Benny had been in his dream job for over 5 years. He considered his job a miracle.
In his dream job, Benny sat in a closet for most of his 8 hour shift. He sat in the closet with the door shut. A naked lightbulb hung in the closet. Benny had a chair and a table. He had a scale and a bucket full of metal screws. He had some pencils and a sharpener and a ledger.
Benny’s dream job was to document the weight of the bucket of screws every two hours. Every two hours Benny wrote on the log sheet the weight of the screws, which never changed. It never changed because no metal screws were ever added or taken away. And whenever Benny left the closet to stretch his legs, get a cup of coffee or go home for the night, he locked the closet door with the bucket of screws inside, and he was the only one with the key.
Since the weight of the bucket never changed, Benny only weighed it once a week. For the rest of the week he recorded the same weight in the log book without ever weighing it again. As it shouldn’t, the actual weight of the screws never changed from week to week or year to year. His log book for the past five years had page after page of the same number running all the way down. So there was really no need to weigh the bucket of screws through the days and weeks and years. But, just in case, Benny actually weighed them on Monday mornings, then copied the number in his ledger throughout the rest of the week. This was Benny’s routine.
For his dedication to his dream job, Benny was allowed to leave his closet to get coffee. And he was allowed to sometimes wander around, so long as he pretended to be busy. But most of the time he sat in his closet looking at the bucket of screws and occasionally scratching his balls or the inside of his ears, or picking his nose. Sometimes he took off his shoes and wiggled his toes. But most of his time was spent staring at the bucket of screws.
Nobody worried too much about what Benny did all day in his closet. His bosses all knew. They and Benny all knew his being there was only a formality. Everybody knew, even the people who did actual work. But so long as Benny pretended he was doing something of use, everybody else was willing to play along.
Then, one day, during his annual evaluation, Benny’s boss said there was going to be a change of plans when it came to Benny’s job. He said instead of Benny recording the weight of the screws 4 times a day, he’d have to increase it to 6. His boss said it had been over 5 years since there’d been any change to Benny’s job. His boss said if he couldn’t give something to his own boss, it looked like he wasn’t doing his job of managing Benny.
So Benny asked, “I’m gonna get a raise, then?”
“Same raise as everybody else,” his boss said.
“Is everybody else increasing their workload too?”
“No,” his boss admitted. “Your raise will be the same as everybody else’s – one percent to keep up with inflation and the cost of living.”
“If I’m going to do more work, I think I need a better raise,” Benny insisted. “I think 2% would be fair”
“But you’re doing nothing,” his boss whispered. “Don’t screw this up for the both of us.”
“Yeah,” Benny said. “But you’re asking me to do even more inane work. So I think that deserves a better raise.”
“Don’t you love this job?” his boss asked. “Sitting in your closet all day doing nothing?”
“Yeah. It’s been perfect,” Benny said. “But his changes things.”
“Let’s not rock the boat,” his boss said. “Just fudge another couple of entries so we can all move on.”
Benny could feel his blood pressure rising.
“You realize nobody’s got the key to my closet but me,” he said.
“This is a threat?” his boss asked.
“And I can always spill the beans to everybody who actually does things about what it is I really do around here.”
His boss pretended to be serious.
“I can do a 1.15% raise. That’ll be a few cents more than everybody else.”
“2%,” Benny demanded.
“1.25,” his boss offered. “And that’s it.”
Benny knew he didn’t have a very strong hand, so he capitulated.
“Okay,” Benny said. “One and a quarter. But write this down. I’m a team player. I’m taking one and a quarter percent when I deserve a full two. I want that to be in my record when I’m up for another promotion.”
Benny had dreams. He had dreams of an even bigger closet with an even heavier bucket of screws.
“Sure,” his boss said.
Benny went back to his closet. He sat and stared at the bucket of screws, a little more resentful than yesterday that his dream job might be slowly slipping away.