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A friend of ours is your typical Type B personality – laid back, can’t be bothered by things like deadlines, unfettered by time constraints, and seemingly unaffected by the stress of others around him. 

This is the man who installed our closet, a “one day job,” over 3 weekends.  This is the man who would stop to chat about any number of his previous lives, such as when he owned a restaurant, his first date, on growing up in a small enclave on the Main Line, on seeing a circumcised penis for the first time on a Boy Scout trip.  You name it; it was part of a closet-installation digression.

Don’t get me wrong – he’s a wonderful guy, with a great attitude towards his family, his work, and his life.  He just sometimes clashes with others of us who are more Type A, and feel more pressure to be slightly more product oriented. 

So it’s no surprise that when his son set out “to seek his fortune” and scored his first job out of college, he had some pearls of wisdom.  His son, eager to impress, had said he would be the first one to work, the last one to leave, the guy to take on extra work, the overachiever, the go-getter, the brown-noser.  And the father, ever the sage of work in moderation, told him, “Just be there.  Don’t be early, don’t stay late, just do your job.  Don’t stick out, don’t try to impress, don’t work too hard.  You’ll burn out, and they’ll be sick of you.  Just do your job.”  And wouldn’t you know, within 4 months, he’d been promoted. 

I guess the theory is, when the upper echelons go looking for their next promotee, they don’t want a trouble-maker.  They don’t want someone who has too much personality and sticks out and is going to require too much managing himself.  They don’t want a slack-ass who will need babysitting.  They just want a competent fellow who can do his job without too much support, who doesn’t cause friction or require too much maintenance.

Throughout grad school, when I would begin a new practicum, there was a very gentle beginning, with much to learn, but little to do independently.  My responsibilities began and ended with our patients, or clients, or students.  I didn’t do billing, or deal with office crap.  I showed up, prepared (or pretended to be), saw clients/patients/kids, wrote notes, and tried not to stick out.  When I was bored, I tried to look busy.  I journalled.  I flipped through catalogues of therapy toys or resource books.  I was fully aware that if I had that expectant look on my face that said I was bored, or needed a task, I would seem like I needed something to do.  And that my supervisor would have to find something for me to do, as for a small child who constantly needs to be stimulated with brightly colored toys. 

In my efforts to look busy, I have developed many tasks that serve me well.  I am quite adept at self-entertainment at work.  I have theories that we are not a truly the efficient work force we claim to be in this country.  Who among us can claim to actually be productive for 7-8 continuous hours in a day?  Who among us is not guilty of extraneous trips to the bathroom, water cooler, and coffee pot?  Who among us does not welcome a walk around the building or the neighborhood on some silly errand?  Who does not check e-mail a little more than necessary?  These breaks keep us sane, they keep us busy, or at least they keep us looking busy. 

The best part about looking busy is that it allows me to just do my job.  If I do end up with extra work – a report, billing, a deluge of e-mails, or some extra last-minute kiddos to cover for a coworker – I can manage it.  It’s built into my schedule, both mentally and physically.  If I were already operating at maximum capacity, I would burn out.  A modicum of Type B would serve us all well in the work force, and provide better stories, too.

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April 2020