The other day, just as I was about to go to bed, I noticed a cockroach on the floor next to my bed. Now my usual reaction to this scenario would involve a blood-curdling scream to which one could only assume that the girl from The Ring and the girl from The Exorcist were both in my room doing neck-twisting, long-dark-straggly-hair-in-the-face, weird scary shit. But on this occasion, I decided to be brave and leave it be - it was in a position of vulnerability (me being approximately 1,000,000,000 times larger than it) and I hoped that it would eventually just hobble away into a dark space out of my frame of vision. To my dismay, the cockroach did not comply and proceeded to crawl up the wall. Still determined to maintain some level of calm, I convinced myself that it would now just crawl out the window and leave me be. Then the unthinkable happened. Halfway crawling up the wall, the cockroach FLEW onto my bed (yes apparently the Comedy Festival decided to have its opening gala in my bedroom and for the feature act someone thought it would be hilarious to give the most obnoxious insect in the world, wings so that it could fly into bed with me. Oh the hilarity!). Anyway given the pitch of my scream, I’m pretty sure I momentarily spoke to dolphins and bats across the world in sonar (stupid fucking mammals didn’t respond either). But the fact remained that the cockroach was on my bed and I wasn’t. It was then and there that I had to resign myself to the fact that for the next few days, the cockroach could have the bed and I would take the couch. And just like that the cockroach, with minimal effort on its own part, took what was rightfully mine.
But this story is sadly not limited to my bedroom. It’s an all too familiar situation – you realise that sometimes in life you just need to work hard. So you do. You work hard then you’re paid a bit more and recognised a bit more. You continue to work hard. You get paid a bit more and are recognised even a bit more. But at the same time as you are working hard, there’s always someone working about 50% less but somehow managing to get to the same place as you – getting paid the same and getting recognised as much as you. They’re the corporate ladder climber who apparently gets to have the ladder placed on the ground so they can just walk up the rungs with zero effort. Dyson has contacted them to discuss how they can improve the suction in their vacuum cleaners given this person has the best sucking up power they have ever witnessed. If they were members of the Australian cricket team, they would be the talentless cricketer (*erhm Glenn Maxwell*) who would choose to do no practice and instead hire Jerry Bruckheimer to produce a cricket-ball-explosion-filled, feature length film for the coach about why they should be in the team. These people are the scourge of society – they are the work cockroach: The person who with minimal effort and talent but armed with incredible staying power, manages to not only remain employed but progress up the ladder without actually doing anything.
Every organisation is plagued by this pest, but unfortunately any sort of pest control is futile and only leaves you with a weird lingering smell and a weariness of your increased chance of cancer. They’re agile and know just when to jump onto projects, when to speak up to unfairly claim credit, and when to stay silent when they’ve done something wrong but can pass the blame onto someone else. When there’s arse to be licked, you can almost guarantee that they’ll be the first tongue in line. They have an uncanny ability to get promoted and paid for doing nothing but sitting there – yep literally just sitting there. And it’s this staying power that their true likeness to cockroaches emerges – amazingly a lot of these types have managed to survive an event of nuclear proportions such as the GFC with a job.
But whilst some may argue that this is just the way of the corporate world and that they’re just testament to the ‘fake it till you make it’ philosophy, this is where the real problem arises. Once they do ‘make it’ through doing absolutely nothing but remaining steadfast in their seat, noisily sipping on coffee, throwing in the odd ‘sigh’ to make it seem like they’re under pressure but really that sigh is due to a contractor coming back with the wrong colour of bathroom tile on their home renovations, and using their kids as an excuse to leave early – they may have ‘made it’ but they still fucking suck at their jobs. And it’s this incompetence that irks me the most about the work cockroach. As a junior you not only have to put up with the fact that someone so grossly incompetent is in charge of you, but you have to support them, hold their hands and explain everything – suddenly those days as a Finance 101 tutor become handy (actually forget Finance 101, for some people I’ve had to work for, it’s more like Grade 2 BODMAS tutoring). Then the worst is by supporting them you are actually just enabling them to continue their charade and those higher never discover that they could replace this person with a cocktail umbrella on a chair and that would add more value.
I just don’t get how these people survive disasters relatively unscathed. Why is sucking up, gross incompetence, avoidance of work and just staying power rewarded? How can they just go through life happy to be that guy who has no skills but for shameless self-promotion? Whilst some may say that these people get found out, the fact is that they never do. They somehow manage to neither improve on their incompetence nor get fired for it – they just stay, taking up a seat, not contributing anything but formatting changes.
I’ve seen these types develop from a young age, when they’re just little cockroach eggs, waiting and waiting for their chance to take credit for someone else’s work, justifying it as their own because they changed the font. They don’t have or care to have any skills and instead steadily work on their sucking up – at firm events, you won’t find them being normal talking to colleagues, no, you’ll find them following senior directors around like a puppy dog hoping that eventually they’ll take notice of the fact that they’ve learnt to do poos and wees outside and congratulate them for it. It’s just disgusting – and when they do reach mid-level management, they’ve spent so much time sucking up and not developing any skills or relationships with their colleagues, that they just become an absolute joke.
But the fact is, even if they are a joke they’re still a pest and you need to squash them when they’re young and not allow them to grow and breed. I think it’s about time that I man up, confront my fear of the cockroach, get my shoe and squash it. Or if that doesn’t work, the next time a work cockroach tries to give me work, just scream and jump on the table.