No time to work now, I’m busy shaking the toner

I worked for a company where to “shake the toner” became synonymous with “wasting time”. We had two printers from which to choose: One black and white, one color laser. Only management and those working on a design for a client were supposed to use the color printer. The rest of us were instructed to use the black and white model. I once made the mistake of printing to the color printer in order to avoiding shaking the toner. The error of my ways was pointed out to me almost immediately. image

There was one problem with the black and white printer: it was perpetually low on toner. I know laser cartridges can be given more life by a quick shake now and then. I’m not against being frugal, but the amount of time spent getting a basic print job to work was much too high.

Every week I’d see busy individuals spending 15 to 20 minutes at a time shaking the toner cartridge in order to get the printer working. These were marketers, developers and project managers doing most of the shaking. After I’d witnessed this foolishness for a few weeks, I approached our IT Manager and asked him why we didn’t keep a box of new toner cartridges near the printer. His response was that he wanted to do that but was instructed not to because we’d run the risk of going through more toner than was needed. If I recall correctly, the toner cartridges were in the $150/each neighborhood.

Yet it’s hard to imagine all the time wasted on what should be a very simple task. Most of our employees billed out at $150 or more so it didn’t take many trips to the printer to see that it would have been more cost effective to put a box of toner near the printer, even if we did waste the last few remnants of toner. Instead, we had erected a barrier to ensure that several hours were wasted each time the toner ran low.

Whenever I see internal business process that seem to be in place merely to waste employee’s time I refer to them as “shaking the toner” moments. Do you have any “shaking the toner” processes at your work?

One thought on “No time to work now, I’m busy shaking the toner

  1. Family owned company, and not really a “shake the toner” exactly. Owner would walk the building and unplug coffee pots. 100 computers were left on, but a half dozen coffee makers were unplugged overnight.
    I love the question.


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