Working with Soap Opera Characters - Part 2 (But, is it a Crime?)
Far too many workplaces are inhabited by people (including supervisors, managers, and executives) who truly seem to believe they are on a nighttime soap opera. And, they certainly fit all the roles on a soap opera, as they cause drama and intrigue throughout the office. Most offices have some or all of these characters/personality types:
The Diva – This person could be male or female. They don’t believe the sun rises until they wake up in the morning. They believe everyone comes to work to further their personal goals and to advance their career. They look down on other staff. They only cater to those they feel are powerful and can advance their careers. The diva will decide who is acceptable or not—they live to snub people who they don’t feel are good enough to be in their clique. Often, this person is rarely as talented or intelligent as they’d like to believe, but they give off such an air of confidence, they easily position themselves as the go-to person and can rise quickly through the company.
The Bully – This person is socially incompetent, weak, and insecure. But, they generally have no idea because they choose to focus on and target those they believe they can take advantage of. This person likes to micromanage, will give incomplete or incorrect directions, can be loud and brash, is extremely judgmental, enjoys bringing others to tears or instigating trouble, likes to form cliques against select staff (typically women). They are vengeful, unrelenting, and, amazingly, seems to be made of Teflon. No matter how many complaints are made about this person, they seem to have an astounding knack for remaining employed for an extended period of time after instigating problems at work.
The Brown Nose – This is one of the vilest creatures in the workplace. Watching a brown nose in action makes your skin crawl. They don’t care how many people are around; they will go all out to ingratiate themselves with anyone in power. This person will go so far as to do personal favors outside of work in order to gain favor with supervisors, managers, and executives. They will volunteer to work weekends just so they can go to the office on Monday and talk about their dedication to the job. This person will go along with anything, no matter how unethical or immoral it may be. It is nearly impossible to demean a brown nose because they will let you drag them through raw sewage if they can get something out of it. The brown nose is the cornerstone of any clique, as the truly popular members of the group require at least one person of this type to stroke their egos throughout the day.
Barbara WaWa –Mr. or Mrs. WaWa is always in somebody’s business. Yes, Barbara WaWa can be a man (who should have been born a woman).Barabara WaWa is the reporter of the group and loves water cooler gossip, which he/she will spread around the company by the end of the business day. Mr. or Mrs. WaWa always wants to know “Why come you did this?” or “Why come he said that?” or he/she is raising questions about someone’s sexuality, health status, the parentage of coworker’s children, prognosticating on potential in-office affairs, etc.
The Tattletale – The tattletale will use direct conversations, eavesdropping, and office gossip to wreak havoc in the workplace. The tattletale is extremely dangerous because, unlike the brown nose, the tattletale doesn’t need the prospect of personal gain to justify his or her actions. The tattletale is happy with simply being able to participate in the creation of and watching the unfolding of office drama. The tattletale pretends to be friendly, pretends to be engaged in conversations, but is really only listening for salacious details to repeat. The tattletale loiters around open office doors, hangs around the copy room or lingers in other office spaces—in order to listen in on conversations. They will back-stab coworkers at any opportunity. This person doesn’t know the meaning of confidential and will share your salary information, medical history, the make and model of your vehicle (including list price), the vital statistics of your spouse or romantic partner, and any other details they can compile about your personal life. No matter how sweet and innocent they portray themselves, and they’re good at doing just that, this person is 100% malicious. They know they will be causing confrontation, drama, and tension within the workplace—and they love it!
The Slickster – The name says it all. This person thinks they have the greatest game running in the workplace. They fancy that they are working both sides of the aisle, friendly to bosses and to coworkers. But, anyone with half a brain can spot this shyster in action. The slickster is rarely as slick as they imagine. When they get caught in a lie, they’ll just stand there and make up poor rationalizations in order to justify their actions. They hype up everything to sound more important than they are and they talk a good game. But, they can rarely back it up. They’re con artists, who often try to pawn things off on other coworkers, such as work assignments, responsibility for errors, menial tasks, etc.—all while pretending to be cool with the person they’re imposing on or selling out. This type of person has likely lied all up and down their resume.
The Wanna-Be – The wanna-be is the would-be stalker of the office. They are different from a brown nose in that they won’t go to such extreme lengths in order to ingratiate themselves with supervisors, managers, executives, and coworkers. However, the wanna-be will take on the speech, style of dress, and eccentricities of those they consider “role models.” This person is usually, and rightfully, insecure and will constantly seek the approval of those they admire. The wanna-be rarely picks a person worthy of such fanatical appreciation.
Not Me – This is the good for nothing on the job that refuses to be accountable for anything they’ve done—that went wrong. Not Me will blame anyone, including pointing the finger at their supervisor (behind their back) for projects that go over budget, that were done incorrectly, that missed deadlines, etc. Not Me is completely self-serving, a liar, and can’t be trusted under any circumstances. However, Not Me’s often do a good job of diverting attention from themselves and successfully laying the blame for problems on other staff members.
Now, imagine how the dynamics in an office would change if you throw in a person who is an outright racist. Envision these individuals acting in concert against targeted employees (African Americans, the disabled, etc.) and you can see why the workplace is a breeding ground for employee rights violations, including harassment, retaliation, and discrimination based on race/color, age, etc.
BUT, IS IT A CRIME? While the behavior of these sorts of workers may be tough to put up with, the behavior may not rise to the level of offensive and illegal behavior as defined by Federal law. People are given a bit of flexibility when it comes to acting inappropriately in the workplace. Therefore, truly illegal behavior is defined as behavior that negatively changes the conditions of a person’s employment. For instance, someone that creates a hostile work environment, harasses you, retaliates against you, etc., may be engaged in illegal activity. Someone making a few offensive jokes likely doesn’t rise to the level of breaking employment laws.
Always think about proving that the conditions of your employment have been negatively changed by the actions of your coworkers or supervisors. That is the standard that must be met to prove that behavior has crossed legal lines.