We’re all familiar with office ‘types’ but do they have the same resonance in the modern world of hybrid working? In a bid to finally kill off these caricatures, Henley Business School has produced a list of New Year’s resolutions to help the jobsworths, clockwatchers and rule-breakers to collude in their own demise.
Business school isn’t all sharp suits and designer outfits, elegant social skills, strategic vision and buzzwords. They do a lot on organisational behaviour too, which probably helps their graduates as they slither up and down their greasy poles.
On the BBC’s The Apprentice, however, scepticism – even scorn – is reserved for some business school attendees by the self-made Alan Sugar; it’s best not to try to impress the gnarly Amstrad founder with flash newly acquired business lingo.
The Apprentice stemmed from a US show of the same name hosted by a large gruff bloke with blonde hair who later in life became bogged down in multiple legal cases.
A lighthearted take on HR
Another show about business (kind of), which travelled equally successfully but in the opposite direction, was The Office. And now Henley Business School, no less, has produced a series of New Year’s resolutions for us office-dwellers based on characters from the legendary sitcom.
The dogsbody must learn to say ‘no’
Henley career coaches describe the office dogsbody as being like Pam from The Office. Now, that’s Dawn in the UK original – see how annoying this is? They write: “Do you end up doing the jobs no one else wants to do? Does everybody rely on you to help with tasks, even when they’re not part of your job? Do you worry if you say ‘no’ to things that people will think badly of you?” They warn that people can take advantage of such personality types, and the dogsbody ends up seeing their own goals taking a backseat as “long hours and guilt overwhelm, and exhaustion can come knocking”.
They advise that the dogsbody should adopt the following New Year’s resolutions: “Starting small, what’s one tiny step, you can take today to put your vision and aspirations first? Caring about your team is not a bad thing. Harness it – find those tasks in your job oriented towards others, and prioritise them. Get an accountability buddy. Ask someone who cares about you to hold you accountable to prioritising your own goals and saying ‘no’!”
The clockwatcher loves telling people what they want to hear and finds most work tedious”
And so we go on. There’s a career climber (Andy – no counterpart in the UK series) who must resolve in 2023 to “Pop the bubbly, ring your mum! Take time to celebrate your achievements before you move onto your next big challenge.”
The jobsworth, (Angela in the US, Sheila in the UK) is a person who positively enjoys following rules and processes, is warned that “others might find you frustrating to work with” and is advised to “find someone who is good at considering the bigger picture. Chat with them regularly, and you’ll find you’re beginning to think more strategically.”
Tell ’em what they want to hear
The clockwatcher (Stanley in the US, loosely Malcolm in the UK) loves telling people what they want to hear and finds most work tedious. This character is “the last person to turn your camera on an online meeting, and wouldn’t be seen dead at the Christmas party”.
Interestingly, the clockwatcher manages the boundaries between work and home life excellently (isn’t that a good thing?) and doesn’t feel pressure or any obligation to agree to extra work. A quiet quitter surely! In 2023 this person needs to “explore what really excites you or makes you feel motivated in your personal life – do you enjoy picking up new hobbies and learning, for example? How might you be able to bring even a little of this to work?”
The old cliches no longer have the same traction given nobody is in the office half the time”
Finally, there’s the rulebreaker – Jim from The Office (Tim in the UK) – who is happy to avoid the boring bits of their job and relishes talking their way out of sticky situations. They are the jobsworth’s “worst nightmare”. Among resolutions they ought to consider is being open with colleagues and recognising when they’ve gone too far. Our Henley career coaches write: “Is there a way you can bring others into your decision-making and prepare them better along for the ride?” They are advised to: “Get a buddy: someone more senior than you and not necessarily in your team. When a risky idea pops into your head – talk it through with them.”
But Personnel Today has identified an issue with all this. Henley Business School seems to be stuck in a time warp. Even the US version of The Office finished 10 years ago (16 May 2013 to be precise) and these office stereotypes seem to take no account of anything that’s happened since. This includes Brexit, the election of Trump, the impact of Black Lives Matter on business, acceptance of the need for diversity, the gender pay gap, and, erm … Covid, which has seen the office as a place of work severely altered. The old cliches no longer have the same traction given nobody is in the office half the time.
Henley’s thinkers may as well have used that brilliant 1970s office-set comedy The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin as the basis for its resolutions (“I didn’t get where I am today by waffling”). Mind you, human nature doesn’t change that much, and who doesn’t like the idea of being a jobsworth’s worst nightmare?
Anyway, it’s 5.01pm, I’m out of here.