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Understanding your work colleagues - Part 1

By George Fripley - posted Tuesday, 21 October 2008

When a public servant begins work, they will, like in any other job, come across numerous types of people. The following character types are often found in other parts of the work force, however the ones outlined in this chapter thrive in government jobs. They all have their place and you will have to interact with them on a daily basis.

Drama Queen

This person, be they male or female, exists in surprising numbers within the public service. They are attracted to some areas more than others, namely communications, publications and other such jobs.

It is their main aim in life to make a large noise about the smallest and most insignificant issue that they can find. Deep down they want to be performers, but have never made it into a real spotlight. The enclosed space of the office provides them with a captive audience on which to practice their theatrical talents. This can be particularly difficult to avoid if the Drama Queen has managed to rise to a managerial level.


These people live for drama, so you should avoid them as much as possible. Drama brings attention and can cause panicked public servants to make decisions that they will end up regretting. Little thought goes into these decisions and they can lead to career-limiting moves.

As soon as the Drama Queen gets into a position of power, and is required to make a decision, they somehow manage to attract more Drama Queens, like moths to a flame.

This is guaranteed to lead to predictions of dark and dangerous scenarios, possibly even Armageddon, and before anyone knows it, the CEO is taking notice and shaking his head in pity. He will mark the card of the Drama Queens and note that they have the potential to cause confusion and muddy the calmest and clearest of waters. He will then roll them out as required, transferring them to any branch or division that appears dangerously close to achieving clarity or making hasty decisions.

The Drama Queen has a great potential to turn into a very bitter employee.

The Bitter One

There is one of these in every branch of government. They are usually in their middle years and are quiet until approached in an effort to break the ice and start a conversation. If this happens, they will start a long, blow-by-blow story about how they have worked in that branch for 20 years and have been passed over for promotion, and how nobody is interested in their opinions or details of their long-past days of glory.

You will very quickly find out that you are not interested in their opinions either. They will have a list of grudges as long as your arm; against the Manager, the Director, and numerous younger members of staff who they see as having done them harm in some way, shape or form. Of course, the longer they are there, the more young people appear, and then they get worse.


These people actively look for new employees to talk to because experienced staff members have learned to keep their distance. Once cornered, such a new employee will get the full treatment and is likely to be baled up for hours. These employees are often seen walking around in a state of shock as they try to disentangle themselves from the bitter person hanging on to them, pleading for a longer audience.

The whining monotone of bile can take years to remove from their memory, if it can be removed at all. The Bitter One must be avoided at all costs, as they do have the potential to lose total control and bore you to death … literally!

However, this type of person can be set loose on productive employees whose efforts appear to be getting near to making actions necessary.

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About the Author

George Friplely has worked in the public service for more than eight years, and in that time has risen to the dizzying heights of managing an agency (for a brief period of time). He has a great deal of experience in dealing with the day-to-day decision-making processes and has a wealth of knowledge about government process. He is currently in hiding among the stacks of files in his government department, hoping that his revelations do not cause him to become the subject of an ASIO investigation, or worse still, that somebody realises that he actually exists and sends some work his way! George blogs at and George's thoughts on government and bureaucracy are now available in the definitive government employees manual, You Can't Polish A Turd - the Civil Servant's Manual, published by Night Publishing. His next book provisionally titled The Dregs of History is due for release in 2011.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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