February 08, 2006

Office Archetypes

Working in an office can be a disorienting experience for new graduates. But for seasoned office types, it can be a soul-throttling experience. And for senior employees, the office can, of course, be an asphyxiating mental wasteland. However, by understanding one's fellow workers, one's misery finds greater company. This is a guide to common types of workers that may be encountered by the newly employed office worker.

Intimate Stranger Steve

Steve sits nearby and regularly takes personal calls in his cubicle. You listen to Steve talk on the phone as if listening to a radio talk show. Although you've only spoken a few words to him, you know more about Intimate Stranger Steve and his personal life than you do about many of your friends.

Baby Bernie

Bernice, who goes by Bernie, is a recent college graduate. She is generally a good worker, but she has the unfortunate habit of talking like a baby. And sitting on the floor. And pouting with her lower lip out. And trying to get people to play tag around the cubicles. And fake crying.

Troubleshooter Ted

Ted is a nerdy but friendly guy who sometimes has problems relating to other people. He is eager to show others his imaginative brilliance, but rarely gets the opportunity due to the routine and solitary nature of his tech job. The one chance that Ted gets to shine is when enthusiastically pointing out all the potential problems that a fellow worker's proposal would entail. Troubleshooter Ted is most alive when showing you the error of your ways.

Bright-Burning Bonnie

Bonnie is a vivacious extrovert. Her gutsy displays of personality frighten and enchant her coworkers. How can this free soul exist in the zombifying office environment? Alas, Bright-Burning Bonnie is a shooting star only passing by. She is gone within two months, off to find work more suited to her.

Child Care Carl

Carl isn't always able to get a sitter or child care, so he brings his four-year-old child to work. Carl's kid crawls around on the floor and hangs out under the desk. When the child is naughty, Child Care Carl scolds his child and threatens a spanking, causing nearby office workers to inadvertently burst out laughing.

Emailer Emmy

Emmy stuffs your inbox with forwarded emails. Every day you receive virus warnings, pictures of puppies, and essays about what a good friend you are. You have considered blocking her email, but you are afraid that you might miss an important message. You complain to your friends about Emailer Emmy's volume of emails, but you secretly enjoy getting them.

Day Trader Dale

Dale is very busy. You have learned never to bother Dale before 10 am. After you get to know Dale better, you find that the reason he is so busy is that he spends his mornings trading stocks. Day Trader Dale seems manic-depressive, but his emotions are actually quite reasonable because they are the result of his profiting or losing thousands of dollars in a single day.

Sports Gambler Gary

Gary is a close relative of Dale. However, instead of spending his time researching profit to earnings ratios, Gary prefers betting in the field that he is more familiar with, sports. Gary is just as devoted to his field as Dale, but while Dale considers his day trading to be investing, Sports Gambler Gary just bets on sports to "make it interesting."

Gullible Gary

Judging by Gary's looks, you suspect that he just graduated from high school, but he actually just graduated from college. He is a chipper fellow who believes anything he is told. You amuse yourself by seeing if Gullible Gary will believe the most ridiculous things, but feel ashamed because pulling one over on him is too easy. Although Gary's work is boring, he is not disheartened because he believes what his manager told him in the job interview--that the job will become interesting as he learns more. You don't want to disillusion Gary, so you act cheerful and content when you are around Gary.

Web Surfer Will

Whenever you walk past Will's cubicle, he is always surfing the net. Your curiosity aroused, you speak to Will, gently probing to find out what his responsibilities are. Will tells you his department and explains what his department does, but after talking for five minutes, you still can't figure out what Web Surfer Will's actual work is.

Uncooperative Karen

Karen bristles at the accusation that she is uncooperative. No, she's quite willing to cooperate! If only other people would not push their work onto her, and instead tailor their requests to meet her short list of requirements. By following Uncooperative Karen's requests, you will find that you have done the work for her, leaving her to only sign her name.

Overloaded Larry

Larry acknowledges that your plan has merit, but he, like Uncooperative Karen, is unwilling to do his part. Larry never says that he is too busy or does not have time, he tells you that your request, which would take an hour, would "increase his loading." Overloaded Larry's loading must not be increased.

Engineering Manager Ed

Ed is a great engineer and a nice guy. In view of his value and long service to the company, Ed is now a manager. The only problem is that Engineering Manager Ed knows as little about managing as he cares about it. (Hint: Very little.)

Inherited Owner Owen

When the original owner of the system left the company, Owen became the owner of the system. Owen hates the system and is always looking for an opportunity to shovel it off to another employee. When asked how the system works, Owen will feign ignorance and admit that he probably is not suited to be in charge of the system, hinting or even begging that you take it from him.

Bored Brian

Brian seems like a nice guy in the morning, but as he sits down in his office chair, he soon wears an expression of pained boredom. The mask of misery comes off at lunchtime, but then goes right back on. By the time he gets off work, Bored Brian flees as if out of a dungeon.

Wise Manager William

William is a very intelligent manager. He could give you a simple answer to your questions, but then you wouldn't learn anything. Instead, William will lecture you for thirty minutes, offering numerous pearls of wisdom along the way. After talking to Wise Manager William, you may not learn the answer to your question, but you will have increased your knowledge of management techniques.

Just-in-time Ted

Ted avoids learning about anything not directly involved with his work. He claims that he prefers just-in-time learning--he will learn things when they are needed, and not a minute sooner. Ted wonders why he is never given any new responsibilities, forgetting the fact that he only knows how to do one thing.

Martyr Marty

Marty does not particularly like his job, but enjoys the gratitude that his long hours at work bring. He works overtime in the office every day, and he rarely has a moment's rest all day. Marty never reports his overtime hours for overtime pay. When asked why, he replies that he is just doing his duty. Martyr Marty is actually hoping that his overtime hours will accumulate as a debt that can only be repaid by a promotion. Marty's manager feels so indebted to Marty, that Marty's hope will eventually become reality.

Martyr Mary

Mary and Marty abet each other in their martyrdom, always seeking to outdo the other. Mary's favorite method of showing how dedicated she is to her job is to skip lunch. "Sorry guys, I can't make it to lunch with you because I've got too much to do." Like Marty, her martyrdom is not all show. Mary remains very busy by never asking for help and by never saying no to a request.

Valuable Worker Valerie

Valerie, like Marty, wants to prove that she is a valuable worker. However, she just doesn't have as much work to do as Marty. Valerie works thirty minutes to an hour of overtime every day. Knowing what Valerie's work responsibilities are, you are curious about how she can be so busy, so you ask her what she is working on as she works overtime. She mumbles about "just finishing some stuff up." You assume that she is only pretending to work.

Accented Ali

Ali appears to be a competent worker, but his thick accent often leads to uncomfortable situations. Could you repeat that one more time, Ali? I'm sorry, what was that? ...Err, got it. Heh, heh.

Mentor Mark

Mark is a great friend to new employees. He tells them about all the wonderful information that he is willing to impart to the new employee. Mark is an expert in every subject, whether it be health, sports, cars, or computers. Mark is eager to share his expertise with you, provided that you acknowledge his mastery of all subjects. You will get along well with Mentor Mark if you play the role of the adoring trainee. Otherwise, Mark will lose interest in you as soon as the next new employee comes along.

Gourmet Gabby

You don't know anything about Gabby except that she brings lunches to work that make you drool, arraying her four-course lunches on the desk of her cubicle. When waiting for Gabby to finish using the microwave, you attempt to hide your shamefully inadequate lunch of a hot-pocket and yogurt.


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