Office Tyrants in "Critical Positions"

I saw an artilce in the WSJ today about people who aren't bosses, but have positions in the company where they can make their co-workers miserable.

The article gave the example of those who are in charge of disseminating office supplies. There was one such employee who basically kept a strict records of the last time any co-worker asked fhim or a pen or paper clips, etc. and wanted proof that co-workers really "needed" the supply.

It also talked about those who approve travel/expense reports--an employee explained how they got on the bad side of a person in charge of approving these, who would red flag everything on his expense reports, such as not having receipts for valet parking tips).  The employee called her the "travel baroness" who slowed down his reimbursment as long as possible, while he paid interest on his credit card.

(It reminds me of a Dilbert comic  where a co-worker who assigned codes for charging project expenses told Dilbert he refused to assign him a code because he hated Dilbert's project, despite Dilbert's protest that his opinion of the project was besides the point.)

I've been pretty fortunate, but I know of co-workers who have had run-ins with such 'tyrants'.  Does anyone else have similar experiences?  Does your company have that one employee whom everyone dreads to approach, but who holds a position where co-workers basically inevitabley have to deal with them?



  • 6 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I think there are people like this in every office--give some people a little power and it goes straight to their heads! It's a fine line between being a loyal employee looking out for the company's interests (a supply clerk truly trying to help save money), and one who realizes he or she can bully other employees by limiting access to supplies. I've seen this happen with people in systems support positions too. In my mind, this is office bullying and shouldn't be allowed to continue but....
  • In a previous job I had, the receptionist was really terrible. If she liked you, she would bend over backwards to help out, was exceedingly nice and pleasant to you and your clients (luckily, I fell into the nicely treated group). However, if you did something that she perceived as a slight, she never forgave and she made your life a living nightmare. She would "accidently" drop calls, act rudely to you and your clients, and (my favorite) -- hide/delay incoming packages, often those that were marked "urgent." I viewed this behavior as selectively bi-polar. Remarkably, she stayed with the firm for 22 years with very little repercussion for her odd behavior. She was very good at hiding her passive aggressive behavior, and had most of the managing partners (those in charge of her continued employment) utterly fooled. Glad I don't have to deal with her anymore . . .
  • I do think there are people like this in just about every company and they should be told they are in support positions and, just like a rude waitress, they'll lose their job if it persists. I have no one like that right now, but I think that is because the aforementioned approach is my approach.

  • Great point, LA. Zero tolerance for tyrants should be the rule, just like other obnoxious or harmful behavior.
  • I agree that the problem should be addressed, but sometimes it takes a while to discover what's going on -- particularly with the selectively snobby workers mentioned.  A lot of times employees who are not part of the inner circle will simply find ways to work around the tyrant (not the most efficient use of time) and the problem remains undiscovered.  I have a friend who brought a tyrannical secretary to her boss's attention only to have the whole situation turned around on her.  She ended up leaving because her boss insisted she was the problem -- her boss had no problems with the secretary (and actually may have appreciated her personality in her role as gatekeeper).  But when possible, the problem should definitely be addressed -- it makes for a much more efficient workplace.
  • I think you will always have a select group of "wanna bes" in any group situation.  These are generally the people who never get what they think they deserve.  Generally I just ignore the tone of their comments or rudeness.  It also makes me think twice about becoming that way.  If the situation becomes really sticky, I just speak with their manager about it.
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