Wasting time at work is an act as old as work itself. Today I’m going to talk about something different from the common procrastination behaviors we immediately think about (the Water Cooler Chatter, the Champion Web Surfer, etc.). Today we’ll talk about washing the car.
One of the fun things about where I work is that they have their own little unique vocabulary. One of them I’ve learned recently is “washing the car.”
I had one of those ugly, “please don’t make me get around to doing this today” tasks to complete. While I was procrastinating, I was getting a lot of the little things completed that have been have been sitting on the back burner for a while.
I sat down to talk with my manager for a few minutes, and she asked about the status of the project I was procrastinating. I grinned, and she smiled knowingly and asked if I was “washing the car.” At my puzzled look, she explained that the phrase means that you’re doing something that looks good on the surface but really doesn’t help in the long run.
The moral of the story
It’s important to remember as managers and leaders that just because someone is staying busy, they aren’t necessarily getting the right things done. It’s up to us to point them in the right direction, keep tabs on progress, and course correct if necessary.
Next time someone is working hard but not focusing on the priorities, ask them if they’re “washing the car.” It could be a great teachable moment and from that moment on, you’ll have an easy way to communicate that feedback without having to have one of those difficult, confrontational conversations.
Do you have any special lingo at work that you use? I’d love to hear an example!