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.