For years, your managers have been asking the same question. They observe your erratic behavior. They monitor your sluggish performance. They measure your puny level of productive output. Then they scratch their heads and look you in your heavy-lidded eyes, and ask the same question:
“What is wrong with you?”
Well, now you can tell them. After centuries of working on trivial scientific endeavors, like mapping the genome of the fruit fly and eradicating bubonic plague, medical researchers have come up with a whole new disease that not only perfectly fits your condition, but may even explain it. So the next time you are asked The Question, you will have The Answer.
“What’s wrong with me?” you can ask. “It’s SCT.”
Of course, this raises a further question: What the heck is SCT? Fortunately, I have this answer, as well.
According to a recent article in The New York Times by Alan Schwarz, SCT stands for “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo,” an exciting new companion to the ever-popular attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD to its friends).
As Schwarz reports, “the condition is said to be characterized by lethargy, daydreaming and slow mental processing.” And if that isn’t a perfect description of that individual you see every morning in your mirror, and your manager sees every afternoon, dozing at your desk, I don’t know what is.
While there is no reason to think SCT will reduce your life span, being able to explain your poor performance with a bad disease, instead of a bad attitude, could dramatically extend your longevity at your job.
“You wouldn’t fire someone because they have a broken leg,” you could say when human resources calls you in to review the 0 degrees of positive comments in your 360-degree review. “I’m not saying I will file a lawsuit and drag the company through the courts for a multimillion-dollar settlement, but I do suffer from a serious medical disease, and I’m doing all I can do with my disability.”
Trust me: When HR hears you talk about lawsuits, you’ll see some changes at work. Instead of putting you on probation, they’ll put you on a nice couch in your cubicle so you can recover from the stress of trying to overcome your biological need to daydream. Instead of hammering you for missing countless deadlines, they’ll build in extra time for any project in which you must play a part. The better to sympathize with your slow mental processing.
If there were one problem with this approach, it would be that the stodgy medical bureaucracy has not yet accepted SCT as an actual disease. As Schwarz writes, ” … it has never been recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which codifies conditions recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.”
This could be bad news if your HR department decides to be snarky about cutting you slack for a disease that doesn’t actually exist. On the other hand, the foot dragging on the part of the APA — which I can only describe as sluggish — does provide the opportunity for SCT to be named after you — the poster boy or girl for slow-thinking, slow-working individuals who have survived in a jitterbug economy while operating at a waltz tempo.
(Besides, there are all sorts of serious psychological conditions that have not yet been accepted by the American Psychiatric Association. What about NMC — Nutty Manager Complex. Or IGCES — Incredibly Greedy Chief Executive Syndrome. Or ACWSYLORD — Annoying Co-Worker Who Steals Your Lunch from the Office Refrigerator Disorder. Someone should start a telethon for that one.)
Unsurprisingly, the one group that has fully embraced SCT is the drug industry. Many of these companies already have drugs to treat ADHD, and you can be sure there is no sluggishness in the speed in which they are moving forward on research to learn if the same pills can also work on SCT.
While we can’t possibly know the future, we can certainly hope that a devastating cure for SCT will not emerge. Imagine how horrible it would be if you no longer wanted to spend the majority of the workday with your head in the clouds. Imagine how sad it would be if instead of dragging your feet, you took pride in finishing projects ahead of schedule. Imagine what a boring person you would be without your sluggish, clownish, slow-witted approach to life.
Why, you’d be exactly like your boss! And that would really be sick.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.