There's only one cure for passive-aggressive Space Invader bosses, and that's more passive aggression

For when a terse email just won't do

Who, Me? Passive aggression lurks in today's tale from the Who, Me? archives, replete with naughty words and cartoon scribblings of a corporate life satirist.

The story comes from a reader Regomised as "Mike" who spent the 1990s gainfully employed at a networking company. The company did not survive Microsoft's addition of networking technology to its Windows operating system: "They did the high tech boom-to-bust thing back before it was fashionable," he remarked.

However, Mike's confession hails from a period when his US employer was at the height of its powers. He had quite the circle of friends there but, as is so often the case, was forced to work with a selection of management types of varying ability and personality.

One, let's call him "Bob," was a particularly curious fellow. Bob lacked in management skills and attempted to compensate by insisting on a rigid 9-to-5 attendance and jumping on staff caught having non-work-related conversations.

"Sometimes I'd stop in the hallway and chat with one of my friends from his group," remembered Mike, "and if Bob happened by he'd literally walk up and stand closer to us than the two of us were standing and just stare at us. Which was creepy.

"But the idea 'Get back to work!' was conveyed."

He sounds like a charmer. While Mike's ex-girlfriend found herself written up by HR for growling at Bob and forcing him into a corner when he tried the Space Invader trick on her, Mike contemplated an alternative revenge. His solution was suitably childish.

A popular cartoon strip of the time featured a put-upon worker, his talking dog, and pointy-haired boss. One particular edition featured the dog character waving a sceptre and shouting "Out Out!! You Demons Of Stupidity." The strip also instructed the reader to affix the image of "Saint Dogbert" wherever protection was needed.

So Mike obeyed the instructions. He made 400 copies, from an inch square to a full letter-sized version and then set about decorating Bob's office.

"I taped them to the walls, to the door, to the windows and to the ceiling and under his keyboard," he said.

"I put them in the folders in his filing cabinet, I put them in his spare shoes, I put them in his floppy drive, I slid them into his computer, through the cracks in the case, I put them literally every place I could think of to put them in his office.

"It wouldn't surprise me if I took the cover plate off his light switch and put some inside, although I don't actually remember doing that."

A treat for the remodellers of the now-defunct company's offices in later years, we're sure.

Sadly for Mike, the wheeze did not cause offence. In fact, it caused the opposite effect: "He thought it was funny!" fumed Mike.

Mike might have failed but, as winter closed in and snow began to fall, he had one more card to play. The office looked out over a large pond, which had frozen in the cold and was covered with a pristine blanket of snow. He'd had dinner with his friends (both employees of the company) and, after the pair had retired, slunk back to the office (having given less than a second of thought to the consequences of his imminent actions).

The snow, you see, was simply too tempting. And so Mike set to work, stomping and trampling the fluffy white stuff until a sentence was clearly visible in four-foot high lettering:


We suspect that an alternative four letter word might have been used, but will take Mike at his word.

He returned home and slept the sleep of the sated Karmic Avenger.

Since the view over the pond was a pleasant one, the higher-ups had naturally nabbed offices with views over it. Imagine, then, strolling in and finding Mike's frank appraisal of Space Invader Bob scrawled over the normally unsullied snow.

A vice president to whom Bob owed a substantial amount of money was first to spot the graffiti and elected to deal with it.

Not himself, of course, but by sending out a minion (in this case one of Mike's friends who, unsuspecting of the night's activities, had turned up early) to deal with the text that summed up the unspoken feelings of the majority of the company.

Out came the broom and the friend set about clearing the snow before anyone else saw it. "Which," mused Mike, "is either the high or low point of her career, depending on how you look at it."

She had also guessed the culprit but kept quiet. "A few people had seen the writing," added Mike, "so rumors spread, and there was talk on a company mailing list about the violated pond, without anyone mentioning what had been written on it."

Nobody, however, guessed Mike's involvement. One colleague repeatedly and loudly denied any participation in the crime, "presumably trying to make people think he was that much of a rebel," remarked Mike, "which he wasn't."

While Bob's thoughts on this latest bit of passive aggression are lost to the mists of time, the results were not quite what Mike had wanted. "Another person told me that they knew that I didn't do it because I 'have more creativity than that'.

"Seriously? What did he think I was capable of?"

The long-defunct company continues to have staff reunions where former employees drink to the good times and speculate just who was responsible for the Demons Of Stupidity incident and the infamous Putz on the Pond.

"I'm kind of offended," he told us, "that they didn't appreciate how much of a dick I've always been."

What do you make of Mike's confession? "Karmic Avenger" or a passive-aggressive prankster? Have you concocted a complicated revenge plan, only for your victim to laugh it off? Confess all with an email to Who, Me?

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Zuckerberg sued for alleged role in Cambridge Analytica data-slurp scandal
    I can prove CEO was 'personally involved in Facebook’s failure to protect privacy', DC AG insists

    Cambridge Analytica is back to haunt Mark Zuckerberg: Washington DC's Attorney General filed a lawsuit today directly accusing the Meta CEO of personal involvement in the abuses that led to the data-slurping scandal. 

    DC AG Karl Racine filed [PDF] the civil suit on Monday morning, saying his office's investigations found ample evidence Zuck could be held responsible for that 2018 cluster-fsck. For those who've put it out of mind, UK-based Cambridge Analytica harvested tens of millions of people's info via a third-party Facebook app, revealing a – at best – somewhat slipshod handling of netizens' privacy by the US tech giant.

    That year, Racine sued Facebook, claiming the social network was well aware of the analytics firm's antics yet failed to do anything meaningful until the data harvesting was covered by mainstream media. Facebook repeatedly stymied document production attempts, Racine claimed, and the paperwork it eventually handed over painted a trail he said led directly to Zuck. 

    Continue reading
  • Florida's content-moderation law kept on ice, likely unconstitutional, court says
    So cool you're into free speech because that includes taking down misinformation

    While the US Supreme Court considers an emergency petition to reinstate a preliminary injunction against Texas' social media law HB 20, the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday partially upheld a similar injunction against Florida's social media law, SB 7072.

    Both Florida and Texas last year passed laws that impose content moderation restrictions, editorial disclosure obligations, and user-data access requirements on large online social networks. The Republican governors of both states justified the laws by claiming that social media sites have been trying to censor conservative voices, an allegation that has not been supported by evidence.

    Multiple studies addressing this issue say right-wing folk aren't being censored. They have found that social media sites try to take down or block misinformation, which researchers say is more common from right-leaning sources.

    Continue reading
  • US-APAC trade deal leaves out Taiwan, military defense not ruled out
    All fun and games until the chip factories are in the crosshairs

    US President Joe Biden has heralded an Indo-Pacific trade deal signed by several nations that do not include Taiwan. At the same time, Biden warned China that America would help defend Taiwan from attack; it is home to a critical slice of the global chip industry, after all. 

    The agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), is still in its infancy, with today's announcement enabling the United States and the other 12 participating countries to begin negotiating "rules of the road that ensure [US businesses] can compete in the Indo-Pacific," the White House said. 

    Along with America, other IPEF signatories are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Combined, the White House said, the 13 countries participating in the IPEF make up 40 percent of the global economy. 

    Continue reading
  • 381,000-plus Kubernetes API servers 'exposed to internet'
    Firewall isn't a made-up word from the Hackers movie, people

    A large number of servers running the Kubernetes API have been left exposed to the internet, which is not great: they're potentially vulnerable to abuse.

    Nonprofit security organization The Shadowserver Foundation recently scanned 454,729 systems hosting the popular open-source platform for managing and orchestrating containers, finding that more than 381,645 – or about 84 percent – are accessible via the internet to varying degrees thus providing a cracked door into a corporate network.

    "While this does not mean that these instances are fully open or vulnerable to an attack, it is likely that this level of access was not intended and these instances are an unnecessarily exposed attack surface," Shadowserver's team stressed in a write-up. "They also allow for information leakage on version and build."

    Continue reading
  • A peek into Gigabyte's GPU Arm for AI, HPC shops
    High-performance platform choices are going beyond the ubiquitous x86 standard

    Arm-based servers continue to gain momentum with Gigabyte Technology introducing a system based on Ampere's Altra processors paired with Nvidia A100 GPUs, aimed at demanding workloads such as AI training and high-performance compute (HPC) applications.

    The G492-PD0 runs either an Ampere Altra or Altra Max processor, the latter delivering 128 64-bit cores that are compatible with the Armv8.2 architecture.

    It supports 16 DDR4 DIMM slots, which would be enough space for up to 4TB of memory if all slots were filled with 256GB memory modules. The chassis also has space for no fewer than eight Nvidia A100 GPUs, which would make for a costly but very powerful system for those workloads that benefit from GPU acceleration.

    Continue reading
  • GitLab version 15 goes big on visibility and observability
    GitOps fans can take a spin on the free tier for pull-based deployment

    One-stop DevOps shop GitLab has announced version 15 of its platform, hot on the heels of pull-based GitOps turning up on the platform's free tier.

    Version 15.0 marks the arrival of GitLab's next major iteration and attention this time around has turned to visibility and observability – hardly surprising considering the acquisition of OpsTrace as 2021 drew to a close, as well as workflow automation, security and compliance.

    GitLab puts out monthly releases –  hitting 15.1 on June 22 –  and we spoke to the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, about what will be added to version 15 as time goes by. During a chat with the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, The Register was told that this was more where dollars were being invested into the product.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022