This week, editors Jennifer Wright and Ashley Cardiff meant to discuss dealing with the office underminer. They squished the conversation into a Star Wars-shaped box and then made jokes about gutting each other.
Jennifer: So there’s this line in Horrible Bosses, which is actually quite clever and true. The character says “my Grandmother came here from [someplace] penniless, worked really hard and never took shit from anyone. When she died, she had $2,000 in her bank account. That sucks. Do you know why she only had $2,000? Because a big part of being successful is taking shit from people.” Which is inevitable, in work and in life. So. How do you deal with that without being a spineless jellyfish?
Ashley: We have to define our terms, Jennifer. Not everything one dislikes doing is “taking shit.” You have to perform plenty of undesirable tasks at any level. I thought we were arguing about people who impede you and undermine you professionally. Which, I guess, if that’s what you’re doing… is pretty clever.
Jennifer: Oh. I thought that everyone who ever made me do anything I didn’t want to do was “out to get me.” So I’ve been working on killing them with these telekenetic eye-beam powers I’ve been developing. That’s… not the case?
Ashley: No. Weirdly, sometimes things you don’t like are good for you. Like vegetables when you’re little, or calculus, or a non-glamorous foreign language.
Jennifer: Like Latin! I am going to stop trying to crush those people with my mind then, maybe! (But it was still cool when Darth Vader did that). (And Carrie)
Ashley: Darth Vader didn’t crush anyone with anything.
Jennifer: Yes he did. With his mind. Darth Vader didn’t take shit. Isn’t it weird how, as an 8 year old, you just inherently know to side with the rebels? But as a grown up…
Ashley: You’re sick. You can’t side with Vader.
Jennifer: Sure you can! Doesn’t that go along with being more willing to deal with bureaucracy and take shit for the sake of potential power? Presumably, no young acolyte is like “yeah, I really like what the dark side is doing karmically, I just want to give back.” But thousands of storm troopers will be mindlessly mowed down and deal with their shitty uniforms because they’re holding out for something cool, some position at the top of the pyramid. It’s a lot like a law firm, really.
Ashley: I hate to go with the apocrypha here, but stormtroopers are clones. They don’t yearn for something more. Wanting to be greater than your station requires a soul. Or ruthless ambition. One of those two.
Jennifer: Vader was no clone. Palpatine was no clone. That monster that ate the garbage? That was no clone. There’s your working man. There. Garbage monster. Taking all the shit.
Ashley: THE DIANOGA.
Jennifer: POSSSESOR OF A DIVINE SOUL.
Ashley: Okay, this conversation already happened in the movie Clerks and if I don’t point it out, a commenter will. So. Dealing with people you hate at work. Sucks.
Jennifer: Right. Are we talking about people who seriously do undermine you? I mean, I’d take Tina Fey’s advice and say “Over! Under! Through!”
Ashley: How is that advice? Those are just words with exclamation points.
Jennifer: Her advice is a reference to the old Sesame Street video where they illustrated those concepts by having toddlers crawl through construction sites. So. You can go “over”. Talk to the boss.You can go “under”. Talk to whoever is working for them who probably hates them as well, and see if you can find solidarity or at least some sort of stress relief bitching buddy. Or you can go “through” by… She didn’t explain that part. By tunneling… a hole… in their stomach. A big one.
Ashley: Clearly she means eviscerating them and crawling through the intestines. I mean, right? It’s Tina Fey. She’s wacky.
Jennifer: Waving their intestines around like Garbage Monster!
Ashley: Cracking them like moistened whips.
Jennifer: I think people like saying they hate the word moist more than they actually hate it. You know?
Ashley: I KNOW. WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?
Jennifer: Like, sometimes, things are legitimately moist. Like the intestines of your disemboweled co-worker.
Ashley: Every time I make a HILARIOUS JOKE about, I dunno, dicks or something, something hilarious, and use the word “moist” some fucking underminer is always like, “Ugh, I hate that word. Don’t say that word.”
Jennifer: Okay. Let’s take that as example of our workplace problem. Undermining assholes like that. How to deal? Over under through?
Ashley: Not saying moist?
Jennifer: Actually… maybe the garbage monster is… happy. NO! WE WILL DISCUSS A PERTINENT TOPIC AND HELP PEOPLE TODAY I’M TRYING SO HARD TO STAY ON TOPIC. I’m having trouble with this because I think maybe there is no good way to deal with underminey people that you HAVE to deal with. Unless you want to be mature and talk to them and really hash things out? Which is okay if they’re an equal, impossible if they’re you’re boss.
Ashley: Okay. Dealing with office underminers. I feel like the best way to deal with it is say nothing and do nothing, and then let the bitterness build over time, so much that the resentment becomes an all-comsuming, irrational hatred and then, at the smallest, slightest tone in the underminer’s voice, you explode in a blaze of swearwords and tears, try to explain your outrage to a suprior through inarticulate sobs and then go downstairs and eat a pack of cigarettes.
Jennifer: Oh. Well, that works, too.
Ashley: It’s how I deal with you.
Jennifer: I have 7 cigarettes in my belly right now, usurper!
Ashley: I’m gonna cut em out of you! “Through!”
Jennifer: I’m going under! UNDER TO SEE MY FRIEND GARBAGE MONSTER! WE WILL DESTROY YOU WITH OUR SOULS.
Ashley: YOU CAN BE HAPPY TOGETHER. EATING GARBAGE. BEING TRASH COMPACTER SQUIDS. YOU ALMOST ATE THE HOPE OF THE REPUBLIC, YOU TOTAL, THOUGHTLESS ASSHOLE.
Jennifer: Han Solo… had nothing to live for, right? He’s a guy who never took shit from anyone. And he died a miserable failure, right?
Ashley: No, pretty sure Han Solo has been immortalized as the brightest constellation in the cultural firmament, had sex with Leia, didn’t get weird in the novelizations (Luke has sex with a ghost in one) and had the best pants.
Jennifer: I don’t know what I lied there. I was grasping at straws. I mean, is it better to be like Han, then? If someone so much as raises an eyebrow at you should you just punch them in the face? Because I think we should be trying to find a middle ground. But Han is obviously the most appealing character. The character everyone wants to be. Except for Jabba because being Jabba would just be eating and having sex and being happy, I think. Jabba envies no one.
Ashley: OH MAN. Being Jabba would be the best. You aren’t all constrained by societal norms about beauty, you just get to sit on your stylish, modern obesity dias (obesidias?) with your sex slaves until they become recalcitrant and stop touching your weird fleshy dick and then you get to feed them to monsters! In your living room. That’s better than Two & A Half Men, I’d wager!
Jennifer: I’d double that wager!
Ashley: It’s a gentleman’s wager now! Sex slaves! Monsters! Fleshy dicks! OVER UNDER THROUGH ALL AT ONCE
Jennifer: Oh my God, so true. Wait! Jabba is the perfect example of someone who worked his way up through the ranks of an organization to become successful. I mean, he gives the indication of liking nice things and being pretty intelligent and ambitious. You have to figure that he took shit from his kingpin leaders initially, as a young… thing. But eventually, he rose through the Mafia ranks and took control of the organization. Now, that probably took a lot of time and pride swallowing but Jabba kept his eye on the prize and won. Han Solo also won and did not take shit from anyone, but he seems like a special case because he is A) very lucky and B) absolutely brilliant. I mean, he piloted that thing in 12 parsecs! If you have a super-talent, you get more asshole leeway.
Ashley: You’re finding a middle ground!
Jennifer: I think, and this might be an odd thing to say, but in this case, Jabba is the more admirable of the two. Han just got lucky with his crazy pilot talent.
Ashely: Yes! Moreover, the trilogy’s example of someone who just skulks around, taking shit, getting stepped on and beaten on and patronized and being weak is Luke and he, I guess, represents Jesus. So. This all checks out. Because he ends up being the most powerful.
Jennifer: No one wants to be Luke, why are you bringing him into this? OH. Weird. Forget about him, I hate that theory. Through! So, if you’re going to play it like Han, make sure you are so crazy smart and talented people will put up with it. Otherwise, playing it like Jabba can pay off big. LITERALLY. (‘Cause he’s obese)
Ashley: And, Jen. If you bide your time and take shit and bite your tongue, you’ll eventually get to take your place as a hero apparition on that tree branch at the end of Jedi. “The corporate ladder.”
Jennifer: I think if you’re holding out “it will better in the next life” – like if death and the afterlife is the best you’ve got to hope – you should quit your job. I’m putting that out there.
Ashley: Yes, because Star Wars is a Christian parable. Han represents paganism.
Jennifer: I think this went to a place beyond “your co-worker said something mean about you, how do you handle it?” Yes?
Ashley: Eviscerate people while thinking about Star Wars.
Jennifer: I mean, make Jabba the Hutt jokes with your buddy for like an hour until the hurt and resentment fades?
Ashley: You are not my friend. “THROUGH”
Jennifer: What matters isn’t that you ripped out my intestines, but that your comment ripped out my heart.
Ashley: I’m like Jabba! …Going places.