The working world isn’t that different from the worlds within children’s books. There are plenty of nice people; those you can relate to and enjoy spending time with. Then there are those guys. Every office (and story) has a few of them — from the one who eats all the candy-dish candy, to the one who rolls in late and leaves early, to the well-meaning elder statesman who can fill an entire day with his stories. You may have a soft spot for some of them, but when you’re facing a tough work deadline you won’t want to have to rely on any of these shady characters.
Spot (Put Me in the Zoo, by Robert Lopshire)
Spot is the ultimate anywhere-but-here guy. He thinks he deserves the promotion, the better office, that last donut. You just know he’s at his desk checking out Monster Jobs when he should be working on that project your team has due before lunch. Sure, maybe he’s right, maybe he is special, maybe he does deserve something more, but maybe he should try putting in a day’s honest work now and then (and stop taking your parking spot). You can’t help but like Spot, but you also like not being the one stuck putting together his PowerPoint slides when you should have gone home an hour ago. (Ages 5–8)
Curious George (A Treasury of Curious George, by H. A. Rey and Margret Rey)
Sure, George is a nice guy, and he really does try to get the job done for the team, but dude also likes to go rogue. There is an employee handbook for a reason, but it’s as if George has never taken the time to read it (sometimes you wonder if he can read at all)! Still, he always gets results, and the bosses seem to like his unique thought process and gung-ho attitude. But for the rest of the office, who spends their days filling out his TPS Reports and showing up on time, George isn’t the spunky guy with the out of the box ideas, he’s the guy eats all the snacks in the break room and strolls in late with all the answers. (Ages 0–3)
Max (Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak)
If Max doesn’t get his way, he stops contributing during your weekly brainstorming sessions. His temper tantrums at the water cooler and his reluctance to ever go out to lunch with the group have made him the office loner. When Max does take the lead on a project, he has no problem ruling with an iron fist; the phrase “benevolent dictator” was made for someone just like Max. Things may run smoothly when he’s is at the helm, and one day he will probably make a great CEO, but when things go off the rails he is the first to bow out and sail off into the sunset. Secretly you hope Max gets promoted to another department, where you won’t have to deal with his attitude or listen to him brag about how he’s helping a buddy redo his Night Kitchen. (Ages 3–5)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle)
Is this guy never not on a lunch break!? If he’s not in the break room pilfering someone’s sandwich, snacking on the granola bars from the community basket, or swinging by your desk to eat all of your good candy, he is asking where everyone wants to eat. Every morning the Caterpillar shows up with his breakfast, which he eats loudly at his desk, and he keeps a bag of chips in his bottom drawer to snack on all afternoon. Behind the apple cores and strawberry tops he does somehow get something done, but people mostly like him because he is the first one to yell out that it is Taco Tuesday. The only way you can get him to come to a meeting is if you promise pizza, and then he always scarfs down way more than his fair share, and everyone notices. (Ages 3–5)
Owl (The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard)
Owl is experienced; he’s the oldest guy in any room. He seems to have connections all over the industry, and he has met his fair share of famous faces. When management brought in the new boss, Owl revealedd that he used to ski with “that young woman’s father.” You try to be nice to Owl, and often times you are impressed — maybe even jealous — of his stories. But when he tells you about his well-regarded Great Uncle So-and-So for the hundredth time, you just want to hide behind the copier. Still, Owl is a fine fellow much of the time, so you will be the first one who offers to pick up the cake for his retirement party. (Ages 8–12)
Flash the sloth (Zootopia Read-Along Storybook & CD), by Disney Book Group and Disney Storybook Art Team)
Flash Flash Hundred Yard Dash may be great for a laugh (What do you call a three humped camel?), but the only thing he does quickly is bolt for the door at the end of the day. No email is every responded to in a timely manner, and schedules and deadlines seem more like suggestions than mandates. Flash knows he isn’t quick, so he takes his criticism in stride, but he also does nothing to pick up the pace. Sometimes his leisureliness seems admirable, and it might make him the most thorough guy on any project, but when time is of the essence, you don’t want him on your team. (Ages 6–8)
Minecraft Zombie (Diary of a Minecraft Zombie Book 1: A Scare of a Dare, by Herobrine Books)
This guy is just begging to be let go, and everyone in the office knows it. Every Monday he drags his feet in the door, wearing what looks to be Friday’s clothes. He takes the phrase “business casual” to the most extreme level, and has never bothered to personalize his space. His Facebook page is jam packed with photos from all of his nightly party antics, so it isn’t surprising that he has been caught sleeping next to the fax machine. You’re not even sure what his name is, since he never comes to staff meetings, has never been assigned a project, and has no interest in group trivia nights at the local pizza place. All and all he isn’t a bad guy, since he has no responsibilities, but it is a shame he get the same paycheck as everyone else. (Ages 6–12)
What literary characters do you think would make horrible coworkers?
Originally published at www.barnesandnoble.com on March 17, 2016.