The Bobby Wheeler
Bobby is an office favorite, always a good time, and always up to something whether a new business venture, side hustle, or his sharing the dream of making it big one day. He lets it be known often enough that his big dreams will be far away from here, the business and work you share together. So, while he is lovable and fun to be around, he is also a constant reminder to you that if this is all you had in mind for your career, you are aiming much too low. Still, you understand that Bobby is in a different place in his life, having a bit more freedom to chase whatever his latest dream may be. If he inadvertently minimizes the goals and achievements of just about everyone around him, he is easy to forgive. It is unintentional, and he will bring enough joy to the workplace on most days to help you and everyone enjoy his presence, and even cheer for him if he ever does ‘make it’.
The Elaine O’Connor
Elaine is a wonderful colleague and collaborator whom you are glad to share your work with each day. She is reliable and competent, always doing her work the right way and with the right attitude. Like Bobby’s view of himself, you see for Elaine that bigger and better things are within reach. But she lacks the freedom of The Bobby who has fewer responsibilities and people counting on him personally. While Bobby can take off at a moment’s notice to make that move that takes him closer to his dream, Elaine has more important obligations at home to care for, and she does. She never complains about her station in life or of goals unfulfilled. While you sense that she has bigger dreams, and you have seen in her performance that given the opportunity and right circumstance, she could achieve many things, she would never minimize her or your current situation. She operates with great humility and gratitude, knowing that her work, like yours, provides her and those she cares of what is needed to make the world a better place – and that brings satisfaction that the ‘Bobbys’ of the world will always struggle to understand.
The Jim Ignatowski
Jim is probably the most interesting character around the workplace. He doesn’t seem to have a specific title of job function. He is called in to do a variety of tasks most days, none of which require a great deal of skill or attention to detail, which is a good thing. From what you’ve seen, Jim, or ‘Iggy’ as most call him although you prefer to call him Jim, does not have much capacity for more complex tasks. But the simpler chores he is called upon to do, he does them just fine and why he is part of the fabric of your organization. If ever there was a person, a colleague, who was fully content with what you may perceive as very little, it is Jim. He proceeds through his work every day, caring for any and all responsibilities, with a smile on his face, and a willingness to be and do whatever is needed. You wish he had the capacity for more, because with his great attitude and outlook on life, he could strike that beautiful balance that we all look for in those running companies and leading people.
The Alex Reiger
Alex is a solid guy and strong contributor in your organization. He is a bit of a know-it-all, having been around a while. He knows the work and the players at all levels, and can quickly give you a fairly accurate picture of where the company has been. Alex knows the stories and scandals of colleagues past and present, and will of course share his opinion of those who have risen to greater heights and how they got there. He has tremendous capacity and skill to be a strong individual contributor, possibly move into leadership, and consistently receives high marks and recognition for his good work. He too, like many of your colleagues, believes he is meant for greater things, and you see his daily struggle to accept who he is and where he is at in his career. From your viewpoint, Alex is doing just fine and could be headed for bigger things if he can stay focused on maximizing and enjoying ‘the now’ instead of lamenting each day as though it falls short of what it could be. You sense this could be the fatal flaw that sees him exactly where he is today for years to come. If only Alex saw what you saw, a talented, likable, and earnest colleague who could accomplish some good things in his career if he developed the self-awareness, patience, and focus to craft and execute the plan it would take to get there.
The Louie DePalma
Where did this guy come from, and what has happened in his life to make him who he is? Those are questions none of us may ever know, but the fact is that he is downright mean, usually nasty, and happens to also be in charge. While rare, such bosses exist and too many of us have had the great displeasure to have worked for The Louie. Louie revels in the misfortunes of others, loves to see substandard work as it gives him the platform to publicly call out and embarrass people. You never have to worry about losing your job or being performance managed by Louie, because he seems to take far greater enjoyment in seeing you humiliated than the company being successful. You often imagine that at some point he learned some scintillating information about a company executive or ‘big wig’ whom he then blackmailed to land his current spot. It could not be for his talent, knowledge or people-skills, as he seems to lack it all. Smartly, you saw first-hand early on who he is and what he is capable of, and knew that your best course for work-survival was to keep your head down, stay out of his purview and do your job. If anything, his ‘leadership’ style has driven most to perform to at least a satisfactory level if only to avoid getting caught in Louie’s cross-hairs. You can’t imagine that he will be around for long before eventually being called out by a superior or HR via employee complaint, but the fact that he has already been here for years does not give you confidence that there is any real oversight or interest in holding people, particularly some well-placed leaders, accountable for their behavior. Smartly, you know your best path is the one leading OUT, and have long since started working on your exit strategy.