The Worst Co-Worker Ever - Read And Weep For Me

You all think you have the worst co-workers on earth. Ha. I spit on your meaningless bellyaching. I have the worst co-worker in the history of civilization. I have a co-worker who makes the Egyptian guys who whipped the slaves building the Pyramids look like Albert Schweitzer. I have a coworker who oozes evil from every pore. I have a coworker whose incompetence, rudeness, stupidity and insanity defies expression in any human language. You see, I have Al. (Not his real name.)

I was assigned to work with Al two months ago. Al, basically, is the scheduling manager for our company; it is the nature of this company that we have many workers travelling around visiting our many thousands of customers to perform periodic audits, so scheduling is an important function. I was reassigned to this function because - to be quite frank - it’s a total disaster area and they needed someone to help fix it. But alas, this means I have to work with Al.

Al is hated throughout the company. He is despised, loathed, detested. His very name is cursed. Nobody else will work with him. Here is a sampling of actual quotes from other co-workers when they learned I would be working with Al. I swear none of these quotes are made up:

“You will suffer a fate worse than death.”
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry.”
“Are you sure you can’t transfer to another office?”
“You won’t last four months.”
“Maybe you could kill him. You’ll certainly want to.”
“Is there anything I can do?”

I moved in next to Al in March. Within hours, I was praying for death. I don’t think I could adequately explain Al in any words available in the English language; Al must be experienced to be believed. Nonetheless, I will try.

Al is a small, horrible-looking man who as near I can tell wears either the same black suit every day or wears an identical suit every day. He even wears this suit on casual day. I have never seen him dressed in anything else. Al looks quite a bit like a beetle. His voice is worse. Al’s voice is surely the most horrible sound human ears can detect, an irritating, whining, drawling, sort-of-French-accented mewling that bypasses the frontal lobe and goes straight to the hypothalamus to trigger the KILL KILL KILL instinct buried deep within the brain. It defies any accurate description or imitation; if you can imagine the voices of “The Whiners” from Saturday Night Live combined with Reese Witherspoon from “Legally Blonde” combined with Urkel combined with the tortured shrieks of children trapped in a burning school bus, you will have approximated a voice about 5% as irritating as Al’s voice. In addition to its distinctively awful tone, Al is one of those people who voice has the property of always sounding phony and insincere no matter what he’s saying, even if it’s true.

To work with Al, to attempt to accomplish anything in cooperation with him, is to turn every little detail into an eternal, Sisyphian ordeal. It is impossible to engage in a conversation with Al, for this would imply the exchange of concepts and emotions to gain understanding. Nothing can be communicated to Al, nor can anything be gleaned from him. When Al speaks, it is not so much a conversation as it is a sort of performance art, a kind of avant-garde theatrical presentation consisting entirely of Al giving a random-train-of-consciousness monologue. No clear or connected ideas are presented in Al’s monologues, but the random data always rotates around four basic themes:

  1. Poor, Poor Al
  2. Al Is So Overworked
  3. Nobody Understands Al
  4. Al Knows All

Al is incapable of expressing any thought in less than five times the amount of time and verbiage it would take a normal human. Any task that would take you or I five minutes to accomplish will take him fifteen, or if it involved interaction with a human, thirty. Al regularly holds meetings with our auditors that should take about twenty minutes; his meetings take two hours. As our auditors are graded on the percentage of their time they spend doing billable work, you can imagine how these meetings must thrill them. Here is an actual conversation Al had with someone yesterday, while I sat here pitying his victim. Once again, I swear I’m not making this up:

VICTIM: Al, I just wanted to know if we had an auditor near Milwaukee.
AL: Yes, we do. We have John Smith. When do you need him? I can check his schedule. It’ll just take ten minutes. Do you want me to block off some time?
VICTIM: No, I just wanted to know if we had someone near Milwaukee, thanks.
AL: Here’s his schedule, did you need him in July? Let’s see, the week of July 21 is pretty busy, but we can fit his in for July 7 or 14. The previous week is no good because July 4 is a holiday in the United States. But here it’s a holiday on July 1. But we had a designated floater on June 30. We can put him in for July 7, how many days is it? I’m not sure if the system is updated though. We should get him on a conference call (Hits the speakerphone button)
VICTIM: I don’t know when the audit is. I just needed a name close to Milwaukee for the proposal. Thank you.
AL: Now wait a second, we can figure this out, he lives in Buttville, did you want to know how far it is? Here, I’ll bring up Mapquest, do you use MapQuest? The address is, here, I’ll write it down for you so you can use it too, I find there are so many useful tools on the Internet, you know, I’ve really gathered a lot of tools I can use in this job. We’re really swamped, you know, I’ve got so much work to do here, there’s just so much to do. (Phony laugh) Hopefully the new system will help. I made a lot of suggestions, because we need some extra tools here. We can clear his schedule but it’s going to be very hard because we don’t have enough resources and I’m doing so much work…
VICTIM: Thanks, I just needed his name, bye.
AL: (Calling after her) No, don’t leave! I just wanted to help! (ACTUAL QUOTE)

In addition to his babbling and rambling, Al has no interpersonal skills or awareness of his being a member of society. He is certainly the loudest office worker to ever exist. He uses a paper shredder to shred every single document he ever disposes of, even flyers and brochures, despite the fact that the Safe-T-Shred box is literally ten feet from his cubicle. He uses the speakerphone for everything, including his voice mail. He rambles about personal matters of no interest to anyone. He regularly asks me to talk to customers to see if I can get them to do business for his friends. (I invariably say no.) Al is, to be quite honest, a living Dilbert cartoon; he has all the worst properties of Wally, Hammerhead Bob, and Carl the Cubicle Dweller. Except for the shape of Bob’s head, that’s not the slightest bit of exaggerration. Al denies and contradicts anything that anyone else says, no matter how true or simple. This is especially bad with respect to any problem with the IT system, because Al has convinced himself he is the world’s greatest computer genius, even though he’s not aprt of IT and knows nothing about it:

AL: Rick, could you print up a three-month summary report?
ME: No, Al, print it yourself, I’ve got some jobs running. Besides, the reporting function is down.
AL: No, I don’t thiiiiink so, you probably did it wrong. (Actual wording he has used.)
ME: Al, I did it the same way I do it every single day. An error message came up. I called IT and they said it was down. And they sent out an E-mail message saying “the reporting function is down.” You got a copy of that E-mail.
AL: I haven’t got that far ahead in my E-mails, I have so much to do. But I’m sure it works. You have to click this and then click that, then click this, then click that…
ME: Yes. Yes. Yes. I know, Al, it doesn’t work. It’s down. Read your E-mail.
AL: (Comes over to my cubicle) Here, click this, then click that (reaches for mouse)
ME: Al, I’m doing some other things right now. Go try to print it on your computer!
(Five minutes pass)
AL: Rick, the reporting function seems to be broken. I called IT and asked them to fix it. We’re really swamped with work right now? And we need all the help we can get?
ME: Al, I know, I just told you… oh, forget it.

I really wish I was exaggerating. I’m not. Actually, for space I’m leaving out some of his more irrelevant rambling. When it was announced we were getting a new admin assistant and I went to him - I do make an honest effort to work with the man - and asked him “Al, what basic tasks would you like to assign to the new assistant?” he spoke for FORTY FIVE MINUTES and never answered the question. yesterday we had a contract auditor in. He has a total of three (3) audits schedule for the next 12 months, and they were already scheduled. It took Al TWO HOURS to go over them.

Al has screwed up the scheduling function so badly that it’s become a blight on the company I am only now beginning to unravel. He has absolutely no sense of prioritization. Jobs in December are worked on now while a job due next week goes unregarded. Al has no system or process for determining the importance of anything, nor does he have any particular system or process for communicating the status of any project, auditor, or task. Everything is written on a gigantic mess of notes and crap buried in his cubicle in a sort of randomly generated Al-system more complex and indecipherable than an Enigma machine. Al has the habit of attempting to grapple with the entire thing all at once, which of course means that nothing is accomplished. The idea of simply prioritizing jobs and disposing of each task one by one in an attempt to start reducing the backlog never occurs to him. It’s worsened by the fact that he takes forever to do anything. He even takes a single task and breaks it down into illogically determined parts. If an auditor sends him a schedule with nine conflicts or errors, he will send them an indecipherable E-mail asking for clarification on one conflict, then will wait two days and send a second E-mail about Conflict #2, and so on. It drives them absolutely batshit.

Unfortunately, my efforts to help Al are being stymied by Al. Al is utterly, unswervingly convinced that only his way of doing things is the right way. And when I say his way, I mean HIS WAY. He has attempted to make me use his preferred colour of file folders, his preferred format of E-mails, his preferred method of writing notes, his preferred way of affixing stickers to memos, his preferred way of typing information into spreadsheets, his preferred way of organization everything, right down to what order to stack sheets of paper in. No meaningless, irrelevant detail is too small for Al to try to force everyone else to do it his way. If we have a companywide meeting Al will raise his hand and ramble for thirty minutes about Doing Things the Al Way, which of course had the rest of the company yawning and checking their watches and openly mocking the poor guy behind his back. Not that his preferred way of doing anything has any basis in company policy or common sense. Of coruse I have ignored him and attempted to do things efficiently - I technically outrank Al, so despite his efforts to tell me what to do I’m not obliged to listen to him - but the problem this raises is that he will attempt to redo anything I or anyone else does. His possessiveness about responsibility over this function makes a mother bear defending her cubs look apathetic by comparison. He tried to thwart anything that anyone else does that even hints of scheduling, even though according to his job description and our SOPs, he job is merely to assist other people doing their scheduling. So I have to avoid informing him when I do things, or else make sure they’re so finalized he can’t change them, but this has, as you would expect, a negative impact on the department as a whole.

So why, you may ask, has Al not been fired? Eh, well, they never fire anyone here for doing anything short of outright larceny. But sooner or later there will be nobody left to work with him.

I’m not waiting that long. On Thursday I’ve arranged some time with my boss. Either I get physically moved to another area and our roles are pushed apart, or I want new duties. Or they move him. And if they won’t do either, I’m outta here… the resumes are already going out.

I am so sorry!!!

I’m so sorry. I suggest napalm. It’s the only way to be sure.

Stick his tie in the shredder.

While he’s wearing it.

I have a coworker similar in irritatingness (no, not the Incompetent Flirt, another one). He can make a five-minute task take two days. He delegates when it’s not his business to do so, and claims the resultant work as his own. When charged with the simplest of tasks he manages to involve three departments, and if left ot his own devices, he simply fails to deliver. Never reads emails, and ‘forgets’ to send them, or accuses other people of having accidentally deleted the mail he allegedly sent.

What always bugs me is the same question - how do people like this retain their jobs? OK, RickJay works in an office where nobody gets fired. But they do get fired in my place. Does this guy have incriminating pictures of the CEO? Has he got a very clever contract? Or (more probably) has Management simply not noticed how awful he is?

My commiserations.

Just be glad he’s not your boss. How was someone this incompetent ever made a “manager” of any stripe? My faith in the rationality of the business world is shaken yet AGAIN.

Man, RickJay, my heart goes out to you. You could almost use Al as a Way Not To Work–if you’re doing any of the things Al’s doing, you need professional help.

And, no, these people do not get fired, even in the non-corporate environment which I inhabit. At my last fundraising job, my Idiot Boss did no work whatsoever for about six months, other than wheeze on for eons at senior staff meetings on “what this college should be doing” and make snide, offensive comments about other co-workers behind their backs. When I left the college, I brought documentation to the college president which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had not solicited a single major gift during her entire stay. She is still working there, nine months later.

Clearly this guy is some new bastard form of humanity. He needs to be taken out of the wild immediately for intensive study and dissection! He could be worth millions to the company’s bio-weapons division! Can you imagine 100,000 clones of this guy dropped into the lands of the enemies of the United States? Or we could just send them to “help” the terrorists!

Or, I could use them to further my own quest for ultimate power! I could send millions of clones of this creature into the world and in just a few days have presidents and kings climbing over each other to surrender their nations to me!

I must have this specimen! RickJay, all I need is a name and an address and your suffering will be over… and my domination of the world can begin! <Evil Genius Laugh>

Rick, that description was detailed enough for me to make a firm diagnosis. Al is mildly autistic. OK… so I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty certain.

This guy sounds worse than the slug I had to work for at the “Really Big Shite Corporation” a while back. A complete and total Asshole named Bob. No, actually, thats not true. His name was Ron.

**Nothing **that came out of his mouth was worth the breath it took to slide it past his greasy lips. He spent much time in the bathroom and always took his “napsack” with him when he went. He would fall asleep in his cubicle, and when I walked in one day and startled him awake, he says, “Oh! I was just thinking!” Yeah, right. The last thought you had was “I think I’ll have another donut.”

I did do something that I have no regrets about before leaving that horrid place. I had to find some reports buried on his desk one day. It was a Sunday, and not too many people were around. I’m digging thru piles of shit on his desk and I’m finding expense reports that this dickwad should have signed for his team members to get re-embursed over 3 months ago! There are stacks of vacation requests that have gone ignored for an equal length of time. I was so pissed off at this spode for not doing his damn job that I took a whole stack of the vacation forms and shreaded them. I knew this dickhead was far too lazy to reconcile with HR at the end of the year, and as a result, a couple of the harder working folk on his team (including one lady who he had doing virtually ALL his work) got a fat check for un-used vacation pay.

So sue me! :smiley:

[paraphrasing Office Space]

“They took my stapler. I had a Bostitch stapler, and they took it and gave me a Swingline stapler. I swear, if they don’t give me my stapler back, I’ll…I’ll blow up the building.”

[/paraphrasing Office Space]

You have my deepest sympathies.


I worked for a guy who was nearly as obnoxious as Al. Every single comment was prefaced with “Here’s how I would do it.” And every comment was followed by “And that’s how I would do it.” If the guy wrote a memo, he would hand deliver it to each recipient (small company) and then STAND OVER THEM AND READ IT ALOUD even while they had the damn thing in their hands. I think that if I had to repeat that work experience, I would probably just kill the guy—he exhausted my meager supply of patience. You really have my sympathy and I hope you can aleviate the situation without resorting to violence.

Actually, he sounds more despicably pathetic than downright evil. Annoying as hell, to be sure, but not in a premeditated way. I weep for both of you!

RickJay You have four options, as I see it:

  1. wish you were dead
  2. wish he was dead (ala Douglas Adams)
  3. use this experience to write a witty yet savage book with Al as one of the main characters
  4. since you cannot get fired, make his life a living hell, absolute nightmare, so that you either drive him to the looney bin, or have yourself transfered.

Find some way to get a phone sex hotline to call him at his work phone in the middle of the night and leave some messages. Oughta be good for a couple laughs the next time he checks his email with the speakerphone on.


Sorry, that was my hypothalamus talking.

And people continue to wonder why physical torture is still debated at these boards.

Avabeth, I was just going to bring up the Stapler Guy. Jeezuz, someone needs to put a big, thick stapler in his face. And evil cow-orker’s too.

Send this thread link to the Atheists/Evolutionists.

Satan was created by God.

Al is Satan.

Therefore God exists.

Phew, I was right all along, thanks RickJay.

Rick, just reading about this guy made my skin crawl. You have my sympathies. Really.

Also, Anaximenes, I applaud your efforts, and that post was hysterical.

I suggest taking out the details in the OP that specifically identify you, and emailing it around the company :wink:

Despite everything, I pity this guy. He will get fired one day, he will probably end up old, lonely, poor and bitter, going mad in a tiny apartment.