There’s this guy at work. You know the type: that person who seems to exist only to make your job more difficult. We’ve all got someone like this in our lives; maybe someone with a bad temper or unrealistic expectations. My guy’s not like that — he’s nice enough, people get along with him; but whenever he shows up, he causes some mess I end up having to clean up.
If there’s a big, complicated project, he’s the guy who drops the ball, overlooking some detail and having me running around at the last minute to plug the hole. When my team heads out to make a presentation, he’s the one who realizes when we arrive that he’s forgotten to bring the handouts — and I’m the one who has to run back to the office to get them. He’s the guy who didn’t read the memo, who misplaced his notes, who is still putting together the document two minutes before it has to go out. And while his antics have an impact on everyone he works with, I usually end up bearing the brunt.
I don’t want to exaggerate. I don’t actually see this guy all that often. At least, not anymore. We used to work together all the time. In fact, when I was a practicing attorney, we were in the same firm, and to me he played advocate’s devil. I don’t know how many times the good work I did was torpedoed by some lapse on his part. Back then, a good day was a day when I didn’t run into this guy.
What really steamed me back then was: people were always mistaking him for me! There I was, trying to make a good impression as the magna cum laude J.D. with solid writing and research skills, and my co-workers thought I was this disorganized dolt who missed details and deadlines.
I don’t think that guy was happy being a lawyer, but I know I wasn’t happy having to work with him. When I stopped practicing and instead started managing, educating, and advising other attorneys, one of the greatest pleasures about my new work was not having to work with that guy any more. Sure, he was still around, and I would occasionally bump into him, rushing late to a meeting or searching vainly for a lost business card. Exasperating as ever, but not really part of my life any more. Thank goodness.
Or at least that’s what I thought. Maybe what I wanted to think. Turns out, he’s followed me here. As I said, I still don’t see him that often — not as often as I used to — but lately . . . yeah, he’s dropped in unexpectedly. Usually, of course, when I am very, very busy, when I can least afford to see him. And ignoring him doesn’t help; if anything, when I don’t pay attention to him, he shows up more.
I’m glad I don’t see him every day any more, but I wish I never saw him at all. He is exhausting and embarrassing and infuriating, and sometimes when he visits I honestly, literally wish he would just die. Of course, that is not really a plausible option. No, I’ve pretty much accepted that the best I can do is to anticipate his gaffes and pre-emptively forestall them. Figure out what he’s likely to forget or lose or overlook, and write it down or put it in a safe place or set a reminder for it before the damage is done. An ounce of prevention and all that.
It’s tiring and annoying and humbling to have to be on my toes like this all the time, but at least I have one advantage. I know how this guy thinks.