I know a woman who works in a government office (let’s call her ‘Linda’). She’s very unhappy in her work. Always has been. And, most importantly, she wants you to know it. Despite nominally being a civil servant, she strives, above all else, to avoid the ‘servant’ part on any terms whatsoever except her own.

Despite having limited position authority, Linda manages to extract every ounce of inconvenience and discomfort on the part of members of the public she encounters. It generally works like this:

When you approach Linda’s work station, you’ll notice that, while she clearly saw you coming, she immediately occupies herself with something, pretending she didn’t. That way, you see, she can keep you standing around until she’s good and ready to bless you with her attention.

A couple of important rules around Linda: 1) No matter how politely you frame the question, don’t  ask when you can expect something (just appreciate she’s always “very busy” and she’ll get to it when she “gets a chance”). 2) Never ask for something to be done even slightly different from the norm; she’ll recite the procedural rule with a look of disdain for your feeble understanding that would shrivel a hardened convict. 3) Count on yourself being the least important thing Linda has to deal with at any given moment.

In the many (probably 15+) years I’ve known her, here are the things I’ve never, ever experienced from Linda: Hearing her say ‘hello’ first, expressing a sociable pleasantry, showing a smile or demonstrating the slightest act of kindness or generosity. Linda’s world is a dour place indeed.

For someone who encounters Linda on the job, her mastery of making her misery yours, is really quite a thing to behold. What keeps her miserable, employed and empowered to grind on the people she deals with is that she’s mastered officiousness, a skill that has heretofore not been recognized as an employment essential. Thank goodness.


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