The one sentence summary

Up to 40% of us secretly believe our jobs probably aren’t necessary – they are bullshit jobs.


  • In 2013 the author wrote an article entitled “On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs”. A subsequent YouGov survey showed that 37% of UK employees believe that their job makes no meaningful contribution to the world (in the Netherlands it was 40%).
  • A bullshit job is defined as a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case. They are very common in the FIRE sector: Finance, Insurance and Real Estate.
  • Those in them suffer from scriptlessness – where codes of behaviour are ambiguous and no one is even sure what they are supposed to say or do.
  • In the US the amount of time office workers have to spend doing their primary job has fallen from 46% in 2016 to 39% – the rest is pointless admin.
  • There are 5 major varieties of bullshit jobs:
  1. Flunkies – only exist to make someone else look important.
  2. Goons – jobs with an aggressive, enforcing element that only exist because other people employ them.
  3. Duct tapers – employees whose job exists only because of a glitch or fault in the organisation – there to solve a problem that ought not to exist.
  4. Box tickers – employees who exist only or primarily to allow an organisation to claim it is doing something that it is in fact not doing.
  5. Taskmasters – bosses who assign work to others without doing it themselves, or who actively create bullshit tasks for others.


  • The idea of full employment and constantly working mainly comes from religion – the puritan work ethic. So people are asked to do make-work even if there is nothing to do.
  • In the early 20th century it was prophesised that technology would see us all working 15-hour weeks, but average working hours have actually increased. In the developed world, three quarters of jobs are in services, finance or admin – jobs that don’t seem to contribute anything to society.
  • The paradox of modern work: most people’s sense of dignity and self-worth is caught up in working for a living, and yet most people hate their jobs.
  • Value = capitalist view of work people get paid to do.
  • Values = unpaid work done to improve society and communities.
  • Voluntold is when someone has been told to do something but under the guise of volunteering.


  • There are diligent notes, but the book would benefit from an index.