This ‘Superjob’ Ain’t So Super

If you’re overseeing a merger in China one minute and installing the new office microwave the next, chances are you’re caught up in what The Wall Street Journal calls the “superjob” era.

“Emboldened by an unemployment crisis that’s only now easing up, businesses of all sizes have asked employees to take on extra tasks that have little to do with their primary roles and expertise,” the Journal explained this week, “with engineers going on sales calls, accountants pitching in on customer service and chief financial officers running a division on the side.”

Most people don’t like having a superjob. The hours are longer than with a normal job, and the tasks are confusing in their variety. The job can also waste time. As the Journal noted, “Some executives find themselves spending time on chores that used to be handled by junior staff.”

To be sure, when Peter Drucker looked at the workplace, he saw a need to provide a greater variety of challenges for employees. “Our institutions are full of people in their 40’s who are bored, having done the same work for too long,” he noted in Managing in Turbulent Times.

Image source: US Library of Congress

But, as we’ve discussed previously, Drucker believed in “re-potting” bored workers and giving them new opportunities, not in stretching them in multiple directions at once. Of particular concern were ancillary tasks that would distract employees from their primary work.

“Knowledge workers and service workers should always be asked: ‘Is this work necessary to your main task? Does it contribute to your performance? Does it help you do your own job?’” Drucker wrote in Post-Capitalist Society. “And if the answer is no, the procedure or operation must be considered a ‘chore’ rather than ‘work.’ It should either be dropped altogether or engineered into a job of its own.”

Do you see more and more people falling prey to the “superjob” trend?  What does it mean for their effectiveness?