Monday, March 27, 2017

Office supply

I worked in “corporate” for enough years to recognize that there’s an office supply full of predictable types. In a recent column in the Chicago Tribune, Rex Huppke catalogued some of them.*

He starts out with that instantly recognizable type:

The $%&hole:Every office has one. Some offices have many. It's even possible that you're one and don't realize it. These people are disruptive, difficult and only interested in advancing their own careers or somehow making yours more miserable. There is nothing you can do with an $%&hole, aside from report her or him to your boss or human resources if the behavior becomes too bad. But there's also a chance your boss or HR representative is an $%&hole, so reporting another person from this category is pointless. Best to just steer clear and take comfort in the fact that every co-worker who does not fall into this category hates the person as much as you do. (Source: Chicago Tribune)

Long-term readers will recognize that I’ve been on to this topic for almost as long as there’s been a Pink Slip.

Here I am in 2006 – on my birthday no less – with one of several posts spurred by Stanford Professor Bob Sutton’s terrific The No Asshole Rule, which has just celebrated the 10th anniversary of its publication. (Congratulations, Bob.) In my post, I focused on three sub-categories:

  • Credit Grabbers (inverse: Blame Gamers)
  • Weaklings
  • Charismatic Assholes (CA's)

CA’s are really in a class by themselves, and I have worked with some beauts over the years. Enough so that I gave them a post of their own, All Worked Up, in which I described three of the most incredible CA’s I worked with (each of whom I reported to, so I really got to see them all up close and personal). I didn’t use real names, but, for the record, in no particular order, that would be Mark, Rob, and Paul. The use of the name “Dennis” for one of these guys was an inside joke, as in real life “Dennis” was the most deplorable asshole I ever worked with, and one absolutely lacking in charisma. What Dennis lacked in charisma, he absolutely made up for in terms of sheer malevolence. As in chortling and high-fiving himself when he laid off one of his direct reports while the fellow was in the NICU with his wife, keeping vigil over a newborn who was in danger of not making it. Ah, Dennis.

I also gave a shout-out to a Bob’s book on the occasion of its publication.

So, yeah, I’ve been on to a-holes for quite a while now.

Back to Rex Huppke, among the other types on his list are:

  • Hand-Raisers, who prolong meetings with their tedious questions. He doesn’t consider them a malicious type, but he’s not thinking of the malicious subtype: the brown-nosing hand-raiser, who’s only waving their hand as a prelude to some ghastly suck-up-ery.
  • The Narc, who spends their time undermining their colleagues. Great bit of advice on the Narc: “Once identified, you should treat a Narc as a live microphone and assume anything you say will be recorded and used against you.”
  • Snack-Noses who are to a sheet-cake as Smokey the Bear is to a fire before it starts to flame. The minute there’s a goodie in the office, they’re on it! Sometimes they actually chip in a bit for that sheet-cake. But mostly they’re just there, sniffing around for crumbs+, and not giving a hoot that Kristin’s having a baby or that Andy just turned 50.

These were all good categories, and his readers sent in some additional ones, of which my fav was:

The Sports Guy: Tanned. Wears cuff links from the NCAA Final Four. Can't resist shooting crumpled papers into trash cans. Runs office pool for every major sporting event and keeps an Excel spreadsheet of staff winnings. (Source: Chicago Tribune)

Sports Guys don’t necessarily wear cuff links, but if they do, you can bet your LeBron James’ that he’s a sales guy. Just sayin’.

I also liked:

The Hide-and-Seekers: These folks go out of their way to be missing from their office from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Then they appear like magic at 4:46 and are working diligently. They wait until everyone else leaves the office so it appears they work harder than everyone else.

I would have thought that decades of dead-wood layoffs would have rid the workplace of this sort, but apparently not. My closest encounter was when I worked at Wang in the late 1980’s. Two of my colleagues would show up at 8 a.m., drape their suit jackets over the backs of their chairs, and head down with their newspapers to the caf for a nice leisurely breakfast. They returned to their cubicles in time to leave for the gym, followed by a long lunch, followed by their afternoon coffee break.

Wang was a matrix organization to beat all matrix organizations, and, if you were in product management, you had to deal with parties spread across many different locations. Given this, you could be anywhere. So if someone came looking for Kevin or Dick, it was reasonable enough to assume they were down in engineering, over in manufacturing, meeting with marketing, off with customer service, hanging with sales. I liked both of these guys, but when the grim lay-off reaper showed up at their cubes swinging his scythe, I thought it was a righteous hit.

Anyway, always fun thinking about the office types, and I’ll be giving it a bit more thought over the next couple of days to see if I can find some types that have so far been missed.

Meanwhile, if you have anything to add, you can comment here or send your suggestions on to:

*I saw the column thanks to a head’s up sent from my Chicagoland cousin Ellen who, this time of year, is reading The Trib from the warmth of Florida. So a doff of my worker’s cap to Ellen.

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