Trump’s comments on Tuesday as “despicable” and repeated calls for him to resign or be impeached.

“What Trump did today, blaming others for what he caused, is a pathological technique used by dictators,” he said.

Mr Trump has become increasingly isolated in his final days, with three Cabinet secretaries and his deputy national security adviser resigning in the wake of the attack, alongside a handful of administration staffers.

Separately on Tuesday, Google-owned YouTube became the latest big social media group to suspend Mr Trump’s account over fears he could incite further unrest ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration. 

The platform said it was imposing the ban for at least a week “in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence”, and would also disable comments indefinitely on the president’s channel, which has 2.77m followers. 

Last week Jim Steyer, one of the organisers of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign which led an advertiser boycott of Facebook last year over concerns around its moderation failures, told Reuters that the group was weighing a similar boycott of YouTube if it did not ban Mr Trump’s channel.

Additional reporting by Hannah Murphy in San Francisco

Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter

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