September 28, 2004

More thoughts on Bartleby

Recently, I came across an article about office politics that brought to mind “Bartleby the Scrivener”. Sara and some others commented on her blog that it was “unbelievable” that the narrator put up with the idiosyncrasies of Nippers, Turkey and later Bartleby. Believe it! There are companies, particularly small ones that are filled with strange people, annoying people– even people who do little work yet are kept on.
Peter Vogt writes in his article “Fly Under the Radar to Absorb Delicate Office Politics”: There’s a good reason that the comic strip Dilbert is so wildly popular in workplaces around the world. Many of the situations portrayed in the strip are, unfortunately, real in many organizations.” He observes, “How you understand and deal with those people and relationships, and the myriad issues that emerge when those people and relationships collide, will almost certainly influence whether your work experience is good or bad.”
In Bartlelby the Scrivener, the narrator seems to have mastered the art of office politics until Bartleby arrives. He understands well the personalities of his co-workers and finds a balance that allows the office to function more or less harmoniously: “When Nippers’ was on, Turkey’s was off; and vice versa. This was a good natural arrangement under the circumstances.”
The narrator knows it’s not perfect but it works. The conflict in the story of course is that Bartleby becomes the element that doesn’t work and upsets the balance. The narrator’s political skills have no effect on him at all and the morale of the office begins to decline.
Nippers and Turkey become frustrated with Bartleby’s refusal to be a team player, or any kind of player. Nippers threatens: “I think I should kick him out of the office.” Even in the real world, it can take some time to get rid of a bad apple. Sometimes you just have to try to work around it or look for another job.

Posted by LindaFondrk at September 28, 2004 03:18 PM

Have you seen the movie "Office Space"? Bartleby is a kind of Mumbling Marvin...

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 29, 2004 12:02 AM

No, I haven't seen "Office Space", but I think I'll go rent it! The company my husband works for, (and shall remain anonymous) is so dysfunctional their private motto is: "We make money in spite of ourselves!" His boss is so non-confrontational that he cannot bear to discipline or fire anyone!

Posted by: Linda Fondrk at September 29, 2004 09:50 AM
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