Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Could someone suggest a cool word or expression for someone who is tired at work?

Such a person is not doing his job properly and is waiting to quit; basically, he is not interested in his job and doesn't like the management that he is working for.

share|improve this question
We used to call those guys potted plants, since all you could do with them at work is put them near the window to catch the sun and nothing else. Of course, this A) sounded better in Hebrew, and B) was extremely localized in the first place, so I wouldn't presume to suggest it as an actual word that's in use. :) –  Avner Shahar-Kashtan Jun 13 '12 at 5:08
I think you're asking about someone who is tired of his job, possibly burned-out through overwork, but no longer really interested, perhaps bored, only doing the minimum necessary to get paid, waiting either to retire or be made redundant. Is that right? There is a word or phrase for someone in that position, but I can't remember what it is... –  Andrew Leach Jun 13 '12 at 6:49
@Abdrew. Thats right. Not sure if burned up and burnout are the same? –  Noah Jun 13 '12 at 9:41
They're not the same - the adjective form of burnout would presumably be burned out, although I would usually instead say that someone was suffering from burnout. Also, I like the potted plant description. You might have to follow it up with an explanation, but it's very clever. –  MrTheWalrus Jun 13 '12 at 18:57
"Public school teacher"? I kid, I kid ... mostly. –  hunter2 Jul 5 '13 at 7:54
show 3 more comments

5 Answers

How about "The working dead" (play on "The Walking Dead")?

This pun is used from time to time. The term in quotes returns many hits on Google, one of which is the title of a column at Salary.com:

The Working Dead: 7 Ways to Avoid Becoming an Office Zombie

share|improve this answer
add comment

An office squatter can be a person who just takes up space at the office, without doing anything of apparent value. Their lack of motivation may be because of burnout.

I've also heard these people referred to as deadwood employees.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I've heard such people referred to as "time-servers", They're just serving out their time!

share|improve this answer
add comment

I've heard the term clock-watcher used to describe people who keep one eye on the clock each day, eagerly awaiting quitting time (which can never arrive too soon). Collins says:

clock-watcher: an employee who checks the time in anticipation of a break or of the end of the working day.

It's not a precise fit, because not all clock watchers are disinterested in their job and unhappy with management. But many such disgruntled employees cope by becoming clock-watchers.

So, maybe disgruntled is a better fit? Obviously, disgruntled can be applied to more than just laborers who are unhappy at work (disgruntled spouse, disgruntled fans, e.g.), but the word is used in that context very often. If you scan through the usage examples on the right-hand side of the Wordnik page, you'll see that, more often than not, the word is being used to describe someone unhappy with their job.

disgruntle: To make discontented or dissatisfied; to disappoint; to throw into a state of sulky dissatisfaction: usually in the participial adjective disgruntled.

P.S. You asked for a word or expression – maybe disgruntled clockwatcher could work?

share|improve this answer
add comment

Someone who merely attends work and doesn’t make any significant effort could be said to be coasting along.

But I’d say there’s a distinction between being burned out (per the question title) and not interested (per the body text). One can be interested in one’s work and become burned out by over-exertion or stress; equally many people make a living without getting burned out in jobs they don’t necessarily find interesting.

share|improve this answer
I think you've made a good observation – one that makes this question especially hard to answer. After all, if I were to suggest a good word or phrase for someone who is "burned out" at work, I'd suggest "burned out." :^) –  J.R. Jun 17 '12 at 19:18
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.