Do You Have a Bullshit Job pt1
Updated: Nov 11
In the ever-evolving landscape of the corporate world is hard, with the rebranding of the old and calling it something new, or with lifeless amplification of words like 'innovation', 'transformation', and 'agility' frequently heard in every c suite discussion and company mission statements it can feel like we are all doing meaningful work.
Yet, under the surface of these trendy terms, many HR professionals grapple with the reality that their role lacks purpose. If your day can be summed up as a collection of meetings with no outcomes then you probably have what David Graeber calls a Bullshit (BS Job).
Now before you chuck stones at my glass house the people who tend to hate the idea of BS Jobs tend to come from HR so be careful
Today am going to dive into what a BS Job might be and how to try and transform out of it, but first, we have to assess if you even have a BS job in the first place. To do that I’ve created a 1980s teenager magazine quiz (The clip art is next level) click the image below titled BS Quiz to download and get your BS Score. Go do the quiz and come back, don't worry I am not going anyway
BS Role Quiz
So your back, you either reading this now feeling great, or your reading it while having a look on job sites, either way, lets add some context to that score. Let look at what a BS job tends to look like on a day to day
A Day In The Life of a BS Job
7:00 AM - Wake up: A jolt to the system, you heard the sounds of your alarm waking you up (Apple IPhone alarms are the worst) you have a sinking feeling, knowing that the day ahead will be filled with tasks and meetings that seem to lack any real purpose. On the commute you frantically try to use this golden hour to actually do something meaningful because your working hours are accounted for by other people’s demands
8:00 AM - Arrival at the Office: You walk into the office, grab a cup of coffee, and settle in. The day's schedule is already packed, but not with tasks that feel meaningful or impactful. Instead your having meetings with a leader or peer who’s whole mission is self brand protection. Often they lack self-awareness, can’t see that there is a problem with why their team is constantly in meetings in the first place or why they all sit quietly like sheep around them
9:00 AM - Team Meeting: The first of many meetings for the day. The agenda is vague if any at all, the discussion meanders from one topic to another without any clear direction. Decisions are deferred, and action items remain ambiguous and everyone is no better off
10:30 AM - Email & Teams Overload: You spend the next hour sifting through a barrage of emails, most of which are CCs on threads that have little to do with your actual role. The few that are relevant involve bureaucratic processes or approvals that seem unnecessary.
12:00 PM - Lunch: Lunchtime conversations with colleagues often revolve around shared frustrations. There's a clear sense of disappointment as many feel they're not utilising their skills or making a difference, every now and again this tends to be where some real valuable work happens due to the safe space of sharing frustrations
1:00 PM - Back-to-Back Meetings: The afternoon is a blur of meetings. There's a project update, a “fun” quiz meeting, and an Ops meeting, where a leader asks the team why their employee listening results are so low. The leadership team not daring to flag the problem for fear of career repercussions. Everyone leaves talking on the down low about how someone in that position could have such a high role and not get beyond their own problem blindness. The results; time used up with no actions, oh I also forgot to add the lengthy presentations, politics, and discussions that don't lead to concrete actions.
4:00 PM - Paperwork and Admin Tasks: The few hours of "free" time are spent navigating the company's internal systems, filling out forms, and handling administrative tasks checking in on the team who, lets be honest, are the engine of the business. They come to you asking what’s the direction of the function you can’t tell them because your leader direction changes like the wind. Instead you reassure them, you do everything you can to future proof them. However, you know in the back of your mind over time they will become a flight risk because like you, they are now struggling to find purpose and feel like a sharp sword going blunt.
5:30 PM - Reflection: As the day winds down, there's a sense of exhaustion, but not the fulfilling kind that comes from a day of productive work. Instead, it's the fatigue of feeling like a cog in a machine, doing tasks, being paid for the word count used in meetings. As you you commute back home you decide to just have a quick scan on LinkedIn Jobs its not like your actively looking or anything
The Underlying Issues:
A day in a BS job is characterised by a lack of tangible outcomes, endless bureaucracy, office politics, and a feeling of being trapped in a cycle of meaningless tasks. The absence of clear communication, the hold of redundant processes, and the lack of empowerment to make decisions crank up the feeling of purposelessness. Over time, this can lead to burnout, low morale, and high turnover.
The corporate world is not without its complexities. The rise of expansive organisational structures and the push for specialisation has led to roles that, while specific in their tasks, might lack a broader purpose. The bureaucracy, redundancies, and the often overwhelming emphasis on appeasing egos, directionless leaders and the dreaded Peter Principle all can make you question the real value you can bring.
The chances are we all have elements of the job that are BS, unfortunately, that's just how it is. However, if, when you map out your day-to-day, you start to notice that your whole day, day after day, is just a list of BS elements, then you may want to start asking yourself some tricky questions about the purpose it provides and the shelf life of your role. 94% of employee interaction with HR is now done through AI and automation, which has resulted in speeding up the completion of many HR tasks by up to 75%. Now, perhaps you didn't take the quiz; that's fine. Here is a simple, yet grounding, truth: If nurses and doctors stopped working tomorrow, the whole place would fall over within hours and days. If the bin men decided enough was enough, the impact would be seen within days and weeks. Now apply that question to your role: would the team fall over if you disappeared? Would that project never get delivered? If your instant answer to these questions is yes, then you haven't thought about the question long enough.