In a world of shoegnomes, there are workmonsters…
Much like I came up with the realization that I was a shoegnome years before I started my company and blog, the concept of workmonsters has been floating around in my head for a long time. What are workmonsters? They are a special breed of coworkers. I have a feeling that you already understand.
This is just a small sampling of archetypes. Perhaps if this doesn’t sour my readership (due to snarkiness or my not-so-secret love of early Dungeons and Dragons and so many other role-playing games I’ve played since), I’ll collect enough for a second post.
Pantheon of Workmonsters, Volume One
Dumbstars – People that refuse to give up old ways. I’ve mentioned this theme often. Tracks 3 and 4 of Pantera’s Reinventing the Steel deal with them. They are very frustrating to teach and train. They cling to 2D because the transition to 3D is hard and new and different. And not comfortable. The rewards of making the paradigm shift are ignored and denigrated. Dumbstars continue to fight for the wrong old ways, incorrectly assuming that continuing to fight will result in success. Dumb.
Panicstars – People that understand the value of change, that even know what they’re doing, but shut themselves down with panic and fear. They’ll be cruising along, modeling in 3D, understanding how to work in BIM, but completely crash when something out of their comfort zone happens. If these crashes could be avoided, they’d be very effective workers. While Dumbstars are stubborn and refuse to ‘get it’, Panicstars regress and collapse when they should start problem solving. They fear error messages. They loath trial and error. They never just ‘Google it’. While a Dumbstar is essentially doomed for failure, a Panicstar can still succeed if their anxiety and fearfulness can be monitored and circumvented.
Grumblestars – Negative downers. Whether moaning on an online forum or just bringing down the productivity of all those around them, Grumblestars are dangerous because they often have knowledge. But however good they might be, their bitterness, anger, and ‘this all sucks and I know it; why can’t you happy people get over your optimism and be fatalistic too’ attitude gives them virtual immunity to constructive criticism and help of any variety. Of all the types of workmonsters, Grumblestars are perhaps the most tragic and doomed. Yet they also deserve your compassion. How functional would you be if you knew that everything was horrible and anything remotely hopeful was just a lie?
Braintrusts – Groups of users who feed off their uselessness, poor judgement, and misinformation. A Braintrust can dismantle a well conceived template and standard by misunderstanding the issues and creating complex solutions to non-existent problems.
Pinkliners – Here’s a post dedicated to them. At a previous job I had a boss who spent I don’t know how much of the client’s money drawing fat lines around unfinished ArchiCAD sections. On the first of three 18 x 24 sheets of sections was this note written in red: sections should have thick ‘air lines’ around their edges. Let me know if you need more explanation. Really boss? I’m the BIM Manager. I’m in the midst of taking my AREs. You think I don’t know what a finished building section should look like? Come On! I just seethed, said nothing, and never had respect for that individual again.
Fake Cheerleaders – They tell you that everything is about the team, but in meetings team is usually pronounced ‘I’ or ‘Me’, maybe ‘We’, but that usually feels like the royal ‘We’. Focusing on the firm image or style is just code for no one but the Fake Cheerleader getting mentioned. Fake Cheerleaders fail to give credit, don’t get that respect has to be earned, and don’t understand the value of intrinsic rewards (seriously if it was just about extrinsic rewards like money, who’d still practice architecture? Not me). Narcissism veiled behind fuzzy talk of togetherness and groupism isn’t leadership or healthy for keeping employees happy and productive.
Gobblebosses – I’m sure the list of bad boss architypes is endless. So I’ll talk about just one more. When I was participating in the 2012 AIA Minnesota Leadership Forum, one of the best lines I heard from a speaker was “Call me a leader, but never call me a boss”. I love that line. Gobblebosses are bosses, not leaders. And they don’t get that there’s a HUGE difference. A Gobbleboss will assume you can work as many hours as he needs you to, without respect to your family, life, or other office responsibilities. If you give a Gobbleboss a minute, he’ll take an hour. Give him an hour and you’ve just lost your day. Maybe your week. How do you know if you are under the thrall of a Gobbleboss? You feel like your time isn’t yours. You have to fit your life, whether personal obligations or other professional duties not related to the Gobbleboss’s domain, around that of the Gobbleboss.
Appendix A: Bonus Monsters!
The Onion and Forbes provide four more archetypes:
Appendix B: Mix and Match!
Workmonsters are not mutually exclusive. Pinklining Fake Cheerleader Gobblebosses? Yeah those exist. And suck. Gobblestars, Gobbletrusts… in a world of workmonsters, we need shoegnomes.
Have you experienced one of these coworkers, or another archetype I haven’t described? Leave a comment or e-mail me and I’ll share your story anonymously.