What Is a Goldbricker?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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A goldbricker is a term used to describe an individual or situation in which some effort is made to pass off something of limited worth for something that is considerable more valuable. As it relates to an individual, the term is usually applied to someone who is creating an illusion of being productive but in fact is accomplishing very little. When applied to a situation, goldbricking often involves the adding some elements that create a perception of worth by enhancing appearance in a deliberate attempt to deceive.

The colorful reference to goldbricking comes from an old practice of taking bricks made from various materials and coating them with some type of gold product. The idea was to provide the illusion that the bricks were actually made of solid gold, conveying a sense of wealth and opulence. Over time, the term was expanded for use in reference to just about any situation in which the illusion of value was projected without there being any real evidence of that value. For example, a home that has received considerable attention in terms of a new paint job on the exterior and the creation of an attractive landscaping in the yards, but has rather severe problems in terms of the plumbing, wiring, and foundation could be considered a goldbricker.


When people engage in goldbricking, they are normally referred to as goldbrickers. This particular application of the term is often used in the workplace, especially in reference to employees who in fact do very little but give the impression of being very busy. The efforts to function as a goldbricker can sometimes be very elaborate, and may involve tricking others into doing the work while the goldbricker gets the credit, making it possible to climb the corporate ladder without putting any real effort into the assigned tasks.

In general, a goldbricker is looked upon with some degree of suspicion and possibly contempt. Even when the individual possesses considerable skills and talents, this may be overlooked if the general perception by coworkers is of one who is unwilling to do a fair share of the workload. When discovered by employers, the goldbricking can often lead to termination of the employment, or at least block the way to promotions. On a more casual level, it is not unusual for even productive employees to occasionally have a day or two in which assuming a more casual pace in the workplace may be referred to jokingly as goldbricking.


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