Most of us have, at one time or another, experienced the toe-curling hideousness that is office politics. One only has to visit the aptly-titled WorkRant to witness poor souls venting about boorish bosses bringing down morale, idea-stealing and backstabbing, and irksome habits such as noisy eating or smelly food.
Barnaby Lashbrooke, founder of virtual workforce platform, Time etc, rounds up five recognisable office stereotypes and examines the benefits of growing a team of employees you’ve never even met.
Five All-Too-Common Office Characters
1. Unscrupulous Usurper
Snake-like in manner, the usurper is willing to make any colleague look bad or incompetent in their quest for power. Machiavellian to the extreme, much like the inimitable Francis Urquhart, this person may at first befriend those it seeks to harm or eliminate. They will likely have the ear of the boss, and use any information they can to squash the competition, including your antics at the pub on Thursday night. Warning: they will take credit for your work and they’ll repeat your ideas in meetings.
2. Churlish Chomper
The rise of gastronomy has prompted a rise in the number of home chefs bringing more adventurous grub than sandwiches into the office. Wafts of fish, cabbage, egg and soup that smells like body odour, are now part and parcel of office life, with many conscientiously eating 'al desko'. While most people are considerate of the snouts of others, there are some with scant regard for the fact that their food is offensive and smells appalling.
3. Force Feeder
You know the one. They love the Great British Bake-Off to the point of slagging off the contestants on Twitter, and they bring in tray bakes and banana breads twice weekly. They get kicks from seeing others devour their culinary treats, and laugh at their colleagues’ post-binge guilt. But you’ll rarely see them tuck in to their own creations.
4. Slothful Slacker
AKA the clockwatcher, this specimen is carried by everyone else in the company. They’re in at 08:59, and have their coat on, bag packed, and computer switched off at 17:01. Their can’t-do attitude leaves others picking up the slack. They’ve built a whole career on avoiding work, and put more effort into it than what they’re paid to do. They’re frequently absent on Mondays and will ask for your ‘expert Microsoft skills’ or ‘exemplary tea-making talents’.
5. Secret Agent
The mysterious one who never talks about their private life, to the point where you don’t know if their married, single, have kids or any friends at all. You won’t find them on Facebook (their profile picture will be blanked out), they don’t use Twitter (not under their own name anyway) and they always have good excuses for wriggling out of staff social events. You won’t find them in the kitchen, as they’ll do anything to avoid ‘watercooler’ moments.
Most SME owners will tell you that recruiting and managing employees is their biggest gripe. It’s a full time job for a person that most business owners don’t want to employ. Similarly, a small business that’s keeping a lid on costs is very unlikely to fork out for a full-time HR guru to handle all the admin involved with growing a workforce.
So lose the office. 'What?' I hear you snort derisively. I mean it. Not all employees have to be a physical presence and – believe it or not – PAYE and expensive office space is optional. The freelance economy is booming and that means big savings, as well as a novel solution to office politics. You don’t even have to meet your employees in person.
But the freelance sector is like the 1958 sci-fi classic ‘The Blob’ in that it’s growing and there’s no stopping it - great for remote workers, difficult for SME owners to navigate. Except it’s not. Virtual workforce platform Time etc is bringing quality control to this sprawling sector, with vested and tested freelancers paid by the hour and project managed too. The project manager checks that freelancers meet deadlines and file top quality work, freeing bosses up to work on more important things.
Having real-time technology such as Google Drive, Skype and Dropbox helps too, as it means that you and your colleagues can edit documents, set tasks, and receive live updates without having to be in the same room. Equally, it’s possible to mimic team meetings with video conferencing and conference call software such as Powwownow - all that’s needed is a working phone and an internet connection.
So go on, be brave and lose the office.
Barnaby Lashbrooke is founder of virtual workforce platform Time etc