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.
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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:
BOB IS A PUTZ
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?