What Is a Goldbricker?

A goldbricker is a person who gets paid a wage, or salary, for work that is not done, despite the appearance of working. The term originates from the unethical practice of coating bricks of cheap metals with gold plate, to pass them off as solid gold. Thus, a worker who seems hard at work might be tending to personal matters.

In the investing sense, goldbrick, or goldbrick shares, refers to owning stock in a company that appears to be worth more than it really is.

Understanding Goldbricker

Goldbricking today most often refers to employees who use company time to scour the internet or perform other personal tasks. Unproductive workers add to a business' expenses. Companies who use independent contractors in hopes of boosting production must remain vigilant to avoid overpaying for the work completed. However, business is not the only victim of the goldbrick.

For example, as shown in this 2009 NBC News report, it was reported that about 700 teachers were accused of various on-the-job offenses were paid to do nothing for months, or years, awaiting decisions on their cases. This Union-forced practice becomes goldbricking as the teachers were still reporting to work and thus giving the appearance of labor. In fact, they sat in a so-called rubber room for eight hours, doing nothing. The policy costs city taxpayers an estimated $65 million a year.

Cyber-Slacking is Goldbricking

In the United States, goldbricking is estimated to cost companies billions of dollars a year. A 2012 survey by Salary.com found that 2112 of the total 3200 respondents confessed to wasting time at work. Internet use, sometimes called cyber-slacking, was the leading time-wasting activity in the workplace. Employees cited the lack of challenging work, long hours, and the lack of incentive to do more work as the reasons for goldbricking at work. The boon in social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as texting, has contributed to goldbricking habits. Workers who want to socialize on the job no longer need to stand around the water cooler or pick up the phone. They go online.

Companies are fighting back with surveillance software which can monitor employee internet searches, or by installing proxy servers that block social media and other websites. However, the ubiquity of smartphones has complicated restriction efforts, since employees can browse cyberspace on their own devices.

Corporations Push Back on Goldbrickers

Goldbricking has become such a serious issue that it is impacting labor and societal dynamics. In 2013 Forbes reported Yahoo announced it would prohibit telecommuting citing productivity issues as it found remote employees were not logging into the company servers as often as office-based workers. 

Other companies such as Aetna and Best Buy are also pulling back workers. For example, as reported by Forbes in 2017, IBM pulled many of its remote workers back into the office place, citing the lack of collaboration skills as the reason.