In a big corporate company with many employees, it's not surprising that some employees 'ghost' through their work.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 22, 2023. It has since been updated.
When you work for a big corporate business, you notice that everyone is caught up in their own work. Everyone is busy, rummaging through their desks, running from one corner to another, and even worse, forgetting about an employee they just hired. For a better explanation of the complexities of big organizations, Reddit user u/jerichomega shared a post on the famous r/antiwork subreddit that perfectly illustrates how inefficient these companies can be. He has talked about his experience working for a significant property owner but not being given any tasks to complete for more than six months. Frustrated, he even began to look for someone— anyone who could employ him at one point—but nobody seemed to be concerned, even though he gets paid.
"I was hired in October by one of the biggest property owners in the world. The person who hired me for the position was eliminated a week before I started. I was brought around the office by someone from a different department," the post reads, adding, "I’ve been sitting in an office behind the fired lady’s office all alone for months. Doing nothing. I’ve asked around, and I’ve emailed people. NOTHING. I show up 3 days a week, "work" from home 2 days a week and get paid every Friday. I haven’t said a word to anyone in months. I’m riding the wave until it crests. I don’t know how it’s possible that no one gives me any assignments or even really emails me, and yet here I am."
This might sound like a dream for many. Getting paid under six figures and not having to work even once. However, the reality can be very murky for some, and this is a very unlikely situation to happen to people. Reddit user u/badatmetroid commented, sharing a similar story. "I saw a documentary on ghost employees once. Wild stuff. This sort of thing happens more than you'd think. One company did an audit and found an employee who was paid but hadn't been to work in years. They fired him. Dude had the balls to show up on payday and complain that he wasn't paid. If I were you, I'd be taking online classes while simultaneously keeping my head down. Ride that wave!"
In a report by Ron Carucci for Harvard Business Review, stories such as these are very common. He is the co-founder and managing partner at Navalent, a company that works with CEOs and executives pursuing transformational change for their organizations. Carucci discusses common irritants that arise from ineffective organization design, resulting in competing priorities, unwanted turnover, inaccessible bosses, and cross-functional rivalry. Like u/jerichomega, Carucci found himself in a similar situation with an organization he used to work in. "Employees complained that they never had enough feedback or direction from their leaders. Leaders, by contrast, complained they had to work through too many layers above them to get decisions made or secure resources, and had too many direct reports below them to give each enough time.”
Carucci shared two factors through which companies can effectively function. "Highly complex or high-risk work — such as scientists running clinical drug trials or analysts interpreting sensitive data — often requires extensive coordination to execute effectively. Therefore, it makes sense to keep a manager’s span narrow to ensure high-quality performance. Standard, more repetitive work — such as engineers writing technical code or teams working on manufacturing lines — typically enables employees to be more autonomous, which allows a manager’s span to be wider."