Jobsworth

Computer says no

jobsworth is a person who uses the (typically minor) authority of their job in a deliberately uncooperative way, or who seemingly delights in acting in an obstructive or unhelpful manner. It characterizes one who upholds petty rules even at the expense of effectiveness, efficiency, or common sense.

It is a British colloquial word derived from the phrase ‘I can’t do that, it’s more than my job’s worth,’ meaning that failing to do what is requested of them would be against what their job requires and would be likely to cause them to lose their job. English lexicographer Jonathon Green similarly it as ‘a minor factotum whose only status comes from enforcing otherwise petty regulations.’

An example of the phrase in its original context in the 1965 Beatles movie ‘Help!,’ when Roy Kinnear’s character, the assistant scientist Algernon, exclaims ‘Well it’s more than my job’s worth to stop him when he’s like this, he’s out to rule the world…if he can get a government grant.’

The term became widespread in vernacular English through its use in the popular 1970s BBC television program ‘That’s Life!’ which featured Esther Rantzen covering various human interest and consumer topics. A ‘Jobsworth of the Week’ commissionaire’s hat was awarded each week to ‘a startling tale of going by the book.’ The term remains in use, particularly in the UK, to characterize inflexible employees, petty rule-following and excessive administration, and is generally used in a pejorative context.

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