How to Look Really Important at the Office

Jason walked a direct path to his desk, head down, finishing up a conversation on his bluetooth headset. In one hand was his trusty coffee thermos, in the other was his briefcase and Wall Street Journal. Sporting his casual Friday necktie with a fun zig-zag design, he exhaled as he collapsed into his office chair. It was already 10:10am, well past start time.

“Fuckin’ A, man,” Jason said to nearby colleagues as he tossed his phone aside and flipped open his laptop connected to three additional displays. “Some people, man. Can’t figure shit out for themselves.”

Before anyone could even respond, Jason popped back up and fidgeted with his bluetooth headset to answer an incoming call. “Dan? Hey man, yeah. Yeah, I got the figures. OK, give me five minutes.” As quickly as he had arrived, he was back out the door, head down as he sprint-walked to the conference room, barricading himself as he engaged in a heated discussion, arms flailing, easily viewable through the glass walls.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Jason is super important. This is clearly a person who eats, sleeps, and breathes work. Without question, he’s really critical to the company.

Except he isn’t.

Jason doesn’t actually do a damn thing. When all is said and done, he will have contributed a negative value to the company by time he disappears for good around 4:12. He’s just really good at looking important, and few dare question it. How does he pull it off?

  • He only shows up really early or really late most days. Super important people either have early morning meetings or a ton of extra work to catch up on, no in-between.
  • He walks at breakneck pace all of the time. There is nary a moment to spare.
  • He never walks down any hallway at the office without being on his headset. He’s either going to or on his way from a conference room talking to someone else equally important.
  • That briefcase or leather satchel he’s seen with? Go ahead and take a peek inside sometime if he’s not looking. There’s nothing important inside, if anything at all.
  • The only time he’s seen not stressed to the max is when he’s talking fantasy football with the most senior executives of the company.
  • He wears suits, has a never-ending closet of ties, and owns a collection of expensive-looking watches.
  • He uses a lot of profanity, because important people need things done now, not yesterday. And he read an article where smart people tend to swear more often.
  • He has lots of complicated spreadsheets on his monitors with macros enabled and vlookups like you wouldn’t believe.
  • He’ll often buy a round of coffees for the gang, because important people, though usually mean, occasionally do nice things, and they need an extreme amount of caffeine. Also, handing an intern a $50 bill makes it appear he earns a lot.
  • There is a gym bag with a racquetball racquet clearly visible near his desk. Important people love racquet sports because it helps them burn off steam.
  • His title is important sounding enough to be taken seriously, but vague enough where others can’t possibly know what he’s really in charge of.
  • He has a special secondary wallet just for his business cards, which he hands out as often as possible.
  • He has a large pile of papers on his desk, probably 800-1200 sheets high of varying sorts, due to tip at any moment. Important people have a lot of forms to go over, and not enough time to clean it up.
  • Despite the niceness of everything else nearby, his coffee thermos is pretty disgusting. It’s been his go-to thermos since his days interning for a stock broker.
  • He has several side gigs that take the remainder of his precious time.
  • He has a haircut per week. Despite beginning to lose his hair, there’s never a hair slightly out of place. His beard is in an eternal state of “I last shaved five days ago”, and that’s no accident.
  • A nice bottle of half-consumed Scotch has sat on his desk for months, if not years. It’s half gone, so you know he’s drank some at work, but you’ve never seen it happen, so it is assumed he comes in frequently after-hours or on the weekends.
  • He speaks frequently of investments and retirement plans, often using jargon above everyone else’s heads.
  • When he is seen working, he’s very “in the zone” and squints hard at the screen. When he types, you can hear him banging on the keyboards from two offices over.
  • During conference calls or meetings, he’ll frequently spring up to take a call and leave the room with a hand over one ear, as if to give the impression the call is extremely important and worth hearing.
  • His email correspondences are usually limited to one or two words, and he signs his name with lowercase initials. Again, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
  • When prompted, however, he can actually talk about business matters. That’s crucial. Whether he’s actually doing any work or is just really tuned-in to what’s going on, he has to be able to back this up with something of substance on occasion.
  • And above all, he’s always sighing, exasperating, and stressed. Important people have too much on their plates to not be!

Someday he’ll be exposed as the fraud that he is, but until then, he’ll keep up the ruse until he finds a better job.

My Hot Take:
I swear, I’m not talking about any one person in particular, rather a conglomeration of dozens of people I’ve worked with or for over the years. And they aren’t bad people. I’m not sitting here making fun of them or saying they’re jerks. Just take a page from “the Bobs” from Office Space ask yourself this question next time you question a co-worker’s importance: “what exactly is it they do here?” If you can’t easily answer that question, they are probably overstating their importance.

Looking important at work won’t win you many friends, but you will probably also be taken seriously and, if played right, won’t have to do much actual work.

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