Office Zoology

We all know that many types of creatures prowl our offices. Not all are dangerous, but some are definitely career-threatening. Here are some of the archetypes that should be approached with caution.

By Azhar Jalil

Royal Pain-in-the-A**es

The Big Three—the most commonly found dangerous office animals, found in cubicles the world over.

Sabo King
The ones typically responsible for missing critical documents, frequent Internet disconnections, and delayed transmission of accounts. Their intent is, more often than not, malicious and they derive secret pleasure from watching colleagues get reprimanded by the boss or frustrated by inadequacy.

Sabo Kings cannot be beaten at their own game. They are very cunning and highly intelligent. Outsmarting this species will be awfully time-consuming and extremely stressful, but especially satisfying if done successfully. However be aware that once you do, you will immediately become a high priority target. You will be hunted.

Gossip Queen
These are the ones with complete domination over every single rumour or juicy bit of information going around the office. She is attended to by Gossip Fairies who float around office space picking up on conversations and notes. Gossip is usually stored in a secure database which the Queen can use for dissemination to everyone in and out of the office when you provoke her.

Do not become a Gossip Fairy. Choking off her sources (not literally because that will be murder) will starve the Gossip Queen of her lifeblood and she will hopefully die a slow and painful death.

Backstabbers
The misbegotten child of the Sabo King and Gossip Queen, Backstabbers are the ones who make sure you don’t get credit for that project you slaved on while guaranteeing that the rumour about your fling with the intern gets to the boss.

Always watch your back because Backstabbers are very good at camouflage and will appear to be the sweetest things ever. Do beware, as this is only a front designed to get the inside scoop which will then be used to stab you (who else?) in the back.

Other Species

While less harmful, this breed is still hazardous to your sanity because they’re often unavoidable.

Info Troll
Members of this sub-species are notorious for hoarding knowledge like the latest reports and information. Info Trolls will use these as bargaining chips to ensure that their own agendas are duly satisfied.

To deal with them, it’s usually best to appeal to their human side while simultaneously recognising their reign over their kingdom. For example, if you’re an accountant that needs information from the marketing team, it’s far easier to negotiate as “John Tan, the nice accountant who says ‘Hi’ in the lift and offers me his doughnuts” instead of just “John Tan, from Accounting”.

Office Guru
The yogis of the office can be found at every office conversation, giving their two cents worth even when the topic doesn’t concern them. Their sole reason for coming to work is to dispense advice. They can also be found at meetings rephrasing ideas and prolonging torture.

If you suddenly find yourself stuck in a conversation with an Office Guru about which method of waste disposal is best, just keep quiet. Let him have his say, and he will go away once he’s satisfied that you’re clear on which sanitary option is best for you. Do not argue.

The Zealot
The desire to do things well is quite natural for everyone. However for the Zealot, perfection is everything. All the best if you have one for a supervisor because your time in the office will be spent correcting every misplaced comma in the annual report and explaining why you only exceeded your sales target by 10% and not 25%. The Zealot’s mantra is, “It could have been better.”

Trying to satisfy a Zealot is as impossible as clearing a paper jam with your teeth. Instead, work with them to set more reasonable and realistic objectives.

The Acolyte
The one who’s there before you arrive at work and who’s still there when you leave for home. In fact, you don’t even know if he had lunch because he seems to get his nutrients from the air-conditioned surroundings and absorbing facts from reports.

An Acolyte usually does not talk much because he willingly devotes his life (or what’s left of it) to his work. Talking to him is a privilege reserved for his master—the boss.

Acolytes are dangerous because management relies on them heavily. The solution? Be nice to them. Better still, be a friend.

Woolly Mammoths
The Mammoths at work refuse to change or even accept any form of adjustment at work. They are easily identified by their habitat—cubicles made of ice with CRT monitors when everyone else has a flat screen installed. If you’re lucky, your office might even have the type that still dons flower prints from the ‘70s.

To thaw Woolly Mammoths and convince them that they’re not going extinct, do include them in change. However, introduce shifts gradually because evolution takes time.

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