Home > Pet Peeves > Multitasking


I’ve been looking at a lot of digital want ads lately.  Hey, you never know when the perfect job might come along.  But I am always a little put out every time I see in the job description something along the lines of “must be able to multitask.”

First, it is in pretty much every ad out there these days and has been for over ten years.  However, every company posts it as if it is something unique to them, as if it is something unusual.  Guess what!  It isn’t.  The multitasking environment is pretty much a given in most jobs in every industry.

So, as a public service, let me answer to all prospective employers on behalf of all prospective employees.

“Yes, I can multitask.  I have multitasked in every job I have ever had.  So has every other applicant who has sat in this chair in the past month or will in the coming month.  It is something we can all do.

“Do I enjoy multitasking?  No, not really.  Nobody does, except a few mutants who don’t really have the ability to focus anyhow.

“Can I work as well when I am multitasking as when I am not?  Of course not.  Neither can anybody else, again, excepting those few mutants.  We do it when we have to, but we will always do better when you ask us to finish one thing before starting another.

“So let me ask you, Mr. Prospective Employer, why always the focus on this one attribute?  Has it really been a problem for you with previous employees?  Why?  How often do you ask them to do this?  What have you done to make this ‘challenging environment’ a little less challenging?

“No, really, is your particular company so different than any other that all your people have to multitask most of the time?  Is it that complex an industry that you usually don’t know what your employees are going to be doing one week down the road?  Two weeks?

“Or is the problem you?  Are your planning abilities so atrophied that you cannot decide what you want your people to accomplish in the next week or month?  Are you so indecisive that you cannot set priorities that survive the week?  Are the office politics in your company so corrupting that your priorities are set by whoever phoned you last?

“Just asking, of course, because surely you realize that every time you make your people change direction, change focus, they have to put aside whatever context they may have built towards their last task, try to make meaningful notes and memories, and then start learning or relearning their new task.  Wasted effort, of course, and something gets lost every time they have to do it.

“You do realize, right, that there is a cost to multitasking?  You aren’t doing more with less – you are just doing less.  Please realize that if you let your employees focus their efforts on one thing at a time, you will get better products and take less time, overall, getting them done.  Come on, you knew this yourself, before you let them put that tie around your neck.

“Anyhow, to answer your question, yes, I can multitask.”


Categories: Pet Peeves
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