Laws of worker entropy

From The Jolly Contrarian
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Office anthropology™

The JC puts on his pith-helmet, grabs his butterfly net and a rucksack full of marmalade sandwiches, and heads into the concrete jungleIndex: Click to expand:

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Requests? Insults? We’d love to 📧 hear from you.
Sign up for our newsletter.

Towards a scientific understanding of the commercial universe:

The JC’s first law of worker entropy (also known as the “meeting paradox”):

(i) The probability of a meeting starting on time can never be 100%;
(ii) As the number of scheduled participants increases, that probability tends to zero.
(iii) The more participants there are the more retarded the starting time (and content) of the meeting will be.

This is true of any meeting containing more than one person. (A single-person meeting, of course, ought not, in a sensible mind, count, at least since Otto Büchstein asserted its incoherence through his maxim “convenimus ergo es”).
The JC’s second law of worker entropy: The latent confusion entropy in a complex system increases geometrically with the size of that system. Once a system, or organisation, is over a certain size, its resting-state confusion and implicit mediocrity quotient will fall out of stable equilibrium, eventually leading to the implosion of the organisation or, if it is big enough, boredom heat death of the universe itself.
The JC’s third law of worker entropy, also known as “the law of inevitable tedium”: There is a 100% correlation between

(i) activities that, however important they might seem, in fact have no value, and
(ii) activities that are tedious.

All other things being equal, if an activity is tedious, it is wasteful. If it is wasteful, you shouldn’t do it.
The JC’s fourth law of worker entropy: The very fact of an escalation—the very interposition of an approval step, in itself, in which one part of the meatware shunts a problem to another part of the meatware—causes more in aggregate delay, confusion, aggravation and second-order bureaucracy than is ever solved by the resolution it promises to deliver.
The JC’s fifth law of worker entropy: there is an inverse relationship between the amount of time, t, a worker is obliged by middle management to spend on a task and its overall importance, i, to the organisation. There are two corollaries to the fifth law of worker entropy: firstly, the third (the so-called “law of tedium”, and secondly, the eighth (also known as the “law of infinite deal fatigue”): the longer an activity takes, the more tedious it becomes.
The JC’s sixth law of worker entropy: “Any sufficiently primitive middle manager will be unable to distinguish a basic chatbot from magic.”[1]

This explains the prevalence, and persistence, of crappy reg tech, much of which violates the JC’s seventh law of worker entropy, in that it doesn’t work, or in any case makes the world a less edifying place than it already was — at least, for everyone bar the middle manager who implemented it. That canny fellow can then use it to bolster the improbably claim on her LinkedIn profile of a “proven track record in change management”.
The JC’s seventh law of worker entropy states that successful inventions do not make things harder. The JC asserts, without evidence but, he feels, without needing it — for it is an a priori truth as certain as arithmetic or natural selection — there has been no successful innovation in design, commerce or technology in the history of civilisation itself that made life more tedious, difficult, frustrating or inconvenient than it already was.
The JC’s eighth law of worker entropy states that the longer a compulsory activity, mandated by middle management, takes, the more tedious it will be. Tedium will increase asymptotically towards the point of deal fatigue, but will never quite reach it, because you are not allowed to have deal fatigue on tasks assigned by middle management. Thus, netting opinion compliance programmes, computer-based training, and performance appraisals. The eighth law is a corollary of the fifth law of worker entropy, and as such does not apply to transactions, to which deal fatigue, mercifully, does apply.
The JC’s ninth law of worker entropy: As the number of people involved in negotiating a contract goes up, its brevity, comprehensibility and utility goes down. The longer a negotiation continues, the more compendious, and tedious, will be its“fruits” — the verbiage, in the vernacular — even as its meaningful commercial content stay constants (or, more likely, declines to vanishing point).
The JC’s tenth law of worker entropy (also known as the “rule of collective agency”) states:

“One agent’s accommodation of another’s pedantry in the service of a common principal is equal, opposite, and reciprocal.”

The JC’s eleventh law of worker entropy says that change is to progress as noise is to signal. Change operates at a faster layer than does progress. Change is fashion; progress is culture.
The JC’s twelfth law of worker entropy states that the more enjoyable an application is, the less important its regular use is to management. Conversely, the more aggravating it is, the more vital is it to management that everyone uses it, all the time.
The JC’s thirteenth law of worker entropy (also known as the “optimal complication theorem”): Over time, a given template will tend to a point of “optimal” complication, (c), which is a function of:

(i) the highest plausibly chargeable fraction of the typical value, (vf), of contracts concluded on the template,
(ii) the time, (t), required to manipulate the template so it reliably works to the satisfaction of one having the patience, skill and hubris to understand it, and
(iii) the professional charge-out rate, (r), of such an unusually abled person.

The relationship between c, vf, t and r is as follows: c ↔ vf = tr.
The JC’s fourteenth law of worker entropy, also known as the “paradox paradox”, states that paradoxes are impossible in sensible discussions because they are, necessarily, the product of asking silly questions.
The JC’s fifteenth law of worker entropy, also known as the theory of legal quantum indeterminacy, states:

“The more precisely the position of a particular negotiation is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa”.

The JC’s sixteenth law of worker entropy, also known as the “law of conservation of tedium” states that:

The total amount of tedium in an isolated system remains constant. Tedium can be neither created nor destroyed; it can only be transformed from one form to another, or transferred from one system to another.

The JC’s seventeenth law of worker entropy describes the rate of growth of tedium in an inflating system:

“The intrinsic tedium acting on any process, organisation or ecosystem is proportional to the square of the number of individuals comprising that system.”

The JC’s eighteenth law of worker entropy, also known as Büchstein’s special theory of Parkinson’s Law, states that:

“work does not expand to fit the time available, but the amount of money available.”

Since, as Benjamin Franklin told us, “time is money” this is no more than a restatement of Parkinson’s law: there is a steady relationship —“commercialogical constant” — between the amount of money at stake and the amount of money agents will be able to extract, risk-free, from the principals by convincing them they can help ensure its safe conveyance.

See also


  1. Connoisseurs will recognise this, of course, as a simple extrapolation from Arthur C. Clarke’s more famous third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.