Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Do You Work With Jerks?

Sometimes one of the worst things about being a wage slave are the people in the cubicles next to yours. If I had the opportunity to do the same work for the same money in an environment where no one bothered me, I would sure as hell take it. These days, I try to get to the office by 6:45 AM - and not just to avoid the traffic.

There is a sort of person which I totally despise. This archetypal corporate personality combines laziness and an acceptance of defeat with a certain residual narcissism. Its embodiments see themselves as schmucks, losers, also-rans - in other words, as quintessential white collar drones. At the same time they are far too vain to admit the possibility that anyone around them might outstrip them in one way or another. They especially dislike anyone who retains a semblance of hope or self-esteem. Their signature tactic is to engage you in conversation, trash themselves in a falsely genial fashion, and then breezily insist that you are just like them. "Guys like us..." is their favorite sentence starter, followed by a loud sigh. They epitomize the saying, "Misery loves company", and proliferate like carpenter ants around a broken sugar bowl in any troubled corporation. My own feeling is that it is better not to be constantly reminded of one's utter insignificance and mediocrity. My attitude, in short, is that "Ignorance is bliss".

The ideal work environment is suffused with a true esprit de corps, a sense of belonging to an elite even if one is not oneself a star. At its best, I imagine it to be something like what it is to be a Marine, or a student at an Ivy League college, or the employee of a healthy young startup imbued with visions of the IPO to come. Corporations that view their employees as disposable overhead - rather than as members of the "team" or the "family" or the "company" - have robbed us of feeling good about either ourselves or the groups to which we belong. And that is why so many lash out at others. Corporate indifference compels us to hold ourselves, both individually and collectively, in contempt.

"The Jerk At Work" from the Boston Globe

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