Five reasons to stop saying busy in the office

Why busyness isn't something we need to glorify

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We’ve all heard it. We start a meeting, ask how our colleague is doing and the response is ‘busy, so so busy.’ It makes me cringe every time. It’s so incredibly trite. Busy, yet again. Not original. Not empowering. Most importantly, NOT impressive.

Invariably, these same people have held their ‘so busy status’ at a constant state and somehow also manage to make copious mugs of tea and participate in all the inane office debates despite the substantial workload they profess to carry. And eventually, people stop thinking they’re busy and start thinking they’re just full of another four letter word.

So let’s stop it shall we? If you think you might be guily of the b-bomb, here’s five reasons why it’s time to stop:

  1. It’s uncreative. Literally everyone runs around using busy as an excuse for missing deadlines and not returning calls, so you being busy isn’t going to win you a prize. Talk about what interests you in the work you are doing. Share a new piece of insight that relates to the person you are speaking with. This will engage people and actually prove that you have a significant volume of valuable work to complete.
  2. It makes people doubt themselves, and if you make people doubt themselves they won’t feel inspired by you. Hearing that someone is busy may make people think perhaps they aren’t doing enough or that you are getting extra work, when in fact they are doing more. Ask about their work and how you can help – you might learn something.
  3. It works the opposite way you want it to. Busy over-users are well meaning. They want to show their value and prove they are occupied and important. But that’s not what people hear. You want to know what I hear when someone is constantly talking about how busy they are? ‘I’m not efficient enough to complete my work on time, and/or I’m not strategic minded enough to raise a business case when extra resource is required.’ Not good.
  4. It’s dismissive. When someone more senior tells me they are busy, it comes off as arrogant and perfunctory. They want to end the conversation quickly so they pull the busy card. Give people time, and if you don’t have time, let them know when you will so they feel heard.
  5. Being busy is what work is supposed to feel like. Your employer pays you to be at work, doing work to make them money. It is right and acceptable that they have constant work for you to do – if that list ends, so does your utility. Embrace the busy and be grateful for it.

What do you think? Is it time to ban the busy?

Originally published at

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