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An intern's field guide to workplace animals


Everywhere across the country, the summer interns are arriving - fresh-faced, brimming with enthusiasm, eager to learn - like lambs to the slaughter.

Over the next several months they will, under the guise of obtaining real-world experience, be asked to perform tasks so menial that even the best colleges have not adequately prepared them. How one survives the summer internship - and lives to exaggerate the experience on a resume - depends in no small part on an ability to negotiate office politics and personalities.

To summer interns everywhere, we in the work world say, "Welcome." And now, here's the lowdown on some of the people you will inevitably be working with:

The gossip: This person knows, or thinks she knows, everything about everyone and lives to tell what she has sworn not to reveal. The key to working with the gossip is to not believe or repeat anything she tells you, and to never, ever confide anything personal to her.

The loser: He won't be that much older than you, but will seem kind of cool in comparison to college guys (even ones who can make beer come out of their nose). Sure, the loser may have a new car, and he may not even still live with his parents, but the question you have to ask yourself about him is this: Why, after five years, is he still in charge of making the coffee?

The toady: Contrary to popular belief, the most effective way to identify these individuals is not by the color or condition of their noses. Sycophancy has become much more sophisticated.

While all toadies differ slightly in approach, they all tend to believe the boss actually knows what he or she is doing (a notion you will soon discover for yourself to be absurd).

The lech: This guy believes he is God's gift to women, and who knows, maybe he was 20 years ago. Unfortunately (for you) he thinks young women find middle-aged men such as himself irresistible. Forget subtlety in dealing with this guy. Tell him straight out that you have rules against dating men older than your father, or men who don't grow their own hair.

The know-it-all: He or she will be helpful while you are still learning the ropes, but after you grasp how things are done - such as filing alphabetically - this person will get on your nerves.

The disgruntor: These individuals take negativity to a new level. They see only the bad, rarely, if ever the good. They hate their job, the company, the boss and, in short order, they will hate you.

The delegator: If this person is put in charge of you, prepare to work long and hard because he or she will not only ask you to perform the job you were hired to do, but his or her job as well. (If this person then takes credit for the work you are doing, well, welcome to the real world.)

Mr. or Ms. Annoying: These individuals have no friends at work, the main reason being they possess the bubbly personality of a game-show contestant. Beware, they will latch onto you like a suction cup.

The nitwit: This guy or gal doesn't do any work when the boss is out of the office, and then can never figure out how the boss knows he or she wasn't doing anything. The real-world lesson here is that people who are forced to do your work because you aren't doing it do not suffer for long in silence.

One final note: The above descriptions represent a relatively small portion of the work force; the vast majority of your co-workers will probably just ignore you.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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