Looking for a word for…

I posted on twitter yesterday looking for a word. Here’s what I wrote:

I need a word for someone who is always very busy and doing work, but adds no value (It’s a distant cousin to slacker, but a more active kind of unproduction).

Can be a real word, or made up – received about 15 suggestions:

  • busy body
  • unproductive
  • bureaucrat
  • program manager
  • wheel spinner
  • Frantic fluffer
  • drone
  • Workaholic
  • Troll
  • Frolicker
  • Oxygen waster
  • Middle manager
  • Busy-bee
  • Frantic Zero
  • Stacker
  • Seat warmer
  • Stationary duck
  • Politician
  • Keener
  • Stroker

Any other ideas, or votes, dear blog readers?

47 Responses to “Looking for a word for…”

  1. Brian Dell

    The Helpful Millipede spent the whole day rolling up his sleeves

  2. Sark

    i think I’ll start using frantic zero – that is pretty good

  3. Jeremy

    Perpetual motion machine
    Yak shaver

  4. it10k

    I like “wheel spinner”.

    The problem with coming up with the opposite of “slacker”, that adds no value is that both descriptors signify a void … many things could fill it. Most of the options represent striving for power or security without providing judgement or material contribution. What else could they want?

    Someone who advances their short-term (say 6 months) interests aggressively, and any actual benefit to anyone else is merely coincidental (as in Run Sammy Run): shit heel, smile-fucker, sociopath, blowhard, yes-man.

    pain: Bastard, sadist, drill sergeant, masochist, anarchist.

    ideology/aesthetics/vanity: fascist, zealot, fanatic, queen (before the dominant use became gay-bashing)

    … although a lot of my suggesting imply high energy weakly at best.

  5. Cory Lamontagne

    battologist: someone who repeatedly does the same thing needlessly

    as a programmer we refer to those who work but add negative or no value as “net-negative” programmers.

  6. Jess

    “rocking chair”

    Constantly in motion but never going anywhere.

  7. Ryan

    I like “digger”. From Catch-22. Dig holes and fill them up again as punishment (except these people do it willingly).

  8. Brian Willis


    These people seem to be very concerned all the time, but worry isn’t work.

  9. david

    fizzler: from Neil Young ““starts out slow and then fizzles out altogether…”

  10. Aaron

    slogger. i mean, it works with slacker and is a real world. I guess it has the misfortune of being too obvious for your purposes?

  11. Jim

    +1 for Frantic Zero

    BTW, I work for this guy….

    Hamster seems to ring true, also the old standby – especially in the tech sector: A Total Fake.

  12. kow

    or nonductive (neither productive nor destructive)

  13. Kevin


    A person who always uses being too busy as a convenient excuse, leading everyone to believe they must be a very important person.

  14. Pete

    Slink (based on slinky), illusion worker, White counjourer, grey collar worker, cog, spare, grinder, seeker, freeworker (based on freeloader)

    Will think of other angles if these don’t inspire.

  15. David Sweeney

    When I worked in and eventually managed a retail shop we would call this non-activity “skating”. When I was a staffer we would walk (skate) around the shop looking like we’re doing something so nobody (managers) would ask you do do something. So, later when I became a manager I could spot skaters from across the room.

  16. Greg

    The common term I’ve heard across companies is to call these people “assholes.”

  17. Joe McCarthy

    The reference to spinning wheel leads me to think hamster. While the initial image I had for this is an animal that often spins its wheel in a cage, and offers little productive value (such as a dog who may act as a guard), it may have the desirably undesirable additional connotation of someone who is “hamming it up”.

  18. Daniel Howard

    “chair wart” or “seat warmer” (or “cubicle warmer” or whatever is appropriate)

    The wife says “putterer”

    Possibly “patronage hire” or “quota hire” though the former are famous for NOT showing up.

    In Systems Administration we have the concept of a “hero” who is constantly hard at work, running to heroic lengths to fix problems we shouldn’t have had had they been more diligently attended to building a robust, well-documented network in the first place.


  19. Dan

    All inbox, no outbox

    Eats like an elephant, poops like a gnat.


    Hyperactive Employee Missing Results Obviously In Denial

  20. Donna Hogan

    Looking for a word for…

    How about “make-worker”, as in a make work project.

  21. Sven Marcus

    How about “Mr-do-little”

  22. Jeff Gibbard

    Hamster. Because they’re always running in that wheel but they never seem to get anywhere.

  23. eddieosh

    How about using the adjective ‘nugatory’? Then you could refer to someone as a ‘nugat’, as in “senior management has assigned us this pointless task, let’s give it to one of the nugats”!

  24. Nicole

    This sounds like a variation of the functioning incompetent.

  25. Carlos

    In Brazil there is a situation where the person is called ‘encostado’ (in Portuguese). I didn’t find a good translation for this, but ‘encostado’ means someone who is ‘leaning on something’. Googling, I found some reference to ‘sponger’ (Bob Sponge?):
    – a follower who hangs around a host (without benefit to the host) in hope of gain or advantage;
    – a person who lives off other people by continually taking advantage of their generosity; parasite or scrounger.

    ‘Encostado’ does not necessarily mean that the person takes advantage of the generosity of other people, in the sense that ‘other people’ are not acting out of generosity, but due to restrictions in law or because the person in reference has good connections. For example, it can happen when the employer cannot or does not wish to layoff that person: there is restructuring of the firm, and there is a manager that the big boss does not want to fire, then this manager is placed on a ‘nil’ position. Other situation is in the public sector in Brazil where the government cannot (by law) layoff people for example whenever there is a cut in their budget. Or when the opposite political party wins the election, so the public servants of the losing party are placed in a powerless position, i.e. they are ‘encostados’.

    I am wondering if there is some Greek god (e.g. of laziness) or a greek/latin word that can be used in this case (?)


  26. adsabry

    I vote for politician

  27. Suzannah Woods

    Jobsworth-A person in authority who insists on following rules and regulations at the expense of productivity.


Leave a Reply to Jeff Gibbard

* Required

Click here to cancel reply.