Monday, October 18, 2010

These People Say They’re Your Friend

They say there is wisdom in keeping your friends close and your enemies closer but in the modern office environment you often have little choice in the matter. The trouble is often telling friend from foe. Here for your edification, then, is a handy little field guide to help you navigate the pitfalls and man-traps that lie in wait for you as you embark on the ultimate quest of the modern age: the hunt for the Holy Grail of commerce; the successful career.

The Snitch – nothing to do with Harry Potter’s Quidditch balls alas, the Snitch likes nothing better than to lie in silent wait in a dark corner of the office, usually behind the potted palms, waiting for you to fail. Big failures, small failures – it makes no difference to the Snitch. Once your foul-up has been clocked the Snitch will already be hotfooting it to the boss’s office so fast the carpet tiles will have ignited beneath his/her highly polished shoes. The Snitch’s usual opening gambit is: "I don’t want to cause problems but..." and frequently peppers his/her conversation with the boss with the words “Oh yes abso-lutely, I quite agree!” Danger rating: 3/5. Poisonous but the bad effects are mediated by the fact that nobody likes a Snitch and their antics are usually recognized for what they are – the mediocre machinations of a low level trouble-maker.

The Snipe – unlike the Snitch the Snipe isn’t interested in your failures. If you foul-up all to the good. The Snipe can stick his/her feet up on the desk and continue internet shopping without a care in the world. The trouble comes when you do good. When you excel. When the boss thanks you for a good job and – worse still – starts sharing jokes with you in a manner that suggests a camaraderie of near equals. Once the boss is displaying a caring / sharing interest in your home life your card will have been well and truly marked. The Snipe will then go out of her way to bring you down a peg or two. Did I say her? I meant to say his/her. Your success threatens the powerbase of the Snipe. It cannot be allowed to continue. The Snipe will now be on a mission to bring about your downfall. The slightest error on your part will now be blabbed to all and sundry and their shrugging so-what reactions will be translated to the boss as an imminent peasant’s revolt – the future of the company is at stake unless he stamps down on your tardiness! Danger rating: 5/5. Don’t underestimate the Snipe. Forget glass ceilings – this is a barrier of flesh and blood (usually shrivelled and cancerous) that, if not neutralized, will hold you back despite your best attempts to climb the career ladder.

The Skiver – an expert at camouflage, it’ll take you years to spot this one. Like a chameleon the Skiver can change their appearance within a second of the boss entering the office. To the outside eye they appear industrious and busy. But the giveaway here is that they look too busy. Their PC monitors will be ablaze with the glow of several hundred windows all open at once. Their PC CPU will be white hot trying to cope with the sheer number of applications that the Skiver has running at any one time. The trick here is to take a gander at what windows have suddenly been minimized. Beneath the reports and spreadsheets which haven’t actually been edited for days you will find internet explorer windows accessing the DVD section of Amazon and a number of dodgy YouTube videos which are only just on the right side of “safe for the office”. But get too close and the Skiver’s fingers will soon become a blur as they type furiously onto whatever document they are using to fudge their true activities. Danger Rating: 1/5. No real danger at all from this one – only the risk of heart burn caused by irritation that whilst you are working your butt off this person is on a permanent holiday. But you can always dob them in by becoming a Snitch.

The Black Widow – this creature has found themselves in the work environment purely because lack of personal funds has driven them into the alien world of “having to earn money by working”. They have no natural or useful skills and are not qualified to make a cup of tea let alone manage a team of people or control budgets worth thousands of pounds... and yet, inevitably, the Black Widow manages to rise to the top of any office food chain by the one skill they do possess: flirting. This skill is usually accompanied by a blondeness that is inevitably bottle enhanced. The Black Widow will usually have 3 or 4 husbands behind her (and when I say behind her, I actually mean 6 feet beneath her) and will have amassed and subsequently frittered away a personal fortune that would keep your average family in food and rent for 50 years. The Black Widow, having become used to a high maintenance life style, will turn to the work place to keep them financially buoyant when they have reached ‘that age’ when their flirting has suddenly become defective / scary / toe curlingly revolting or all three. Danger rating: 4/5 if you are of the opposite sex and loaded; 0/5 if you are poor. The Black Widow is incapable of opening their email client without outside assistance and they are a constant draw of everybody else’s energy and resources. When you are stressed and exhausted it is because you have been carrying a Black Widow on your back along with your own workload.

The Stresser – the most easily recognizable creature of the workplace, the Stresser usually gives their position away by shrieking and flapping and sobbing that the photocopier has run out of toner precisely when they need to print off a 150 page report that they should have done yesterday but they were having a nervous breakdown about a bottle of Tippex whose lid had become glued together just at the moment when they needed to white out an erroneous figure that they had entered into a budget report because they were having a panic attack about some work they’d delegated to someone else who just won’t do as good as job on it as them and now they’ll have to do it all over again themselves and really they just haven’t got the time with the massive workload that is constantly being dumped on them, why do they get all the crap jobs all the time, life just isn’t fair? Danger rating: 4/5. Stress is like flu. It can be transmitted through the air and via close contact. The Stresser, unless checked with a hearty slap around the chops, will infect everybody within a 50 metre radius and disrupt the entire office with their stress and I guarantee that nothing productive will ever get done. They should be shot on sight. Or just let them see the gun. Their subsequent panic and stress should bring on a fatal heart attack within minutes. Job done. Finally.

Dear reader, I consider this field guide to be a work in progress so if anybody would like to add any recognizable flora and fauna of their own please feel free to do so by leaving a comment in the appropriate place. Thank you all for your time. I do hope this field guide will be of use to you all.


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37 comments:

libby said...

Oh dear. Out of desperation I think I may be turning into a little bit of all of them! the shame!! I'm like old nellie in the corner who has been in the job too long...although saying that, what do you do when the person sat next to you is not pulling their weight and it is really really starting to get you down? I have tried everything and yet the person in question has no notion of team work and I feel like a donkey with too much weight to carry... p.s. I am still working on a tunnel but until then I just have to be there to pay the bloody mortgage! ho hum.

Steve said...

Libby: sounds to me like you're at the mercy of a Skiver. Your company needs to employ a Snitch on a short-term contract to deal with them. A clever manager can play all these types off against each other to maximize productivity and keep the peace...

rummuser said...

You bring back vivid memories of my employment days Steve. Now that I am in genteel retirement, I can chuckle at all the types and recognize some of them from my hoary past. I also knew post retirement that I was, for some strange reason, classified under "Bulldozer".

rummuser said...

One question Steve. Do you still have that rare breed of "clever manager" around? In my time they were endangered species and I was subsequently told that they have become extinct. You might like to venture some thoughts on classifying Managers!

the fly in the web said...

Since when has a manager been clever....?

Steve said...

Rummuser: a bulldozer? Someone who ploughs through the mountain in their in-tray or clears a way through all the crap so that other can people can enjoy a flat playing field? ;-)

The Fly In The Web and Rummuser: how bizarre that you should both pick up on the same thing! I must admit my fingers did trip over themselves as I typed "clever manager"... and the word that popped into my head was "oxymoron".

The Dotterel said...

You forgot the joker... that perky little pest who always has the entire office in stitches, who can play his (her?) colleagues like a violin and who always laughs loudest... at his own jokes.

I've been as close as I think I'll ever get to committing murder after five minutes on a Monday morning with the office joker.

Steve said...

The Dotterel: good call - the office Joker also often doubles up as a Jack The Lad, the kind of guy who flashes his teeth and gold medallion to anything in a miniskirt and low cut top and thinks he's God's gift... when actually he's more like a Pandora's Box (only without any hope).

Heather said...

So which one are you....?

Steve said...

Wonderful Heather: I'm The Creep. Can't you tell?

EmmaK said...

hilarious! you have reminded me why so many of my friends are imaginary. I have tagged you today darling!

Steve said...

Emma: ah - imaginary friends! Wish I'd thought of that before embarking on an office based killing spree... oh well. The blood will soon wash off... will check out the tab, sweetie!

Keith said...

To continue the Harry Potter theme (ish) Have you spotted Dementors in your work place ? People who suck all the pleasure out of the air just by coming in the room. You know, show them a puppy in a basket and they only see the dog do's THEY will have ALMOST CERTAINLY to clear up.

Steve said...

Keith: absolutely - people so cold and lifeless you can see your own breath forming in the air whenever they are in the room and hear the crunch as your genitals shrivel up and fall off.

Fran said...

Surely these people are what make life interesting? No? No?

Steve said...

Fran: yes. In the same way that Hitler, Vlad The Impaler and ecoli make life interesting. I realize that ecoli isn't a person but you take my point.

Wanderlust said...

Pandora's box without any hope. That's quite good! I probably shouldn't cop to the fact that I'm reading this at work. Best minimize my window now...

Steve said...

Wanderlust: some of my favourite (and most sane) friends are Skivers...! ;-)

Owen said...

And what about "The Psychopath" ? I don't think I've ever worked anywhere without encountering The Psychopath. He or she who seems normal at first glimpse, but when their humour strikes them, they turn into a monster, raving, foaming at the mouth. And then they return to "normal". Until the next time. Somehow a fair number of them seem to rise to quite high levels, where they can then terrorize their subordinates. Fear and Loathing of such people is rampant in workplaces where they flourish...

Steve said...

Owen: alas not all of them rise to the high levels... or is my time still to come? Mwah ha ha ha!

Alienne said...

I dunno about dementors, I have a couple of crashing bores - a couple of minutes with either of them and I am fighting to keep my eyes open. I also have a stresser - a very loud and hysterical one who actually only does photocopying but thinks she is the most important person in the division. Most of the others in the office are actually OK. Fortunately i have a room of my own and I can close the door - so no one knows I am a skiver!

Being Me said...

Ever seen the movie 'Office Space'? There is a work colleague on there who is quite recognisable - we call him The Stapler Guy. It's the one who grumbles discontentedly under his breath about everything he thinks he *should* be getting (including, in the movie's case, his red stapler that no one else should touch because his keeps getting nicked - or permanently borrowed). This worker also manages to sidle up to anyone, anywhere, including making internal calls to co-workers in the adjacent cubicle, to continue his/her morose complaints about the workplace and how it's done him/her wrong for all the years they've worked there. And even, as in the movie's case, "letting go" this worker by way of simply ceasing to pay them does not make them go away. They've been treading the same path to the door of the same office for so many years, they can't break the habit even after the pay cheques stop.

TheUndertaker said...

Shit, it made me exhausted just reading through that list. Phew, who wants to work in an office? The worst we have in our office is that someone didn't put the glasses IN the dishwasher and someone else had to do it. But then we work for ourselves, and are our own worst enemies.
So which one are you?

French Fancy... said...

There is also the flirt - both male and female; everything turned into double entendres and innuendo and you feel like you are living in a Carry On Office environment.

I loved your descriptions though - you should send them off to a magazine or two - having said that I never ever buy mags, what a waste of money! But this is still the sort of article I would chuckle over at a dentist's waiting room.

Steve said...

Alienne: I'd love a room of my own... I'd definitely be an uber-skiver if I had a bit of privacy!

Being Me: I haven't seen it but it sounds like if I did it would be like watching a rerun of my working life... not that I'm The Stapler Guy or anything but I've been moaned at a few times. Usually by a Snipe or three.

TheUndertaker: they didn't put their own glasses into the dishwasher! Disgusting! Hold on a minute... you have a dishwasher?! Bloody hell! Can I come and work in your office? As for which one am I... I'm the Malcontent.

FF: hmm... maybe I ought to add a few more and submit it somewhere? I like that idea!

Preseli Mags said...

Laughing so much at this. I once worked with someone best described as 'all of the above'. Me? I'm a bit of a skiver given half the chance. That's why I now work for myself...

Steve said...

Preseli Mags: I think all the best people tend to have skiving tendencies... I certainly do. The problem only occurs when skiving is all a person does! As for working for yourself... I tried it once but found I was still working for an idiot!

Selina Kingston said...

Oh how I've missed you! I've just spent the last quarter of an hour catching up and you are so entertaining. I recognise all of these types - hell, I think I may be all of these but in small doses you understand.....

Steve said...

Selina: I think perhaps we are all these people in small doses... I pity anybody who has to work with the undiluted versions!

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

Dear Lord, may I never work for local government. I think I've obviously been rather lucky with past colleagues.

Steve said...

Very Bored in Catalunya: ah... but what did they think of you...?! ;-)

The Sagittarian said...

Or the person who will never give you a straight answer, always has to try to be funny...grrr!

Steve said...

Amanda: I've known plenty of those types of joker in my time... grrr too!

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip said...

I'm trying to decide which of these characters I hate the most. And I'm also trying to decide which one my former boss qualifies for. She was kind of a stresser/skiver combo, but worse even because she was our boss. Totally unqualified but for some reason the director of the joint loved her. I think they may have had a special relationship that they were keeping on the down low. Just a guess. You should add that one. People who've slept their way to the top.

Steve said...

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip: ah yes... the "special relationship". There's a lot of that about and accounts for the proliferation of most office based injustices and wrong doings.

Modern Military Mother said...

Be vigilant. Trust no one. I am the maverick. Freelance, brought in as a troubleshooter, get drunk, call everyone an asshole, get the job done and then leave again.

Steve said...

Modern Military Mother: I like your style - toss a hand grenade into the boss's office and then run for it!