A select (lucky) few of us aside, most employees tend to think that the offices we work in are uniquely crazy hotbeds of chaos, dysfunction, and coworkers who will leave a coffee pot with less than 1 millimeter of coffee in it for the next person. But take heart, fellow drones! At least your workplace isn’t quite as aggravating as the following fictional places of employment:
Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl)
Yes, we’d all like a workplace with a chocolate waterfall in it (I’ve heard they have one at Google; just saying)—but at what cost? If you worked for Willy Wonka, sure you’d be able to go around licking the wallpaper, and you’d probably get an Everlasting Gobstopper with your welcome packet from HR, but remember—all of your coworkers would be from Loompaland, which would leave you feeling like an outsider, especially if you weren’t into impromptu yet perfectly executed song and dance numbers. Plus, no dental plan in the world is going to be comprehensive enough for this job, trust me.
The Circle (The Circle, by Dave Eggers)
With its stunning, state-of-the-art playground of an office—or rather, “campus”—and nonstop perks and parties, the Circle, a fictional (yet *wink wink* strangely familiar) blockbuster internet company in CA, is the kind of enviable workplace most plebes can only dream of joining. But applicant beware—soon after you’re hired, you’ll watch in horror as the Circle gradually but inexorably infiltrates every aspect of your personal and professional life until you feel like a bug under a microscope. Part thriller, part creepy, prescient prediction of the dangers of decreased privacy through ever more encroaching social media platforms, The Circle is nearly impossible to put down—but trust me, you wouldn’t want to work there (even for the parties).
Bartleby’s Law Office (Bartleby the Scrivener, by Herman Melville)
You know that frustrating coworker who doesn’t ever seem to do anything? Well that guy’s got nothing on Bartleby, the peculiar new hire at a Manhattan law office in Melville’s memorable story. While at first Bartleby does exemplary work, before long his efforts begin to peter out, and by the end of the story he’s even stopped going home at the end of the day and is actually living at the office. He still won’t work, though, and responds to requests of any kind with his now-infamous phrase, “I would prefer not to.” On the plus side, though, at least he won’t eat your clearly marked yogurt out of the break room fridge, or bug you incessantly to join his fantasy football league. Maybe Bartleby wouldn’t make such a bad coworker after all.
The Office of Ebenezer Scrooge (A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens)
Your manager may be frustrating, miserly, and diametrically opposed to the concept of Casual Fridays, but would it take being visited by the ghost of a former business associate as well as the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future for him to be shown the error of his ways? If you answered “yes,” it might be a good time to buy a new interview suit and update your LinkedIn profile, because this kind of dramatic, spirit-induced transformation is unlikely to happen to a boss in real life.
The Ministry of Magic (The Harry Potter Series, by J. K. Rowling)
Sure, it seems like it would be fun to work at the Ministry of Magic, but remember, a job is still a job—working at the Ministry isn’t all hanging with hippogriffs and bopping around on the Floo Network. You’re bound to find yourself wading through reams of paperwork—whether you’re working in the Department of Magical Transportation or the Improper Use of Magic Office—since the Ministry is a spider’s nest of confusing (and occasionally malicious) bureaucracy. Plus, how many organizations have to worry about being hijacked by Death Eaters? Just this one and the DMV, I’m pretty sure.
Which fictional workplaces would you prefer not to be employed by?