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What Are You Thinking?

If you're curious about why the U.S. economy is ailing, good news — I have the answer. It isn't all your fault as so many of us have been thinking. The reason that productivity is down and the economy is out is because all our time at work is spent responding to surveys.

And what exactly are the surveys surveying? Let's start with Lynn Taylor, a consultant and author who has been trying to find out just how much time employees spend worrying about their boss. The answer may surprise you. According to a survey of 1,000 workers conducted for Taylor, a "national workplace expert" in the eyes of her publicist, "U.S. employees spend 19.2 hours a week worrying about 'what a boss says or does.'"

If you're concerned about people spending almost half of the workweek worrying about the lamebrain musings of their doofus bosses, rest assured that only 13 of those worrisome hours occur at the job. The remaining 6.2 hours take place on the weekends — a time when good little employees should be recharging their batteries with activities that are relaxing and restorative, like drinking too much Jagermeister and yakking into the rose bushes.

It really is no surprise that Ms. Taylor is obsessed with our national obsession with the boss. Her consulting firm "offers workshops on how to humanize the workplace for increased productivity and profitability." In other words, Taylor believes that we would worry less if our bosses acted more like — how shall I put it? — human beings. Of course, the opposite is true. It's when our bosses start being all nice and friendly that we start to worry, and with very good reason. Chances are, your boss is about to humanize you with a big dollop of unemployment.

And what are those of us who are lucky enough to still have jobs thinking about when we're not wondering what it means that the boss gave us a smile instead of a reprimand? According to another survey — and this one took up the time of 1,050 employees — America's work force is once again in the mood for love. Yes, romance has returned to the workplace, even if jobs have not.

"According to Vault.com's 2010 Office Romance Survey, 69.7 percent of respondents stated that the shaky economy is no longer a factor when choosing whether or not to start an office affair," the nosy parkers at the company breathlessly reported in a press release. "This comes in stark contrast to last year's figures, which showed that 80 percent of responders cited the recession as a reason to take fewer romantic risks in the workplace."

You would think that our national obsession with what is in the boss's tiny brain would, in some small way, temper our communal lust in the cube farm, but it's not the case. "Almost 60 percent said they have participated in an office romance at some point in their careers," the survey revealed. "37.8 percent said they have had a random office hookup; 43.9 percent have had an ongoing, but casual relationship; and 32.3 percent have had a long-term serious relationship."

These statistics are quite interesting, and they could be useful, too. Next time you attempt to light a spark over the copying machine, rather than your usual line — "I can copy this report, but no way can I copy the passion I feel for you, Ms. (or Mr.) Noosenagle" — you can site the stats. "Come with me now to the broom closet, Mr. (or Ms.) Noosenagle. None of our deadbeat co-workers are getting it on, so it's up to us to bring our office up to the national average."

The broom closet may not seem like the ideal spot for a tryst, but don't knock it if you haven't tried it. And apparently, lots of people are trying it — 31.6 percent of the respondents admitted to doing it in the office, and 6 percent have been caught in the act. One particularly sexy sighting reported involved the lunch table in the break room. This is truly inappropriate. Everyone knows that the proper place for a sexual interlude is on the conference room table.

Compared to thinking about what the boss is thinking, spending your days thinking about romance is, in my non-statistically accurate opinion, a much better way to fill the hours between 9 and 5. Just don't think about your boss having an office romance. That's the kind of horrifying mental image that could actually make you decide to think about your work.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com. To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

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