Asanka Brendon RatnayakeGetty Images
Have you ever worked at a place where, instead of feeling like you toiled ceaselessly and joylessly under a toxic yoke day in and day out, things just kind of were fine? I’m not talking about places that claim we’re really more like a family than a business even though they’re definitely not, or places where the job itself is so fun that your coworkers don’t matter as long as they’re not sexually harassing anyone or committing financial crimes (doggy daycare centers, wine stores with puns for names, pizza parlors where they throw the dough in the air and say “mamma mia!” etc.). I’m talking about normal old jobs that aren’t exactly spectacular, but it’s not like people are regularly crying.
There are plenty of reasons why workplaces function and are good: safe working conditions, fair and livable wages, and competent, nontoxic management are a few that spring to mind. But also? You have to have at least one of each of the following six people for anything to work: the worrier, the calendar-checker, the person who says “don’t sweat it,” the shit-stirrer, the party animal, and the stoner.
The worrier is the person who looks down the road and is pretty sure he can see trouble coming. He’s the one who’s been warning you about cruise ships for years, has read all the climate change books, and doesn’t know how we’re going to make social security last. Don’t confuse the worrier with the calendar-checker, though, who’s the guy in the group who actually gets things done. You may think that the worrier would be on top of deadlines or rules, but the effort of remaining vigilant for Lyme disease, layoffs, and crumbling infrastructure has rendered him too exhausted to bother with Outlook. This is where the calendar-checker comes in to gently remind everyone that this is the week to really start to get your rears into gear about the end-of-quarter expenses.
Then there’s the “don’t sweat it”-sayer. She’s there to tell everyone to take a deep breath. It’ll be fine. She gets where you’re coming from, but thinks, honestly, that this will all blow over. She’s the type of person who says “perfect is the enemy of good” and calls people with shitty personalities “characters.” By and large, she’s a nice counterpoint to the worrier and the calendar-checker, but there’s such a thing as too mellow; she’s boring to gossip with, and can sometimes be a little apathetic.
This is where the shit-stirrer comes in. He’s there to put freaking everyone on blast. The nice thing about him is that he cares a lot about fairness and maintains a perfectly calibrated bullshit detector, but has no respect for how long meetings are supposed to last. Everyone loves this dude during a PowerPoint because he’s virtually guaranteed to derail it by quibbling with item three of 20, then complain about how useless the meeting was afterwards. The shit-stirrer becomes more fun the closer you get to quittin’ time.
Speaking of which. The party animal is positively devoted to fun at work. Uses the :party parrot: emoji in Slack a lot. Can catch a cheese puff in his mouth and open a beer with a lighter. Ordered wings for the group. Loves the music of Sugar Ray and is a big participator.
Don’t forget the humble stoner. She pops her head up to prove to you she’s there and that she has absolutely not been listening. The stoner has a rich inner life but is only like 70 percent sure what day of the week it is. It is the stoner, not the party animal, who reminds us all that life exists outside of the office. She is the portal out. She is oxygen. Her function in the group is roughly the same as that of the space bar on a keyboard.
To function well, your group needs all of them, and it needs them in roughly equal parts. This applies not just to offices but to friend groups, families, the casts of sitcoms, the Democratic primary, and the people you invite into your bunker during the End Times. If you don’t have six, some of you are going to have to play multiple roles. If there are too many of one, you might have to try out a different role for a little bit. It’ll be just fine.
I am not the first person to try to categorize personalities at work. MBA types love talking about their Myers-Briggs profile almost as much as they love using the word “deliverables” and voting for Joe Biden. People who know that it’s “Pisces season” love to say hurtful things about Geminis. Remember 2017, when an eight-question quiz about your favorite vacation spots could tell you what Hogwarts house you belonged in? But forget it all: I’m right.
This unscientific but accurate theory came to me yesterday apropos of basically nothing; as I watched three members of the Esquire staff debate the most hygienic way to share an economy size bucket of cheese puffs, I couldn’t help but admire the way each brought his own strengths to the table. I implore you to look around the group you’re with right now, assuming you’re lucky enough to spend your life surrounded by others, no matter how annoying they may be. Can you locate the worrier, the calendar-checker, the “don’t sweat it”-sayer, the shit-stirrer, the party animal, and the stoner? If not, you better get one of each.
I also implore you to figure out which one you are, and to be nice to yourself about it. It’s easy to feel, especially in an office, though it can be true in any group, that to function best you have to be all things to all people. But you need not worry about this. (Can you guess which I am?) You are not an island. You are part of a group that needs you. Not one of these people is more important than the other.