These people are nightmares in organizations with hierarchical structures. Because people who sort of know on some level they don't really need to be there are never satisified. Our hypothetical secretary who only takes one call a day would hurt nobody but the business's bottom line if she just sat there playing Bejeweled on her phone all day in between her one call, but that's very rarely how it works.
People don't like feeling useless so they start to look for things to do. The problem is in most business environments by their very nature it is almost impossible to make work for yourself without making work for other people.
So the secretary.... starts submitting her timesheet to Carol in Finance for review before she submits it to Steve in Payroll for final approval or something like that. It usually starts off unofficial, just something for our secretary to do, but it's only a few short jumps from that to "New Rule, now everybody has to have their timesheets reviewed by Carol before they submit them to Steve."
In the military we knew this as the "Why are we mustering at 0430 for a 0600 formation?" thing.
The Captain wants the crew formed up on fantail for an announcement at 0600. So the Department Head says "I want everyone at 0545 so we can make sure everyone is there before the CO is there." Then the Division Officer makes it 530 so he can make sure everyone is there before the Department Head gets there, and then Chief tells the LPO and the LPO tells the Work Center Supp and boom you've got a ship full of sailors standing in the dark and cold for hours to hear a 15 minute speech from the CO because multiple layers of a hierarchy want make sure something is ready for the next level of the hierarchy.
In any organization the average number of people between you and the person actually making the decision is almost a perfect indicator of how much your job sucks.
Good rule of thumb in life. If you're a "worker" never let more than 1, 2 at an absolute max, Managers get put between you and the Leader. 90% of the grief in your professional life is going to come from people who's job it is to implement other people's ideas.
There's also the good old rule of thumb in "The more words it takes you to describe your job, the less it actually matters."