Augustus the Office Hero

Everyone who’s ever worked in an office anywhere in the world knows an office hero. This is the guy or gal who brags about how many hours they worked last night/week/weekend, how little sleep they need, how much coffee they drink by 9am, how they saved a company huge dollars, how much willpower they have to work while sick, and a plethora of other feats that no mere mortal could ever seemingly accomplish. I have the distinct pleasure of working across from our office hero (we’ll call him Augustus) who drives me and my cubicle-mate crazy with his endless stream of bluster and bullshit. What makes it even worse is that Augustus is also a work conduit (where deliverables move through him but are never actually completed by him) and manipulator (where he talks out of both sides of his mouth and has an answer for everything to always be seen in the best possible light). So when my cubicle-mate and I put our thoughts together on a project delivery approach, he quickly reviewed our work and indicated this was the direction he was already headed in. Oh really? Because all signs indicate you haven’t done anything around this. But, being the work conduit he is, Augustus bastardized our work and passed it off as his own in a meeting with management. Fortunately, a number of the management team know who really did the work. Not that this didn’t create fires we had to put out thanks to our office hero. 

I’ve read about this sort of behavior and its impact on people and an organization in the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work by Paul Babiak. People like Augustus are poison to a work environment. For those who quickly see through the endless bravado, recognize the lack of true individual contribution, and refuse to be manipulated by smarmy tactics, it breeds resentment and contempt within a team if the situation isn’t dealt with. Unfortunately, management may not be aware this is going on because they only see the one side. I’m witnessing this first-hand where people go to great lengths to avoid spending a lot of time with Augustus or ensure others are aware of the true source of work being delivered. When he’s around, people visibly close off by way of their body language. Conversations shift to being awkward and stilted. Smiles are forced. Arms get crossed. And this will sadly continue unless people on the team step forward to alert management to the true nature of the situation. Incidentally, this can be quite difficult depending on how long the façade created by people like Augustus has been in place and requires both courage and a willingness to step hip-deep into the muck.

But let’s come back to the present and get the spotlight back on our office hero (rightly so). Today was a particularly good day of boasting for Augustus. So far, he’s worked 36 hours between this past Saturday and Monday. He finds working through lunch allows him to be more productive and, as an apparent corollary, he’s highlighted his ability to consume mass quantities of hot sauce in a single sitting. As an added bonus, the same hot sauce he’s doused his lunch with keeps him awake during the afternoon. Brace yourself though because Augustus may actually take the night off after leaving at 6:30 (naturally after everyone else) because “sometimes it’s good to reward yourself.” And, just in case you were wondering, when he was at the Department of Agriculture he helped identify cost savings to a project that went on to fund the hybridization of cows and chickens. Okay, I made that last one up. But the rest you can add to the steaming pile that includes a ludicrous claim that he could drop 20 pounds but chooses not to for some unknown reason. Congratulations Augustus, you’re an office hero.

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