The “zero fucks given” approach to work

Zero fucks given

This one might be a tricky line to walk, but let’s nonetheless try to walk it. We’re going to talk about a “zero fucks given” approach to your professional existence. You’ve probably heard of the various memes around “zero fucks given;” there’s even a site around it. I believe the whole concept can be applied to work, but probably not in the way you think. I’m not actually going to argue that you should do a bad job or slack off. I fully realize that many of us deeply connect our self-worth to our work, and that’s probably even more true for the Type-A workaholic class. (Of which there are many.) Many of us want to be seen as relevant and competent by our co-workers. Slacking off in the “zero fucks given” context won’t get us there. But there’s a bouncing ball we can follow.

Let’s start with a “zero fucks given” video

This is from Gary Vee, who is more famous than I am. It’s about “The ROI of not giving a fuck.” Here you go:

You can watch the whole clip, but the basic deal here is this. Gary Vee is saying “zero fucks given” means “worrying less” and “worrying less” subsequently means “speed,” i.e. executing while others are dawdling. If speed is the name of the game — many managers do believe this — then zero fucks given could work as an approach.

The quantity – quality argument

Been banging this drum for years. I’ve met a few people who agree with me, but probably most still do not. This is what I mean: because many of us confuse “busy” and “productive,” what happens a lot is that we overemphasize the quantity of work we have on our plate. Go find a random person in your office. Ask them: “How are things?” 9 out of 10 people will say “So busy!” or “Slammed!” That’s the culture of most offices.

Example B: consider two different projects you could submit to your boss. Let’s say one is of higher quality but the process check boxes along the way were a little iffy. The other project is of lower quality but every “process for the sake of process” moment was followed. Which project is your boss happier with? In many cases, it’s the lower quality one. Why? Because to a lot of people, work is about controlling processes and situations — and not really about doing the best work possible.

In such a setup, it’s easier to move towards zero fucks given.

The priority argument

Most companies are a massive priority vacuum. Right hand, left hand. You know what I mean? This allows middle managers to rush in and deem every single project under the sun as “absolutely urgent,” when usually no one even remotely cares about the outcome. The lack of priority in companies, combined with poor job role definition, moves a lot of people towards zero fucks given. Why keep answering the bell if Tuesday’s priority is Wednesday’s “Wait, what?”

The compensation argument 

The good news here is that while job growth (in America) is slow, wages seem to be going up for the first time since 2009. That said: we lack pay transparency, incentive structures are skewed, and bonus pay mostly find its ways to the top.


Now combine the last section and this section. You spend all week running around on so-called urgent priorities that aren’t, in fact, priorities. You do this  for 2,000 working hours in a year. When all the time is up, your boss is like: “Can’t do much in the way of a raise this year! We’ll get you next year!” Meanwhile, he/she just took 15 straight days off and has a January vacation to a resort planned. Zero fucks given.

The managerial argument

Most managers, per research, have several key problems:

Technology — like CRMs and dynamic accounting suites — have made a lot of managers totally irrelevant in larger companies. We haven’t admitted that, instead hiding behind “They make the trains run!” They often don’t. There is research all over about this. CEOs are starting to whisper it to consultants, too. Ruh roh.

Zero fucks given.

The big argument on zero fucks given

Take all the above together and work is a fairly fraught place for a lot of us. 41% of the global workforce has one foot out the door as 2017 begins.

So when I say “zero fucks given,” I don’t mean do a bad job. Instead, I mean this: take all this crap above — poor managers, sense of urgency garbage, terrible incentive systems unless you’re an executive — and put it aside. Tune out the garbage and the bullshit. Zero fucks given on that. Just go in, do the best you can, make some friends, hit your targets, and go live the rest of your life. When that specific place gets to be too much, look for a way out. It will be harder — hiring processes for work these days are very flawed — but it’s worth it. It’s 8-12 hours/day of your life, give or take. Be in the best place you can.

Do a good job. Be the best little target-basher you can be for your chain of command. But eventually, tune it out. Move on. Zero fucks given. Yaaas?

Ted Bauer


  1. often times relate to so much of what you say, Mr. Bauer. This article right here pretty defines my workplace philosophy. However, I always find myself in the minority viewpoint on this topic. Everything we do in the workplace, and in all aspects of life really, have costs of time and effort. I am constantly asking myself, “what is the value of X Action?” Does the outcome justify the above mentioned costs? People who value things in life beyond work and achievement would likely have fairly consistent answers to that question. You mentioned the Type A personality. These are the people who consider sleep to be a huge inconvenience to their achievement lifestyle. They can justify any amount of time and effort for even the smallest, least meaningful outcome. So, as you said, not giving a fuck is not the same as being lazy or half-assing. It’s about doing things correctly and solidly the first time. And on top of that, getting the most out of life beyond working.

    • Yea, man. I spent so many years trying to do the middle class thing. Get a job, excel, stick with it, etc. There’s just so much bullshit now. I am sure there was bullshit in the 1950s, but I didn’t live then and couldn’t tell you directly. Your life is so much more than your vocation, but you need money to live… so … this is kind of the way I try to approach it too.

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