Nothing can quite prepare one for the “staring into the void” experience that one has upon first meeting a person in the business world that has walked into reality straight off of the Dilbert comic strip. There are the buzzwords delivered with a straight faced, the honest, even vulnerable or boyish enthusiasm for fleeting mumbo jumbo marketing and management ideas, and the proliferation of gadgets. Wasn’t Michael Scott just a silly character on The Office? No. Something very much akin to him is terribly alive and real and sitting across the table from you. Day after day you wait for the facade to crack and a relatable, self-aware, and slightly cynical person to emerge, but it never happens. It’s day 400 since their arrival to the office and they want to have a “stand-up” meeting to talk about “core values” and show off a Gantt chart made for planning the company BBQ – all without any trace of irony.
It’s difficult to accept the existence of this man or woman. It’s easier to acknowledge someone of a very different religion living in say, Yemen who wants to kill you. They are on the other side of the world and grew up under very different circumstances. They are ethnically, linguistically, culturally, economically, socially, and historically utterly different from you in the West. You may utterly disagree with their philosophy and conclusions, but it’s not hard to at least accept they arrived at them via a very different path. But the live-action Dilbert co-worker – how did he come about? He grew up in the same region, in a family just like yours, and even watched Duck Tales every afternoon after school, yet behold, here he is, stone-cold serious about “generating synergy” amongst departments via the new “content management system”. Thirty seconds later, he sounds like anyone else, side-tracked by a discussion about the latest episode of Breaking Bad, or where the best place to go fishing is this weekend. What sci-fi-esque rip in the space-time continuum allows such a being to exist?
That’s not a rhetorical question actually. I don’t have a workable theory yet. For years when I was younger, I figured these characters were only mythical archetypes or hypothetical comedic foils. But no dear friend, they actually exist and though not terribly common, are numerous enough that sooner or later you will indeed encounter them. One may even end up being your boss, or your neighbor, or even going to your church, and YOU will be called to treat them with kindness. Know now that they exist. It may help your mind not to explode when the time comes that you must listen and empathize with them. It may also help you forgive yourself should you discover you are one.