Whether you love it or hate it, office politics is an escapable reality of working life. In every office, in every city, in every industry, power, favor and influence are exchanged through subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) manipulation and social networking. Sometimes, this results in a more efficient workplace. Sometimes, it results in people trying to claw one another’s eyes out. But one thing is certain: When office politics is the game, the players are often the same. We’ve taken a look at some of the usual suspects in office politics and profiled them to help you identify whose at the desk next to you and how to define what they’re after.
Candidate: The Technophobe
This person believes that email is a fad, and the Cloud is a visible mass of water vapor floating through the atmosphere. She remembers the good old days when people actually picked up the phone or talked to each other face to face. She will staunchly refuse to learn the new office software and therefore leans heavily upon her workplace counterpoint, The Technophile, who despises her with the white-hot passion of a thousand burning suns.
Platform: Progress is overrated.
Commonly overheard saying: “What the heck is a Twitter?”
Political strategy: The Technophobe wouldn’t know political strategy if it were delivered to her by a carrier pigeon. She often feels overwhelmed by the rapidly changing office technology, and this can result in her lashing out. But it isn’t personal. Many technophobes have their eyes on the retirement prize, so they aren’t after your job; they just want to keep theirs without having to learn what a MIME is.
Endorsed by: Colonial Williamsburg; Encyclopedia Britannica.
Candidate: The Technophile
He’s techy, and he’s knows it. He can defrag your computer, install a firewall and recover that lost file — all without breaking a sweat. The Technophile is a valuable member of the team, but his presence in the office comes at a price. And that price is feeling stupid whenever you ask him a question.
Platform: He is exhausted by your technological ignorance.
Often overheard saying: (Sigh) “Just move over, and let me do it.”
Political strategy: The Technophile tends to stay away from office politics as his job security is reinforced every time you download malware embedded in that video of a cat playing the piano.
Endorsed by: Norton AntiVirus, Lenscrafters and Match.com.
Candidate: The Slacker
No one is exactly sure what The Slacker’s official responsibilities are, and he likes it that way. He has perfected the art of looking busy while actually taking a Buzzfeed quiz about which actor would play him in the movie version of his life. (Spoiler alert: It’s probably Matthew McConaughey.) This person is not necessarily unqualified for the position but rather unmotivated for this — or any — job. He is generally likable right up until the point when his lack of preparation becomes your emergency.
Platform: I will work only as hard as I have to not to get fired.
Often overheard saying: Any overused office jargon that doesn’t really mean anything. Examples: “Shoot me an email.” “It’s on my radar.” “Why don’t you circle back with me in a few days?”
Political strategy: The sole goal of The Slacker is not to do anything. He doesn’t care about engaging in office politics for career advancement but will throw you under the bus the minute you attempt to get him to do actual work. Ironically, The Slacker will work hard to protect his slackerdom. He quite possibly will become head of the company someday by sheer force of inertia.
Endorsed by: Wait. Was I supposed to get a sponsor?
Candidate: The Hoover
A professional suck up, The Hoover can usually be found glommed onto the boss’s behind like a barnacle. His goal in life is to ingratiate himself to management either through consistently going above and beyond (read: delivering unexpected Starbucks) or through prodigious and unrelenting flattery. Typically, The Hoover lacks the respect of others, so he hangs around the boss not only in the hopes of getting a promotion but also to garner some street cred. Sadly, this always fails.
Commonly overheard saying: “Great new haircut!” “Have you lost weight?”
Political strategy: To physically insert himself inside the rear end of the most powerful person in the office.
Endorsed by: Charmin.
Candidate: The Scorekeeper
This person is continually counting points in the workplace — and she’s pretty sure she’s somehow getting screwed. A firm believer in quid pro quo, she will happily help you with your TPS report, but then you’ll owe her one. And make no mistake, she will collect. The Scorekeeper is sensitive to small injustices, such as not being asked to go out to lunch or forgetting to mention her new haircut. But she is also highly receptive to flattery, so a well-placed compliment goes a long way.
Platform: What have you done for me lately?
Often overheard saying: “Remember when I helped you with that TPS report?”
Political strategy: The Scorekeeper’s ultimate goal is not to be taken advantage of, so she can be friend or foe, depending on your rank in the standings. She can be a valuable asset if you form an equal alliance, but if she feels you’ve slighted her, she’ll freeze you out, and that could be dangerous.
Endorsed by: The teeter-totter, the Scales of Justice and the makers of the JumboTron.
Candidate: The Saboteur
The Saboteur is working behind the scenes to make sure you fail. More specifically, he’s making sure that you fail publically and in such a way as to allow him to step in and save the day.
Platform: All’s fair in love and war (and office politics).
Often overheard saying: “Trust me.”
Political strategy: Perhaps the most dangerous of all the candidates in office politics, The Saboteur will appear to be your friend while secretly plotting your demise. He will steal your ideas and pass them off as his own. He will promise his support, then sell you out at the last minute. He will “accidentally” eat the leftover pappardelle your grandmother made that you brought for lunch.
Endorsed by: Voldemort.
Candidate: Gossip Girl
Gossip Girl can be either male or female; the only requirement is that he or she knows all the latest office scoop. Generally friendly, talkative and inquisitive, Gossip Girl wanders from desk to desk, elicits bits of information from co-workers and then redistributes this information, often in a slightly altered state. In the event that co-workers do not or will not share information with Gossip Girl, she has been known to eavesdrop or fabricate. And she will say almost anything to avoid doing actual work.
Platform: Enquiring minds want to know.
Often overheard saying: “OMG! Have you heard…”
Political strategy: Gossip Girl can be both player and pawn in the office politics. Often a source of information for others, she can inadvertently play a role in getting someone in trouble even when she doesn’t mean to. But sometimes she means to.
Endorsed by: TMZ.com, Perez Hilton.
Candidate: The Taskmaster
The Taskmaster is not technically your superior, but she has never let that get in the way of telling you what to do. She makes it her business to know what everybody is responsible for, even if this comes at the cost of her own responsibilities. The Taskmaster is different from The Hoover in that she doesn’t crave approval but does share a similar inflated sense of importance.
Platform: Without me, nothing would get done around here.
Commonly overheard saying: “Have you turned in your TPS reports yet?”
Political strategy: The Taskmaster believes if she acts like she is in charge, maybe one day she will be. Plus, by keeping tabs on everyone else’s productivity, she can make sure she is always one step ahead.
Endorsed by: Hall monitors everywhere.