Office Characters

I’ve worked with many different types of people over the years. Here are just a few of them..

Work MumThe Work Mum

If your office doesn’t have one of these, then you are missing out. My work mum is the greatest person I’ve ever worked with, and the most fun person I know. She’s probably more like a work aunt or work sister than a mum. She took me under her wing when we were working together and I was at the tender age of 20, and, 10 years later, I’m sending her Mother’s Day Cards.

I remember, soon after we met, telling her about my relationship troubles with a guy I had just met.

“I’ve had bottles of milk in my fridge for longer than you’ve known this guy!” was just the response I needed! None of my girlfriends were able to provide this level of dating expertise.

She gave me the guidance I needed that I would never have got from anyone else I know.

“Make sure you always have a run-away fund, just in case. If you don’t use it, it can be a shoe fund”. You can’t pay for advice as good as this!

My work mum is someone I’d meet up with every morning for our breakfast bagel or omelette, and have a bitch about bosses, boyfriends, and bonuses. We were lucky enough that we worked in an organisation that was large enough that we could disappear for half an hour at a time and not be missed.

Like the time we disappeared down to the (not so) secret canteen in the basement of the building. Not many people from our teams even knew it was there so it was a great place to go and hide. One of these times we noticed that our company had a Prayer room. Walking past I declared that she and I needed to go in and pray for our bonuses. Cue belly laughs until our sides hurt. Then work mum decided that she would go in and have a look around, declaring that “these carpets are horrible!” To this day we still have a good laugh about that.

A work mum will be there for you whenever she needs you. She likes the fact that there’s someone at work who needs her. Your Work Mum always has a steady supply of paracetamol and tissues, and if you play your cards right, she’ll even bring you some of her super tasty lemon drizzle cake!

I’ve met several people over the years that could have fallen into the category of “The Work Mum”, but there really is only one for each of us. Like a soul mate, but one who takes a photo of you on the toilet in Reflex and then sends it to you a year later when you’d forgotten it even existed!

If you are lucky enough to have met your Work Mum, treasure her, because you won’t find another one like her.

The 70s Child

70s ChildThis is the person who prints out every email that they receive, and thinks that that VBA coding is the work of the devil.

The one in my office went out and bought a fax machine “in case email breaks”. He didn’t seem to be able to grasp the concept of e-fax, and that if email really did “break”, then most people wouldn’t be able to receive faxes either!

The 70s Child will still think its “cool” to brag about how large the documents are that he is printing off. Even though everyone else is wondering why he doesn’t just download it to his iPad.

He will also most likely keep a suit in his cupboard or on the back of his door (if he has an office) in case clients come in. This is because The 70s Child still thinks that people win business if they are wearing a nice tie. In some instances, The 70s Child will also keep one of those shoe buffer sponges in his drawer. This will make an appearance only on very special occasions. If you see the shoe buffer sponge come out, you know he means business.

The 70s Child loves his giant calculator with the massive buttons like it were his own baby. You can hear him tap-tap-tapping away on those big plastic buttons while you are at the other side of the office making a cup of tea.

On a good day, you will want to cave his face in with it.

The 70s Child has yet to grasp the concept of single-clicking on his computer. Everything is a double click, and then he spends half an hour at the end of every day closing down the 248 Chrome tabs that he has inadvertently opened.

The 70s Child will read every contract in great detail (after they have printed it off) and assume that every company is out to con him. He trusts no-one – probably because he knows he’d try to screw people over at the first opportunity if he could.

He will not understand idea of efficiency, and if something takes 18 steps to complete, he will never even consider whether that process could be made more efficient. He will carry on doing it the only way he knows how, because “that’s how I’ve always done it”.  Don’t try and change him. He will, at best, resist. At worst, you’ll probably end up on his list of people to fire.

He will refer to everything IT-related as “The System”, leaving you at a total loss when asked to do anything.

“I read about it on The System” means that he looked on BBC News.

“I paid it on The System” means he finally worked out how to log onto internet banking.

“I entered it on The System”, means he wrote something in a spreadsheet.

The 70s Child will struggle to differentiate between PowerPoint and ITV Player. He asks you to run his PowerPoint presentation by requesting that you “play that program”.

He will go to open a Word document by clicking on File > Open from Excel, and then complain to IT that his document is “lost in The System”.

The Dinosaur

dinosaurThese people are several levels up from The 70s Child and are now becoming a rather rare breed. If you have one in your office, watch them closely. You will witness activities that many of us will only read about on Wikipedia. They are quite easy to spot – they normally fashion the oversized suit and beige roll neck jumper combination that they’ve had since 1982.

The Dinosaur is someone who still has a rolodex on their desk because “I don’t want my contacts list to get too big as it will fill up my phone and I won’t be able to find anyone”.

They love their filing cabinets, and there will soon come a day in the not-too-distant-future when they might even get lost amongst the files in their own office.

The one in my office I call Dino. He cannot function without his paper diary. Without that leathery book of gold edged appointments, he doesn’t know if he’s coming or going. This can cause problems, especially when he is “working from home” (an occurrence which is a little too frequent for the owner and CEO of his own company if you ask me, but hey, that’s none of my business. I’m just the PA). I will get a phone call approximately 4 times a day when he is asking me if I have added anything to his diary.

He tries to understand the Outlook Diary, but fails miserably so has to come round to your desk demanding to know “what is this meeting about?” and “who else is attending it?”, even though he could have just looked at the invitee list and the email that was attached to it.

Like the good PA that I am, I try to help as much as I can. I print out his electronic diary every morning, and I go through his paper diary and copy everything into Outlook. My hat goes off to those PAs of yester-year who had to deal with everyone being like this. Juggling 16 diaries must have been an absolute nightmare!

Last week I introduced Dino to the “sum” and “count” functions on Excel. I’ll have to check and see if our insurance policy covers blown minds because anyone watching would have thought that I had just showed him how to calculate String Theory! The look of amazement on his face is one that I have only ever seen on a child when a magician plucks a coin from their ear.

The good thing about working for The Dinosaur is that they are so easily pleased. Take the time I bought Dino some Post-It Index Notes for his notebook. “Wow. What a brilliant little invention!” They kept him happy for at least 2 weeks, and he showed everyone that had the pleasure of meeting him.

Dino will never understand how conference calls work, and will always need your help with them. Don’t even try and get them onto a WebEx. You might as well ask them to time travel.

Next week I’m going to show him email signatures…

The Faffer

fafferWe definitely all know one of these. This is usually someone senior, but seems to not be able to function without their nanny or housekeeper. And, of course, their PA. I worked for a Faffer, and I genuinely wondered how he managed to get out of bed in the morning.

The Faffer will turn up to work on the day he’s meant to be flying to Geneva. He will leave his brand new iPhone in the back of a taxi and then watch it on the Find My Phone website as it travels around London. He will lose every pen you ever give him, and will never remember his extension number or computer password.

The Faffer will get stressed when he cannot open his new blackberry box and will end up throwing it at the wall.

The Faffer needs his hand held at every possible step of every activity. They will need time blocked out in their calendar to check emails and to walk across the office to their next meeting. They will then need you to come and fetch them and take you to their next one.

Basically, The Faffer needs a Work Mum as their PA.

The Un-Realist

UnrealistThe Un-Realist  will want to know why you haven’t been able to get BA to change their flight schedule so they can fly back from Istanbul in time to see little Jimmy’s school play.

They will come over to your desk when you are about to go home and ask you to remind their housekeeper in Boston to put the bins out.

You will be expected to do their children’s science homework (well, but not too well), and get their morning porridge with exactly the right number of raisins in it.

If you work for a Un-Realist, you are a saint. You deserve a medal because these people are the stuff of nightmares.

You will be expected to be a mind reader. You will need to know that just because they have come out of their meeting to ask for the company portfolio to be printed, it doesn’t mean that they want you to take it to them there and then. They will need it afterwards, and you are NOT to disturb them. You should know that, even though they have told you that they want flights booked to Dubai, what they actually mean is that they have already booked these flights with their air miles and they need you to change them to paid-for tickets as this is now a business trip and not a holiday. Even though they are still taking their wife and child with them. Oh, and they will need flights too. And a room in their favourite hotel, the name of which you will never get told.

You will also need to be able to call in favours, even when you aren’t owed any. Because The Un-Realist will chop and change their mind at the drop of a hat. They will cancel meetings after they are meant to have started, and they will want a presentation delivered to the New York office this afternoon.

It’s virtually impossible to please them, and almost as hard to gain their trust. If you have the trust of The Un-Realist, you are basically god in the PA world.

The Geek

I quite like the office geek. They are someone you can go to when you need help with making something automated. Making friends with The Geek will pay off time and time again. Like the time I wanted to play a prank on my Dinosaur boss. I had him create a pop up which came up when my boss opened a particular file.The Office

Cue utter panic when he thought that his computer was about to melt.

The Geek and The Dinosaur rarely get along unless The Dinosaur just accepts that he needs The Geek, and lets him get on with his magic and wizardry.

The Geek and The 70s Child normally clash because The 70s Child thinks he understands technology, but really all he understands are detachable car stereos and CD-ROMs. The 70s Child will check everything that The Geek does, trying to catch them out. He won’t understand the formulae that The Geek writes in Excel and will get out his giant calculator to check them all.

The Geek will normally be under worked. This isn’t because they aren’t needed, but because they are clever enough to automate a lot of their work, and clever enough not to tell people!

The Bitch

The Bitch will normally be some feminist-type who has had to “sacrifice so much” to be where she is. She will hate every other woman in the office, especially the ones with children, and will step on anyone to get ahead.

office bEvery person who emails her will get looked up on the company directory to see if they are senior enough to deserve a response.

The Bitch will come running out at lunch time to find you sitting on the wall having lunch with your Work Mum. She will demand that you come back to your desk “right away” because there is an “emergency”. This emergency will end up being her boss (The Un-Realist) not knowing where his next meeting is and you are needed to help him open his calendar. You will go and have a moan to Work Mum about this later this afternoon when you go for one of your kitkat breaks.

The Bitch will get you to do a lot of their work for them, and then take the credit. She can do this because you are just a PA and can’t answer back. However, if you are a Work Mum, you most likely won’t stand for her nonsense and will tell her where to go.

The Bitch will have the odd moment where she will pretend to be your friend. When I worked for The Bitch, I used this to my advantage. I got taken out for champagne on a couple of occasions, and I did get a couple of nice presents when she came back from business trips (by “nice”, I mean that I got more than £20 for them on EBay).

The Health Freak

This person fills the fridge with their weird dietary habits, and proceeds to stretch every time they are waiting for the kettle to boil for their cup of green tea.

health freakOnce I saw The Health Freak practicing his golf swings before proceeding to “swim” back to his desk. These are the strange people who cut birthday cupcakes in half and make the rest of us feel guilty for scoffing a whole one. Their self-control is comparable to a Buddhist Monk. Some of them might even be a Buddhist Monk! (although this is unlikely)

They will come into the office each morning wearing some kind of gym/cycling attire and parade their sweat-covered bodies around for a few minutes, before heading off for a much needed shower.

Some of them will go to the gym for their WHOLE lunch break, and then come back and eat their lunch at their desk.

They will come into the office after the weekend, telling tales of triathlons and Tough Mudders. I, on the other hand, much prefer telling my stories about my trip down to the all-you-can-eat Toby Carvery on Saturday morning which has now started serving breakfast! Sometimes I even walk there!

Health Freaks normally go mental at the office Christmas party. Their low body fat means that their alcohol tolerance is comparably low. However their strong core, and their foresight to put their trainers on half way through the evening stops them falling over. So they are able to just get drunker and drunker until someone has to carry them out of the bar. They will then come into the office the next morning with a green smoothie which will make everyone else feel even more pukey.

The Cheapskate

Not necessarily the least senior (and therefore probably the lowest paid) person in the office, The cheapskateCheapskate could be virtually anyone. Take, for example, the guy I used to sit next to a few years ago. This guy was a Managing Director in a well performing area of a successful investment bank (think pre-2008). He was most likely earning upwards of 6 figures a year, comfortably. Yet, when his analyst got made redundant, this guy went through his fired colleague’s draw and took out all the change that had been left there! There must have been a few pounds worth of copper and silver, yet this Cheapskate took every penny! I watched him do it, not being able to believe my eyes. Now, he could have been taking it to put in the charity box by reception. However, this is unlikely considering he took it, disappeared for 10 minutes, and then came back with his lunch.

The Cheapskate will refuse to contribute to the collection for Mary when she goes off on maternity leave. He also won’t buy any cake when it’s his birthday.

The Cheapskate and the Hunter Gatherer (see below), will either love each other or hate each other. They will either step on each other’s toes, or they will team up and be the ultimate Never-Pay-For-Anything-At-Work-Machine. Always try to keep them separate, otherwise you will end up in an office where you will never be able to find anyone with a spare chocolate button at 3pm on a Friday afternoon.

The Hunter Gatherer

The Hunter Gatherer is normally similar to The Cheapskate, but in a slightly different way. This person will scour the office to hunt out sweets or treats of any description. They will swan off over to Karen in Accounts and take one of her HobNobs. Then they will make a bee-line for the girls on Roadshows and take a few of their malteasers. They will be the first person to take a Krispy Kreme when it’s someone’s birthday, and they will always disappear to the toilets when it’s their turn to buy a round at the pub on a Thursday night.

hunterThey spend a large portion of their day trying to make small talk with the people who have food. Their mindless chit chat that will allow them to swipe as much as possible. These people very often don’t even buy any lunch – they don’t need to! They have just been on a scavenge and munched down on enough treats to get them through most of the day.

The Hunter Gatherer and The Health Freak don’t really cross paths. The Hunter Gatherer isn’t interested in The Health Freak’s offering of rabbit food so doesn’t feel the need to waste their time entertaining them.

The Hunter Gatherer will never provide anything in return. They will always talk the talk: “I’ll bring some in tomorrow” or “it’s on me next time!”, but their promises are always empty.

At one office I worked, it was open plan so we could see The Hunter Gatherer when she was on her way. All the sweets and treats quickly got pushed into drawers so they wouldn’t be spotted. And then, once the danger had passed, they all came back out again.

On a positive note, if you are hungry, follow one around for 15 seconds and they will lead you to food.

Have you ever worked with people like this? Perhaps you’ve come across a new breed of co-worker? I’d love to hear about them.