Last week, I read John McCabe’s 1999 novel, Paper, a black comedy-turned-mystery about the social dynamics in a scientific research setting. Throughout the book, McCabe describes several lab staff archetypes, and it struck me that many of the antisocial behaviors McCabe details are common in the business world, as well. Consider, for one, the Tea Break Terminator:
Predominately male, dull or irrelevant or both, bordering on the autistic in their approach to human relationships, and always, always interested in computers, TBTs waltz into coffee rooms the world over and empty them of people. Darren glanced up, and this was his mistake. The Tea Break Terminator pounced. There was a set protocol here, and Darren had ignored it at his own peril. One. Appear busy or preoccupied or deep in conversation. Two. Avoid eye contact. Three. Wait until some other poor sod has been latched on to. Four. Sit back and enjoy their misery.
McCabe also expands on another example, which might be even more common — and less stereotypical in its approach to technology:
Winning System qualified as a nutter because no one could face talking to him and because, through this, he had developed a system in which he did no work at all. This, then, was Winning System’s winning system. Winning System was a compulsive talker, and probably breathed through his ears. The nature of his conversation was severly limited though, serving only to inform anybody who would listen, in incredibly painstaking and time-consuming detail, the exact reasons why he was too busy to perform the given task they desired of him. Winning System therefore did nothing, and if anybody was ever brave enough to suggest some work that he might carry out, he would inform the poor sod over the course of maybe an hour just why he was too busy to be able to help them.
Has anyone ever worked with anyone like the two cases mentioned above? How did you work with — or around — them? What other kinds of characters do we find in our boardrooms and offices?