The five major varieties of bullshit jobs
The concept of “bullshit jobs” was popularized by anthropologist David Graeber in his book “Bullshit Jobs: A Theory.” According to Graeber, bullshit jobs are defined as meaningless and unfulfilling jobs that contribute little to society. While he didn’t explicitly outline five distinct varieties of bullshit jobs, he did identify certain categories that commonly fit this description. These categories are:
- Flunkies: These are jobs that exist primarily to make someone else look or feel important. Examples include doormen, receptionists, and some personal assistants. Flunkies often perform tasks that could be automated or eliminated without significant consequences.
- Goons: Goons are jobs that involve coercive or harmful activities, typically within the corporate or bureaucratic world. These positions can include telemarketers, lobbyists, corporate lawyers, and certain middle management roles that involve enforcing policies with little regard for their impact on others.
- Duct Tapers: These are jobs that exist to fix or alleviate problems that are largely created by other people or systems. Duct Tapers spend much of their time resolving issues that could be avoided with better planning or more efficient processes. Examples include IT support staff, customer service representatives, and some administrative roles.
- Box Tickers: Box Tickers are jobs focused on meeting regulations, compliance, or bureaucratic requirements. These positions often involve extensive paperwork, documentation, and adherence to rigid procedures, without much meaningful impact on the organization or society at large. Examples include certain auditing and quality control roles.
- Taskmasters: Taskmasters are jobs that involve managing and overseeing the work of others, but where the actual value or purpose of the work is questionable. These roles can be found in certain levels of middle management or supervisory positions that primarily focus on assigning and monitoring tasks without substantial contribution.