By Rex Huppke
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr)> In this humorous piece out of the Chicago Tribune, columnist Rex Huppke takes a look at the different people we spend our days with at the office. He’s actually created his own categories for various co-workers.
Part of being America’s most-beloved workplace advice columnist is mastering new subjects while staying on top of the latest office trends.
That’s why I’m pleased to announce that, having Googled the definition of “anthropology” five minutes ago, I am now an expert on workplace anthropology.
As such, I’d like to offer a critique of the many attempts that have been made to identify different categories of office dwellers based on their personality traits and behaviors. My critique is: Lame!
In the past week or so, I’ve received two pitches from public relations folks touting ways to better understand the workplace by classifying co-workers into different groups.
The thinking goes that by identifying the quirks and characteristics of each type of person, you can better learn to interact with and work around those people.
I applaud that thinking. Taking a strategic approach to navigating work is smart, since we often just react to people rather than stopping to think about the actual human being in front of us.
The problem, however, is the categories I keep seeing are too generic. It’s stuff like: the robot; the rebel; the explorer; the exploiter; the bean counter.
Yes, people in every workplace can fall under those titles, but the titles themselves are too broad. Let’s get real with our anthropological efforts. If we’re going to lump people into helpful categories, those categories should be both specific and brutally honest.
To help, I’ve come up with a few ideas that will be part of my upcoming book, “Rex Huppke’s Guide to Straight-Shootin’ Workplace Anthropology.”
The Jerk: 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 a Jerk, 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 a Jerk, 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.
The Hand-Raiser: This is a colleague who, no matter how short a meeting should be, always raises his or her hand to ask a question and prolong the whole loathsome affair.
Hand-Raisers aren’t necessarily malicious. They are usually driven by narcissism or a striking inability to grasp even the simplest of concepts. Keep Hand-Raisers out of your meetings if at all possible. If they have to come, be sure to factor in an additional 10 to 15 minutes for eye-roll-worthy questions.
Johnny or Janey Talkstoomuch: Common in most offices, the Talkstoomuches are not inherently bad or difficult co-workers. They just, as the name implies, never shut up. Asking one of them a question invariably results in a lengthy monologue detailing with: what they’ve been up to lately; problems they’ve recently encountered; that crazy thing their kid did the other day; and often a precise and thorough accounting of what they ate for lunch. The best approach is to only communicate with them via email, though an email is often taken as an invitation for a Talkstoomuch to walk over to your cubicle and, you guessed it, talk too much.
The Genuinely Good Dude: Thankfully, offices always come with a few people who fall under this category. Not necessarily best-friend material, but a person who you know you can count on, one who never: talks too much; raises his or her hand in meetings; acts like a Jerk; or demonstrates characteristics associated with The Narc.
The Narc: A sort of subgroup of the Jerk, a Narc is a person who is always looking for ways to undermine colleagues. Sometimes more innocently described as “a gossip,” a Narc is strategic in his or her leaking of information to others. If you missed a meeting but the boss didn’t find out, The Narc might conveniently bring up that meeting when the boss is around and then say to you: “You were at that meeting, right?” Once identified, you should treat a Narc as a live microphone and assume anything you say will be recorded and used against you.
Dan: Pretty much every office has a Dan. He’s OK, you know? He’s just Dan. Whatever.
Snack-Nose: There are always a few people around whose senses are keenly attuned to the presence of any type of outside snack. They can hear the foil being removed from a plate of homemade cookies from several city blocks away, and they’re generally the first to swoop in, whether invited or not, when communal food is presented. Again, not a bad person. Just someone to watch out for if you only intend to share your snacks with a limited group. Try distracting Snack-Noses by saying you thought you saw doughnuts in the break room. That will buy you time to safely unwrap your snacks.
You get the idea. These are the kind of honest classifications we need to get by in the modern workplace. There is no room for political correctness in anthropology. (There may be, actually, I haven’t Googled that yet.)
Feel free to email me some of your co-worker categories. I might use them in my soon-to-be-bestselling book.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Rex Huppke writes for the Chicago Tribune. Send him questions by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @RexWorksHere.