Goldbricking refers to the practice of passing something worthless off as something valuable, akin to coating a normal house brick with gold plating and passing it off as bullion. In an employment sense, employees that do less than they could – while maintaining an air of being studious – are said to be goldbricking.
Although goldbricking refers to any inefficient, non-work activities passed off as work, nowadays it is commonly used to refer to employees using the internet to avoid work responsibilities. This behaviour is also called cyberslacking.
Goldbricking is part of the wider bracket of counterproductive work behaviour (CWB), or behaviours that are antithetical to the overall aims and needs of an organisation.
The etymology of the term comes from an incident in the late 1800s – a gold brick was ‘proven’ to be gold by cutting off one of the corners. After the payment was made, the buyer discovered that only the corners were gold and the rest of the brick was worthless.