Workplace culture has come a long way since the days when a bullying or sexist boss could get away with murder because…well, because he was the boss. And it was usually a he.
Industrial relations legislation has been beefed up in recent years and changes in the way society perceives certain behaviours mean workplace bullies and sex pests now have fewer places to hide.
But what if your boss, or even your colleague, is neither of these things but he’s still making your life a misery because he’s just a bit of a knobhead.
There are well publicised protocols to follow if you’ve been reduced to tears in a sales meeting or if you felt a stray hand brush against your buttock in the stationary press.
But you can hardly hotfoot it to HR to complain that Darren has a framed photograph of his new BMW soft top on his desk or that if Mildred slurps her soup any louder, you may have to throw yourself down the lift-shaft.
You can choose where to work but you can’t choose your workmates and by the time you’ve identified the office knobhead, it’s too late.
In extreme cases you may be forced to switch jobs because you can’t bear to listen to another one of Tiffany’s stories about how little Desiree got on at the regional Majorette heats at the weekend. But the longer you work the more you come to realise that you can never escape the knobhead because every office has at least one.
The knobhead comes in several guises and here are just a few.
The Backstabber: Whether it’s spreading malicious trivial gossip or blaming other people for their own poor performance, having one of these in your workplace means you’ll need eyes in the back of your head.
The Brown Noser: The shameless attention-seeker who poisons the atmosphere and does anything to suck up to the boss. Frustratingly, those in charge fail to see through this blatant charade and the brown-noser always seems to succeed stealing the most coveted jobs and promotions from more deserving employees.
The (deluded) Alpha Male/Female: They might think they’re driven and talented, but they’re not. They’re bossy and just want to be in charge. And if you get in their way, you’ll regret it.
The Stirrer: always making trouble, if you’ve got a meddlesome gossip on board, the team will suffer.
The Unwelcome Flirt: OK, some people like a little flirting at work, but this guy or girl doesn’t know where to stop. And that's when it becomes harassment.
The Lazy One: when someone won’t do their share, both individuals and the team can get resentful about carrying them.
The Misery Guts / Drama Queen: some people are never happy, while others are continually in crisis – and neither are shy about sharing their grumbles with you.
You could spend your entire life devising ways of disarming the backstabber or taking on the brown noser at their own game but it’s not you and besides, if they make you change your behaviour, then they’ve won.
Better to accept that, in most cases, your workmates aren’t your friends, they’re colleagues who will be in your life for a finite amount of time before you or they move on.
Once you come to realise that, then the power they have over you lessens and they don’t seem important any more.