by Jennifer Sey
The question isn't whether or not we act like annoying jerks at work sometimes. If we're completely honest with ourselves, we all do – men, women, vice presidents, assistants. The question is: which kind of annoying jerk are we at work? The following may seem a bit snarky. But I am an equal opportunity mocker here, making fun of myself as much as any other person that has sent me over the edge within the bowels of the corporate machine. So while you may be offended, I'd contend that this is well informed by 15 years of research. And while the observations may seem stereotypical, they also happen to be true.
I've identified one annoying character for approximately every year I've been working in the corporate tedium many of us call “real life”. They are in no particular order.
1. The Market Research jerk. PRETENSIONS: consumer data, the blackberry holster. AFFECTATION: Speaks about Proctor and Gamble as if this personal care products company were led by brilliant inventors as renowned and history making as Jonas Salk or Alexander Graham Bell. As in: “Look at what those geniuses at Proctor have done with Old Spice! Through rigorous quantitative consumer research, they unearthed the consumers' unmet needs; and through innovation delivered body wash. Brilliant!” (As if consumers in the 1st world have ANY unmet needs.) SELF-PERCEPTION: they are cultural anthropologists rather than data nerds.
2. The Creative Director jerk (found most often in advertising agencies). PRETENTIONS: a bong tucked away in the corner of his office. A pool table in the common area because one needs to relax to come up with groundbreaking new ideas to market beer. Or mini vans. Or boot cut jeans. Uses the word 'creative' as a noun, as in “I'm a creative.” Is never on time, smells like patchouli and generally hasn't matured past sophomore year in college. IN A FEW YEARS WILL BE: in rehab and divorced.
3. The Misogynist jerk. PRETENSIONS: thinks he's ok with women who have kids in the workplace but says things like: “You're not having any more children are you?” or “Maybe we should market these [insert noun here] to women in such a way that attacks their deep psychological problems around their hatred of their bodies or fear of being bad mothers.” IN A FEW YEARS WILL BE: a senior executive jerk.
4. The Woman Hating Woman jerk. CROSS TO BEAR: having fought for one of the few slots allowed to women in top tier MBA schools a few years back, she's still fighting other women in the workplace for the handful of senior executive slots reserved for women. PRETENSION: Never had children therefore believes herself to be more dedicated to her career than women who did. IN A FEW YEARS WILL BE: pregnant with sperm bank triplets at 47.
5. The Marketer jerk. PRETENTIONS: Considers herself to be creatively superior to any other peon in the corporate world...basically the others “Just don't get it!” Reads literature, sees art films, is culturally in tune with the “general zeitgeist”. Often uses words like “zeitgeist” and “gestalt.” Only uses speaker phone in her office, in fact, may not realize the phone has a non-speaker option. AFFECTATION: Acts as if because she once worked on a commercial that was directed by Spike Jonze that she knows Spike Jonze. Or because she placed an ad in Vogue Magazine that she has a personal relationship with Anna Wintour.
6. The Consultant jerk. PEDIGREE: Ivy League undergraduate degree, graduate degree in business from Stanford or Wharton, several years at McKinsey where “I was on the fast track to partner but I wanted to own my own P&L so I left.” PRETENTIONS: always has to seem like the smartest person in the room. Generally does this by poking holes in every idea without ever offering up any concrete solutions. Bad shoes. Power point Venn diagrams. IN A FEW YEARS: will still be a consultant, not owning his or her own P&L. Whatever that means. Never will have been responsible for bringing any product to market but knows how to bring every product to market better than those who have done it.
7. The Finance jerk. PRETENTIONS: dark world view (“we're never going to make plan!”). Sees his glass all the way empty apocalyptic sensibility as his obligation to the company. Wields a calculator as a weapon. Carries a back breaking binder with the last 5 years of financial data with him everywhere.
8. The President (of a territory) jerk. PRETENTION: actually believes himself to be president of that particular territory. Like the real president of the “United States”. Or “Asia”. Like Asia, the continent, has a president. IN 5 YEARS WILL BE: CEO. Or golden parachuted into an Arizona paradise replete with a house on a golf course and Tommy Bahama wardrobe.
9. The Executive Assistant jerk. PRETENTION: believes herself to be the actual executive. AFFECTATION: guards the executive's calendar with the ferocity of a CIA agent protecting the actual President's life. IN 5 YEARS WILL BE: an executive assistant making more money than all of us.
10. The H.R. jerk. AFFECTATION: Nice and understanding, your best friend. As in: “This conversation is entirely confidential. Really!” PRETENTION: Unearths “confidential” files chock full of complaints and woes, when and only when, you are being considered for a promotion. That you, mysteriously, do not get.
11. The Phoning It In jerk: PRETENTIONS: works at home. A lot. Has chronic migraines. Does the bare minimum. Is surprised when told that he's not meeting expectations and needs to actually do his work. IN 5 YEARS: will be addicted to prescription pain meds.
12. The Millennial jerk (aka The Gen Y jerk): AFFECTATIONS: wears an iPod in her cube. Is pissed she has to sit in a cube. Believed a corner office would come with the job. PRETENTIONS: has won a trophy in every sports contest she has ever entered even if technically she came in last. Therefore believes she should win prizes in the form of praise every single day. Expects to be promoted every time she actually does what, for others, older others, would be considered “just doing your job.”
13. The ALL CAPS JERK. AFFECTATIONS: uses all caps, and often exclamation points and the color red in every email and often in conversation because everything is direly, life threateningly CRITICAL!!!!!! FAVORITE SUBJECT LINE HEADER: ****IMPORTANT: MUST READ RIGHT AWAY!!!
14. The Programmer jerk: AFFECTATIONS: a vast collection of comic book character, heavy metal band and generally ironic tee-shirts, all of which are slightly too small. Just small enough for you to see his white hairy belly if he raises his arm to shoulder level. Uncombed, knotted and greasy hair. Pit stains. PRETENTIONS: misses work for Comic Con conference and comes back all jacked up on nerd-tastic-ness.
15. The “Everyone else is a jerk” jerk. PRETENTION: thinks she's above everyone else and shouldn't be there in the corporate wasteland, squandering her vast array of creative talents. AFFECTATION: will be leaving the corporate hinterland one day to write the great American novel. Has oh so many ideas but doesn't seem to quite have the discipline to sit down and write anything on actual paper. OFTEN HEARD SAYING: “My writing teacher says I'd get published like that [snapping of fingers] with this idea.” IN 5 YEARS WILL BE: unpublished. Still telling everyone she's about to walk out the door.
Full disclosure: this list was inspired by an article in September's issue of GQ called “America's Douchiest Colleges.” I've avoided the word “douche” as I think it may not be palatable to some though I think it's an utterly hilarious word. Perhaps it's the “oooo” sound in the middle. Or the “shhhhh” sound at the end. Maybe it's the combination of the two. Either way, I have no shame in finding inspiration elsewhere, even if it is GQ. If copying/sampling is good enough for Quentin Tarantino, it is good enough for me. Final note, the methodology here was hardly rigorous so try not to take it too seriously. One more thing: I could potentially be anywhere from 2 to 4 of these. But not at the same time. Depends on my mood.