“Well, good morning. Nice of you to finally join us!” “He’s always taking long lunches.” “Wish I could leave at 4:30 every day...must be nice!” “Is he ever at his desk?” “Sure must be great to work from home every Friday.” “Seems like she uses all her sick days to go shopping.” “Oh, she’s home with a sick kid... again. I need to get myself a kid.”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? We call this “Sludge.”
Sludge is the workplace chatter that reinforces the idea that people can’t be trusted with complete autonomy. We identified Sludge as one of the most powerful and persistent barriers to a productive, creative, and fulfilling workplace when we were developing the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Sludge can be mean-spirited gossip or even friendly banter. We Sludge (it’s a noun and a verb!) for many reasons, but it’s ultimately meant to either directly or indirectly shame a coworker for not approaching work the way it’s “supposed” to be approached.
Sludge is a powerful force in maintaining the status quo and implies that work only happens at...