A pleasant expression for an employee who has remained under-productive despite several feedback.


There are workers who are unable to churn up BIG numbers but the quality of their work is enviable/unmatched by peers.


  • A noun, an adjective or matching idioms.
  • 2
    Such an employee is often referred to as fired. Mar 16, 2015 at 18:40
  • 1
    or else, he is just being "retained".
    – Misti
    Mar 16, 2015 at 18:42
  • 3
    Lazy genius syndrome: lazygeniussyndrome.blogspot.it/2007/11/…
    – user66974
    Mar 16, 2015 at 19:01
  • 3
    Worth his wait in gold! Mar 16, 2015 at 20:34
  • "Valuable", I think is one term. Also, "under-appreciated".
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 16, 2015 at 20:49

6 Answers 6


A person showing "momentary sparks" / "frequent flashes".

The person can also be referred to as "a gold nail" [my coinage]. It means you can neither throw it away as it is made of gold, nor you can use it as a nail, because it is valuable.

  • 2
    Not to mention that gold is "soft" metal so it probably could not be hammered without bending. :-) (BTW, downvote is not mine...I like neologisms!) Mar 16, 2015 at 19:39
  • 1
    :-) I appreciate your acceptance of new coinages...and thanks for improving my answer. :-)
    – B Gaurav
    Mar 16, 2015 at 19:41
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    Gold nail seems like an excellent metaphor!
    – Good A.M.
    Mar 18, 2015 at 16:40

Artisan may apply to a person who focuses on quality over quantity:

A worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand:



Someone who slowly produces high-quality work is said to be painstaking.

From the ODO:

Done with or employing great care and thoroughness; painstaking attention to detail - 'he is a gentle, painstaking man'.


The neologism quantum-productive seems appropriate:

1.0 Physics A discrete quantity of energy proportional in magnitude to the frequency of the radiation it represents.

1.1 An analogous discrete amount of any other physical quantity, such as momentum or electric charge.

By analogy, quantum-productive employees do not produce in a linear fashion like the average production employee, but produce in discrete spurts with a magnitude of value proportional to the frequency of their production. Quantum-productive employees do not belong on the assembly line, but in the R&D department.

From the Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes (Henry Ford 3):

Henry Ford once called an efficiency expert to examine the running of his company. The expert made a favorable report, but had reservations about one employee. "It's that man down the corridor," he said. "Every time I go by his office he's just sitting there with his feet on his desk. He's wasting your money."

"That man," replied Ford, "once had an idea that saved us millions of dollars. At the time, I believe his feet were planted right where they are now."

  • Like that anecdote :-) Any chance it really happened?
    – Good A.M.
    Mar 18, 2015 at 16:41
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    @GoodA.M., anecdotes are interesting critters. True anecdotes are better than apocryphal ones, but the truth of an anecdote doesn't seem to be as critical as its plausibility. Since Henry Ford was well known for his obsession with production efficiency, this story makes a point--even if it never actually happened--but one Ford executive, Harry Bennett, seemed to be in the habit of putting his feet on his desk without consequence. Mar 18, 2015 at 17:38

Although they may make less product, presumably less of it is rejected. So, if the unit cost per item of the product they produce is less than that any of the other workers, then they are a 'model employee'.

As you are asking for a 'pleasant expression' it would indicate that the quantity of work is not much of an issue, so you could call them a 'lazy genius' as apposed to a 'busy fool'.



perfectionists spend obsessive amounts of time crafting their work but may be unproductive.

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