60 People to Avoid at the Water Cooler

60 People to Avoid at the Water Cooler

by Josh Aiello

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You're smarter than they are.
You're more efficient than they are.
You’re funnier than they are.
But they have you outnumbered.


The Alpha Chimp
The Brown Noser
The Cheapskate
The Chitchat Artist
The Condescending IT Guy
The Dinosaur
The Floozy
The Gossip
The Hall Monitor
The Micromanager
The Nodder
The Office Girls
The Politico
The Potential Serial Killer
The Temp
The Water Cooler Casanova
The Yes Men

And everyone else in your office who makes you want to call in sick.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780767919586
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/24/2004
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

Author of A Field Guide to the Urban Hipster (Broadway 2003), JOSH AIELLO is a veteran of the cubicle trenches and can type thirty-five words per minute. His word-processing prowess was honed at a very wide range of employers, including Men’s Health magazine, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and Fleet Bank. He lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

The Alpha Chimp

Well, well, well. Who's the fresh-faced, perky new hire with the shiny sports car? Perhaps it's the new Consultant or the junior executive with an MBA management has been so eager to find. He certainly seems confident, what with his brisk walk and mastery of the silent head nod greeting technique (used only on those obviously at the bottom of the corporate ladder). And the way he dresses: in the style of Regis Philbin circa Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Only hotshots can pull off that solid-tie-on-solid-shirt look. Seems like you've got one more person to take orders from.

But wait. What's this? He's being shuttled to the smallest cube in the office. He's been given the oldest, slowest computer. You can't even print from that workstation! As long as you've been with the company, only Interns and the occasional brain-dead Temp have been placed under this guy's new supervisor. What gives?

The Alpha Chimp is on the scene. Fresh off his senior year of college, he's now old enough to drink beer at happy hour and is gunning to take control of the company. Stay out of his way if you don't want to get run over in the corridor. The Alpha Chimp is always on the prowl, pseudoimportant documents in hand, trying his damnedest to bump into a major player and score a little face time. He sucks up to the boss with such vigor and regularity that it's possible to pick up a vacuumlike sound if you lower the volume on your headphones. And the ass-kissing! This guy smooches heinie like Joe Montana threw footballs (which is to say: very well).

The Alpha Chimp is the only person in the office who actually admires the Yes Men. Oh, if he could only be one of them! The thought of lunching with the boss is enough to make the Alpha Chimp's heart quiver. With the possible exception of the Hawaiian girl from his freshman Spanish elective, nothing has ever excited the Alpha Chimp quite like the prospect of being counted among the boss's most valued cronies. He spends the majority of his time studying their every move and is already deft with corporate catchphrases. It's virtually impossible to communicate with the Alpha Chimp without being bombarded with several choice turns of phrase picked up in Salesmanship 101: "right-sizing," "win-win," and "out of the box" are among his greatest bits. No matter that these phrases are practically meaningless; they do lend the Alpha Chimp a certain air of superiority as he runs off that stack of copies you requested.

Though a fan of the Yes Men, the Alpha Chimp fears hitting the glass ceiling the way they have. Sure, he's prepared to spend a few years orbiting the boss, but he's got his eyes on the real prize, the head honcho position itself. Start filing his executive washroom key now. The Alpha Chimp begins to separate himself from those around him from day one. He sprinkles patronizing compliments, such as "You're doing a great job-keep up the good work," on coworkers on his level while simultaneously ingratiating himself to the higher-ups by taking up golf, a sport he neither enjoys or excels at. The Alpha Chimp's goal in life is to race up the corporate ladder as quickly as possible. He's after power, money, recognition, and (how to delicately put this?) a semblance of virility. There's a reason certain coworkers refer to the red Trans-Am in the parking lot as the Alpha Chimp's "penis substitute."

In order to advance, the Alpha Chimp must perform well on the job, so he trains for his yearly review as if it's the Olympic Games. A single poor mark can relegate him to another full year in administrative hell. Therefore, he identifies his goals and maps a course for meeting them. The Alpha Chimp spends more time and energy plotting his career path than he does performing any actual work.

The Alpha Chimp's presence in your office can double as a fairly accurate gauge of how old/bitter/jaded/sour/uncommitted you have become, as his fresh-faced enthusiasm offers stark contrast to your own indelible misery. You can practically feel your intestines tightening as the Alpha Chimp, during his second week on the job, throws a birthday party for a certain key member of upper management. It's not long before you, and those like you, begin referring to the Alpha Chimp only as "TLF," or "That Little F***er."

Memorable Quotes

* [To fellow Admin] "What we really need to do is think outside the box [makes square shape with forefingers for emphasis] and deliver more than what the client expects. It's a win-win situation."

* "Why don't you go ahead and file those? Oh, right. That's my job."

* "[Insert boss's name here] smells wonderful today, doesn't he?"

The Big Fish in a Small Pond

Though pushing forty, the Big Fish considers himself impervious to the aging process. He is the resident adrenaline junkie and, salt-and-pepper hair notwithstanding, his tastes in clothing, music, automobiles, hobbies, and slang are identical to that of your average college sophomore. He voted for Nader and considers the word "X-Treme" to be a useful adjective. This is the guy who makes you feel old for acting your age. He's also the coworker who most likes to get "in your face."

The presence of a Small Pond is vital to the Fish's classification as Big. Thus, the Big Fish is found only in small, somewhat out-of-the-way, yet still urban environments such as Providence, Rhode Island. Since he lacks any truly exceptional qualities, the Big Fish's illusion of superiority requires the contrast of his simple surroundings. To this end, he never makes the leap to larger, more competitive environments (such as New York or even Boston) even though the opportunity occasionally presents itself. He enjoys and excels at aiming low.

Admittedly, the Big Fish does maintain an admirable physical condition, especially for a man his age. He is a strict adherent to fad diets such as Atkins and regularly works out. In order to flaunt his health-conscious lifestyle, he exercises only on his lunch break (returning to the office still perspiring) before ostentatiously devouring either a salad or grilled chicken breast at his desk. He is also quite dapper and refuses to participate in any event requiring him to dress down (like casual Friday). However, the Big Fish will jump at any opportunity (perhaps an interoffice volleyball game) to show off his favorite obnoxious sunglasses (always mirrored, sometimes tinted). For such events, he will change into superstylish, freshly pressed athletic gear.

The Big Fish situates himself in an exterior, preferably two-sided cubicle. Once ensconced, he is afforded a pristine view of the office proper and is able to keep track of all social developments. The Big Fish is a master of cubicle decoration. He possesses a certain artistry and understands precisely which objects will trigger what reaction. Common installations include photographs of himself skydiving (athleticism and daring), foreign objets d'art (globe-trotting), posted football pool results (hey, he's just one of the guys), hardbound texts pertaining to his professional area of expertise (competence), and one pedestrian classic along the lines of The Iliad or The Divine Comedy (literacy and intelligence). Furthermore, and most preposterously, he often tries to appear sophisticated by creating what he regards as keenly literate scrolling screensaver texts ("Apres moi, le deluge," for example). Snarky coworkers have been known to reply with parody screensavers of their own ("Veni, vidi, vici"). The Big Fish doesn't get the joke.

In some ways similar to the Water Cooler Casanova, the Big Fish in a Small Pond does not share the former's unquenchable sexual appetite. Of course, the Big Fish also finds the Office Girls enchanting, but he is too concerned with strutting about like a well-endowed peacock to get bogged down in any potentially emotional predicament. He flirts a little and can get a bit rowdy at happy hour, but ultimately the Big Fish would rather work on his delts than cheat on his wife. Still, the two are good friends, and often play golf or watch TRL together after work.

Memorable Quotes

* "Do you snowboard?"

* "Let's get a few Michelob Ultras after work."

* [Upon allowing a coworker to borrow a few CDs from his extensive collection of underground, esoteric artists] "Go ahead, expand your mind."

* "I know every bouncer in Hartford."

Performance Review and Development Report

The Brown Noser

Only the most significant and important points need to be recorded as a reference for the next review.

The Brown Noser will stop at nothing to get ahead-well, except for resorting to hard work. Basically a Yes Man of lower station, the Brown Noser suppresses her own opinions as effectively as a 1950s housewife, yet must make do kissing the asses of mid-level management, as she has no real access to the Pompous General Partner himself (yet).

The Brown Noser's lack of pride may be the residual result of having suffered some long suppressed social catastrophe, such as being stood up at the prom or compared aesthetically to the family pooch. As it is, most coworkers marvel over her nonstop fawning and treacly appreciation for all aspects of her superior's business acumen, fashion sense, social life, and politics. The Brown Noser is incapable of disagreement and will even swear allegiance to moves and policies destined to work out badly for her and her coworkers in the long run. She will coo over any baby picture ("Ooh, pudgy babies are just the cutest!"), alter her position on any subject at a moment's notice ("Did I say 'pro-choice'? Huh. Well, I meant 'pro-life'"), and stroke the egos of all who will listen ("It's amazing how well you file.").

The Brown Noser is impervious to mistreatment and apparently cannot recognize when she is being taken advantage of. In addition to sucking up, the Brown Noser jumps at any opportunity to stab a coworker in the back if it will benefit her own career. She has been known to tattle, fib, and tell tales out of school all during the course of a single afternoon. The Brown Noser has no real friends and has recently stooped to trolling for dates online.

Comments and Recommendations: Flattery should get her everywhere.

Performance Review and Development Report

The Caffeine Junkie

Only the most significant and important points need to be recorded as a reference for the next review.

The Caffeine Junkie averages roughly three and a half minutes of work per mug of coffee. He is always in motion, a condition that manifests itself both in the form of a continuous desk-kitchen- men's room loop and an intense series of jittery twitching primarily effecting his hands, feet, and head. While at his desk, the Caffeine Junkie must either fiddle with a pencil, tap his legs in rhythm to some unheard, up-tempo arrangement, or shift back and forth until he has worn through the seat of his trousers.

He has a crazed countenance that grows maniacal in the event that a coworker beats him to the coffeemaker. The Caffeine Junkie is incapable of hiding his contempt for interlopers who fumble with his favorite apparatus like clumsy jocks trying to unhook their first bra. The Caffeine Junkie has no time for such trifles as milk or sugar, though he will occasionally deign to shake some nondairy creamer into his favorite mug, a once white ceramic number now stained a light brown. He will sometimes mix things up on his lunch hour by patronizing the nearest Dunkin' Donuts drive-through, but before doing so fills a mug for the road.

The Caffeine Junkie has far and away the worst breath in the office, a situation compounded by his preference for speaking to coworkers from a maximum distance of six inches. He gets along fairly well with other employees, excepting the equally caffeine-loving Potential Serial Killer, to whom the Caffeine Junkie usually (and wisely) opts to cede common ground for reasons of safety. In a pinch, the Caffeine Junkie will resort to Mountain Dew or even chocolate, though such stopgaps rarely satiate him for long. His productivity wanes significantly with each attempt to give up caffeine, thus persuading him to forego good health for performance. He is a valued employee, though a bit hard to stomach at times.

Comments and Recommendations: Impending heart attack should limit his chances for promotion.

Performance Review and Development Report

The Cheapskate

Only the most significant and important points need to be recorded as a reference for the next review.

It seems a bunch of the Cheapskate's coworkers are pooling their resources in order to procure Chinese food for lunch. The Cheapskate likes the sound of that. He could really go for some chicken lo mein. The Cheapskate voices his agreement and places his order. He then returns to work, practically salivating at the thought of his impending Oriental feast. The Cheapskate is the first one at the food bag, greedily removing his own dishes from the parcel before disappearing to parts of the office unknown.

He eats in seclusion, preferring a magazine's company to that of his coworkers. Whoever placed the order and collected the money for it is stuck looking for the Cheapskate all afternoon with the tab for his meal. He isn't seen again until several days later, whereupon all memory of his free lunch has faded. If, on the rare chance that a coworker mentions it, the Cheapskate performs an intricate dance of patted pockets, opened wallet (tilted so that all may see its emptiness), and turned-over pencil mug, designed to display the severe nature of his poverty.

He is savvy enough not to take advantage of those around him too often, and therefore manages to score free lunches, coffee, snacks, and office supplies on a semiregular basis. When he suspects his days of successful swindling may be numbered, the Cheapskate orchestrates some ostentatious display of his own generosity, such as springing for pizza for the entire office (but only on two-for-one day). In doing so, he is able to purchase enough goodwill to allow him to take advantage of his coworkers for another six months or so.

Comments and Recommendations: His monetary ingenuity could lead to a nice career in accounting or finance.

Performance Review and Development Report

The Chitchat Artist

Only the most significant and important points need to be recorded as a reference for the next review.

The Chitchat Artist ruminates on only the most drearily obvious and uninteresting subjects, such as the weather, the days of the week, or his latest weekend plans (which most likely involve some unbelievably boring account of his efforts to redo the upstairs bathroom). No matter where they are or how pressing their business at hand, coworkers seem to encounter the Chitchat Artist at every turn. He displays a knack for "swinging by" (his term) the office or cubicle of whoever happens to be busiest and least interested in conversation.

His professional function is a complete mystery to all, save perhaps his immediate supervisor. No one knows where his desk is, or if he even has one. The Chitchat Artist prefers to spend the majority of his day either riding the elevator or standing at the urinal. He will typically instigate contact by either a nod of the head or a complicit rolling of the eyes, physical actions quickly followed by several favorite stock phrases calling for no response, such as "Hump Day . . . we're halfway there" or "(sigh) . . . What a grind."

Recipients/victims usually greet these statements with some variation on the word "yeah," often coupled with an optional single click of the tongue. Such coworkers then find themselves stuck on the quiet end of a fifteen-minute "conversation," the details of which are completely lost to them immediately thereafter. The Chitchat Artist is incapable of noticing that a coworker happens to be on the telephone, and thinks nothing of proceeding with his personal take on the morning's rainstorm regardless.

Comments and Recommendations: Lack of actual output and his ability to annoy even the most patient of supervisors makes the prospect of promotion (or even continued employment) highly unlikely.

Customer Reviews