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一、经济学人杂志双语文章摘要

但帕金森观点的覆盖面远不止人们爱拖延这一点。他文章的大部分篇幅都与政府中官僚架构日渐臃肿有关。他警告说,雇用更多的公务员并不一定会让工作更有成效。

二、经济学人杂志双语文章中英对照翻译

Parkinson’s law updated 帕金森定律更新

2020.11


How the lockdown has affected a classic dictum about work
封城如何改写了一则关于工作的经典论断  

经济学人双语杂志

AS LAWS GO, the dictum devised by C. Northcote Parkinson, a naval historian, was admirably succinct: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” His essay, first published in The Economist in 1955, has stood the test of time, in the sense that people still refer to “Parkinson’s law”. But the experience of working life during the pandemic means that Bartleby would now like to suggest three corollaries to the theorem.
跟一般的定律相比,海军历史学家C.诺思科特·帕金森(C. Northcote Parkinson)的一句论断实在简洁明了:“工作会扩展,直到填满所有可用时间。”提出这句话的文章最早发表在1955年的《经济学人》上。它经受住了时间的考验,因为直到今天人们还是会提到“帕金森定律”。但体验过疫情期间的工作状态后,本专栏作者想就这则定律做出三点推论。
At the start of his essay, Parkinson cited the case of an elderly lady requiring a day to send a postcard to her niece. The process involved time spent searching for spectacles, postcard and umbrella, as well as composing the message. The details may be dated but the idea is still resonant—faced with a task, people procrastinate.
帕金森在他文章的开头引用了一个案例:一位老奶奶需要一整天的时间给侄女寄一张明信片。这个过程包括花时间找眼镜、明信片和雨伞,还要写问候语。这些细节可能已过时,但传达出的信息仍能引起共鸣——当一项任务摆在面前,人们总是拖拖拉拉磨磨蹭蹭。
When it comes to office work, the incentives to dawdle are pretty clear. Finish an assignment quickly, and the employee will just be given another. That second task may be even more unpleasant than the first. Workers may end up like a hamster on a treadmill, stuck in an endless cycle of needless effort.
当在办公室里工作时,拖拉的动机相当清晰。员工如果早早完成了一项任务,只会再被分派另一项工作,而且可能比刚完成的那件更让人烦心。到头来,员工可能会像迷你跑步机上的一只仓鼠,没完没了地瞎忙。
Office workers know, however, that the mission itself is not the only thing. It is important to be seen to be working. This leads to “presenteeism”—being at your desk for long enough to impress the boss (and even turning up while sick). In the pre-internet era this would involve endless redrafting of memos, long phone calls, or staring meaningfully at documents. Thanks to the pioneering work of Tim Berners-Lee, presenteeism now requires less effort: many hours can be wasted on the world wide web.
然而上班族明白,任务本身并不是唯一要紧的事。让别人看到自己在工作也很重要。这就导致了“假性出勤”——长时间坐在办公桌前,只为表现给老板看(甚至生病时也不缺勤)。在前互联网时代,假性出勤包括没完没了地改写备忘录、长时间打电话,或者盯着文件作若有所思状。多亏了蒂姆·伯纳斯-李(Tim Berners-Lee)的开创性成果,现在不需要那么费劲了:在万维网上就可以浪费掉很多时间。
When working at home, the boss is out of sight but not out of mind. Broadly speaking, the result is to divide workers into two factions. The first group, the slackers, has spent the lockdown working out the minimum level of effort they can get away with. They have no need to drag out each task; they do what is required and spend the rest of the day at leisure, submitting the work just before deadline. For this group, Parkinson’s law can be amended as follows: “For the unconcerned, when unobserved, work shrinks to fill the time required.”
在家工作时,老板远在天边,近在心田。大体上说,其结果是把员工分成了两类。第一类是懒鬼,他们在封城期摸索出了如何花最少的力气应付完差事。他们不必把每项任务都拖长;他们会完成必做之事,然后悠闲地度过一天剩余的时间,踩着最后期限交差。对于这类人,帕金森定律可以修正如下:“漫不经心之人,一旦不被看见,工作会收缩,直到塞进必需的时长。”
The second group takes the opposite approach. Consumed by guilt, anxiety about their job security or ambition, they work even harder than before. Being at home, they find no clear demarcation between work time and leisure time. This group is the Stakhanovites (named after a heroically productive miner in the Soviet Union). They require their own amendment: “For anxious home workers, work expands to fill all their waking hours.”
第二类人正相反。他们满脑子都是负罪感、对职业保障的焦虑或自身的抱负,工作之勤勉更甚以往。在家中,他们找不到工作和闲暇之间的明确界限。这群人是斯达汉诺夫式铁人(这个名字来源于苏联一位英勇的高产矿工Stakhanov),需要针对他们将帕金森定律修正为:“对于焦虑的居家工作者,工作会扩展,直到填满他们全部的清醒时间。”
But Parkinson was making a much broader point than people’s tendency to be dilatory. The bulk of his essay was concerned with the growth of bureaucracy in government. He warned that hiring more civil servants did not necessarily lead to more effective work.
但帕金森观点的覆盖面远不止人们爱拖延这一点。他文章的大部分篇幅都与政府中官僚架构日渐臃肿有关。他警告说,雇用更多的公务员并不一定会让工作更有成效。
This tendency resulted from two factors. First, officials want to multiply subordinates, not rivals. Second, officials tend to make work for each other. Any official who feels overworked will ask to be given two subordinates (asking for just one would create a rival). The senior official will then spend lots of time checking their subordinates’ work.
这种趋势源于两个因素。首先,官员想要增加下属,而不是对手。其次,官员之间往往会给对方找活干。任何自认工作超量的官员都会要求配两个下属(如果只要求一个,就会产生一个竞争对手)。这样一来,高级官员会花大量时间检查下属的工作。
How does this process apply in the lockdown? Like their staff, managers also want to appear useful. In the office, they can seem busy by walking around and talking to their teams. At home, this is more difficult; a phone call is more intrusive than a casual chat. The answer is to organise more Zoom meetings.
这个过程在封城期间又是怎样的表现形式呢?和员工一样,管理者也想让自己显得有用。在办公室,他们可以四处走动,与团队交谈,让自己看起来很忙。在家里这就比较难办了:一通电话比随意的聊天更让人感觉唐突。对策就是组织更多场Zoom会议。
Bartleby has heard from a number of contacts in recent weeks that they spend their day going from one Zoom meeting to another. Just as Parkinson suggested, managers are making more work for each other. Hence the third amendment to his law: “In lockdown, Zoom expands to fill all of the manager’s available time.”
本专栏作者近几周从一些相识的人那里听说,他们每天都在一场接一场地参加Zoom会议。就像帕金森认为的那样,管理者们正给彼此制造更多的工作。因此,帕金森定律的第三个修正版本就是:“在封城期间,Zoom会议会扩展,直到填满管理者所有可用时间。”
To the extent that these meetings are voluntary, this creates another divide between slackers and Stakhanovites. The first group will avoid such meetings and the latter group will sign up for all of them. Furthermore, in the pre-lockdown days, staff could earn brownie points by turning up for such gatherings, provided they caught the boss’s eye. Mere attendance is insufficient for a Zoom meeting; one must be seen and heard. In turn, that makes Zoom meetings longer, further using up the time of managers and their Stakhanovite subordinates (many slackers have yet to learn how to use the “raise hand” button). It is a digital version of the paperwork shuffling described by Parkinson 65 years ago.
如果这些会议是自愿参加,那就在懒鬼和铁人之间划开了另一道鸿沟。第一类人会避免参会,而后者会报名参加所有会议。此外,在封城前的日子里,员工在会议上露面能讨老板欢心,只要能有和老板四目交汇的一瞬。而对于Zoom会议来说,光是出席还不够,还得被看见和听见才行。这就又导致Zoom会议越开越久,进一步消耗了管理者和铁人下属的时间(许多懒鬼都还没学会用“举手”按钮)。帕金森在65年前描述的文件满天飞的场景如今有了数字版。