What is the phrase or word for this type organizational useless/pointless work based on either half baked ideas, of just o appease the higher ups.

Example: An organization have three tier management

  1. CEO
  2. Oper. Manager
  3. Dept. Manager

Suppose CEO gives a strategic instruction and fails to followup much of the time. But with a imaginary deadline (within 2-3 days), at the cursory instruction of the CEO, the Oper. Mngr initiates action telling Dept. Manager to work on an assignment based on strategic idea provided by the CEO.

As a result, Dept. Mngr. instructs his staff to start working on the assignment, assigning resources to it, etc ASAP.

Now as the day comes to submit the deliverables, the CEO has initiated a contrasting idea to the initial one. So the work done on the initial one goes to waste.

What is the phrase or word for this type organizational useless work in business setting.I suppose there must be an apt Wikipedia styled phrase for this phenomenon. I searched online for "Redundant work" which is usually used in some articles in passing, but on google, the search prompts for Redundancy rather than redundant work. The point is to read more article (pros, cons, effects, perils) or Wikipedia information on this subject phrase.

  • 1
    A $10 word is nugatory: "The CEO came up with his own idea which rendered all our efforts nugatory.". Otherwise, "The CEO came up with his own idea so all that effort had been pointless, futile, or to no avail."
    – Greybeard
    Dec 18, 2020 at 10:39

3 Answers 3


Busywork (or busy work) is work that has no purpose but occupies time and is used either to keep someone busy or to make them look busy. Wikipedia. Merriam-Webster.

It usually has the connotation that somebody knows it has little value but it is done anyway. It might be senior management who know but impose it anyway (to keep people occupied, or to present a show of having lots of staff working hard). Or sometimes the staff working know that it's pointless but management still call for it to be done (either through tradition, because it's always been done that way, or because the middle managers have themselves been ordered to do it, and are passing it down the chain of command).


If work is done on a project which is then cancelled it is often said to be "A waste of time and effort."

Because the time and materials used on the project cost money it can also be "A waste of time, money and effort."

The wasted effort is the work done and the commitment shown by the workforce who, although they are paid to do what they are told, will usually have a commitment to the job as well.

The main problem with frequent changes of direction and frequent cancellations is that the workforce can begin to lose the commitment to the work and, therefore, put less and less effort into each project as time goes on because they start to believe that each project presented to them will be "Just another waste of time and effort"


This is a problem of management (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Management) of a large organization, in this particular case, a problem of delegation and follow-up.

On that particular issue, see entrepreneur.com/article/294559.

  • The question is seeking a word for a certain kind of 'organizational useless/pointless work'. Are you saying that the word management means organizational useless/pointless work?
    – jsw29
    Dec 18, 2020 at 17:54
  • @jsw29 Obviously not.
    – Xanne
    Dec 19, 2020 at 5:01

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