Signing on the Line That Is Dotted: A Corporate Directory
Everything you need to know about the corporate world was covered in Matt Groening’s pre-Simpsons’ masterwork, Work Is Hell. If you’re seeking doctorate-level knowledge, of course seek out Glengarry Glen Ross, Mad Men, or The Office (British version only). However, if you’re the brainy, non-social type that can’t bother with funny books or the telly, I cordially invite you to read my take on business in a pictureless, hard-to-read format. And, as every civilized person knows, turning down a cordial invitation is a felony in every state except Utah, so I suggest you read on.
My effort here is to highlight some of the actors in this world–not the familiar stereotypes, a la C. Montgomery Burns or Willy Loman, but rather the minor characters that populate the desks, hallways, and shared toilets of offices worldwide. My credentials include 13 years in the same office in Boston, however, so my “worldwide” perspective may be a stretch. Luckily, my editor for 30pov has been gallivanting around the Iberian Peninsula this summer, so I’m getting away with murder. Wait, did I type that out loud? With no more ado: let’s get it on.
Life Saver / Horrible Planner: Typically a mid-level manager but sometimes the head of a department, this chucklehead fancies himself some sort of Errol Flynn, swooping in to solve a major crisis. The problem is that his ghastly ability to plan, organize, or follow-through with all areas of a project led to the crisis in the first place. Is known for speaking breathlessly about his own bravado, choosing without fail to not point out how the most basic understanding of how people operate or stuff works would have prevented all problems. Most telling trait: Never answers a single e-mail from anyone below the C-level.
Professional Professional: This slick rick has the look of success despite not actually being successful. More concerned with Italian shoes and brands he heard from songs on the hip-hop station than actually improving his profession, he appears in the occasional meeting and is seen flirting with the occasional woman, but really has accomplished nothing. Impresses no one except Associate Professionals and Intern Professionals. Most fitting death: Drowning in a pool of his gross cologne.
The Burning Platform: This joker has so devoted herself to the world of business that she can no longer converse without using company jargon. She goes through friends at work quickly as no one can stand to talk with her for long. Typical quote: “You don’t have to boil the ocean to drain the swamp.”
Excuse Maven: This individual missed a calling in the World’s Strongest Man competition, as evidenced by her ability to throw so many people under the bus each day. Accepting no responsibility for anything, she has a list of enemies that would make Richard Nixon proud. Reason for existence: That’s between her and Lucifer.
The Hey-Buddy: This person has no apparent role at the company, yet he’s been there longer than everyone and seemingly has close relations with all. Upon some analysis, however, the close relations reveal themselves as a series of catch-phrases that capture one basic element of a person. From “Hey, the Bruins may do it this year” and “Hey, how the kids? They’re growing up fast, huh?” to “What’s new in Laos?” everyone has a reserved phrase. And, for the new schlep who has yet to make a connection, there’s always a “hey buddy.” Standard hand gesture: A snapping/pointing combo with both hands.
Asshole-in-Chief: Far from being the head of the company, this dick just pretends that he is. Unlimited gall combines with a mutant disregard for fellow employees to make for one colossal prick. Proof either that God does not exist or that he continues to send devils into the world: Is often promoted.
En attendant Asshole: This sycophant of no personal worth actually cheerleads for the Asshole-in-Chief without legitimate catalyst–he just seems to genuinely like talking in the positive about this king of all assholes. He is also oblivious to the fact that the Asshole-in-Chief holds him in contempt equal to everyone else. Representative from the Animal Kingdom: Dung beetle.
Coffee Flirt: Typically a man, the coffee flirt is constantly leaving the building with different targets of what ends up being unrequited affection. The daytime activity lures unsuspecting women into his grasp; luckily for his targets, he never gets anywhere, so she remains unscathed, and in fact in the black, having scored a free coffee. Giveaway trait: Bouncing off the walls from drinking coffee all day.
Rumpled Mess: A member of a little-known religion that bans the use of irons or heat dryers, this sad sack wears clothes that are so wrinkled they almost cease to exist. Often unshaven and tousled as well, the Rumpled Mess is never well rested, never smiles, and sometimes has heart failure during meetings. Best guess at out-of-work hobby: Drugs.
The Former Employee of Another, Oft-Mentioned Company: This clown puts all current matters in the context at her previous role at a major company, no matter how unrelated. The great unanswered question: If the company was so great, why did she leave? Typical quote: “At Polaroid, we knew how to send e-mails better than this.”
Known Comic: Getting a brief laugh on his first week on the job from some overworked proofreader, this joker decided then and there to assume the role of comedian, and hasn’t stopped wise-acring yet. Unfortunately he has no off switch, so he is known to crack jokes at even the most inappropriate times. Usually unfunny and always with a smirk, this guy sucks. Best day of the year: When he’s on vacation.
Fashion Radical: This social zero has done nothing but conform his entire predictable life. Faced with this grim reality, he decides to break out, but within the confines of his pathetic world. The result is one awful trend after another. First it was ball caps with suits. Then it was Indiana Jones hats. Now it seems to be salmon pants. Typical race and gender: White guys, almost exclusively.
Professional Gym Member: The only meeting this employee seems to have is a near-two-hour break to go to the gym. Bereft of business urgency or any apparent responsibility, this person has awesome abs to show for it. Self-image: Somewhere between the Sultan of Brunei and Errol Flynn.