7. Bringing a deadweight up to speed.
“Once when I was in school I was in a meeting with a few other summer associates getting an assignment from a more-senior member of the firm. During the meeting, one of the people I was working with on the project ate two bags of Cheetos and covered all the documents in orange Cheetos fingerprints. I think she was mentally unbalanced.”
Unfortunately, albatross collaborators don’t always oblige your anxiety by having flaws or Cheetos habits so obvious that no one could possibly hold you responsible. If simply doing their job for them and begging to never be assigned to work with them again isn’t feasible, you’ll have to take one for the team—from yourself. Return from a meeting with your supervisor in a conspicuously downbeat mood, and then explain it by grimly—yet collegially—describing how badly you just got chewed out, and what serious trouble you’ll be in if everyone doesn’t start working harder.
8. Owning up to mistakes.
“I was supposed to put together this huge chart. My immediate boss signed off on three different drafts, but when I pulled together the final draft for the head guy, a notorious asshole, I had written ‘council’ when it should have said ‘counsel.’ He came running out of his office like ‘This org chart is shit! Who did this? Does he know how to spell?’ I had only been there a month, so someone told him my name. And he yelled, ‘His name is Shit!’ So I changed it to ‘counsel.’ ”
Obviously, the sanest response to someone going nuts because you made a single spelling mistake is to find a new employer, which is what actually happened here. But if no one had ratted out the beleaguered org-chart compiler, and if his boss had been a little less of a loon, it’s possible he could have rectified the situation with a standard two-tiered apology system: a public admission of guilt followed by a not-too-supplicatory e-mail to the wronged party outlining very briefly what should have been done. (“In the future, I will strive to avoid the confusion of homonyms.”) And if Mr. Shit (not his real name) had not in fact been responsible for the error, the most honorable approach would have been to fill in the actual culprit on what happened and leave him the choice of narking on himself.
9. Working with mooks.
“All my boss talks about is how many girls he fucked in college. And he always says things to his office friends like ‘I wish I didn’t have a girlfriend; I’d totally fuck her’—referring to some girl who just walked by—‘Maybe you should fuck her! But make sure she doesn’t do coke. Girls who do coke have STDs.’ ”
One non-litigious method of keeping superiors from making crass comments in your presence is to fake a type-A personality. If you come across as all business all the time, offending colleagues will think of you as a nerd not worth including in their banter—no great loss in this case.
Contributors: Ariel Brewster, Jonah Green, Jocelyn Guest, Kai Ma, Paul Tullis, and Rachel Wolff.