Real Life Bill Lumbergh Types

If you’ve never seen the movie Office Space and you’re a tech worker, do yourself a huge favor and find a copy asap. The thing about this movie is how Mike Judge manages to create a movie about the “colorful” types of cast you often meet inside a white collared job situation. One of the most infamous that seems to exist in some form is the Bill Lumbergh type. From my experience, it feels like this middle management leech somehow manifests at virtually every single company I’ve worked at and probably has shown up at your spot.

You know Bill Lumbergh as the passive-aggressive, micromanagement type who plays office politics because they’ve managed to earn some sort of clout with upper management while sliding into a comfortable spot that prevents accountability on their part. No matter what you do, they will never be satisfied. Their purpose is to perpetually downplay your performance and act as a buffer between upper management such that you have zero chance of moving up, receiving a raise or even brief praise.

What I’ve seen is that these people have early on obtained political capital merely by showing up on time and entering a company at an early stage. They do not necessarily have great skills and at some point recognize this fact. In turn, they are very insecure about their positions and create funnels to prevent others from exposing their charade. Also, they sneak behind people’s backs to create false impressions and sometimes play people against each other to increase tension to deflect their own problems and thus remove their accountability.

In the Dilbert world, we end up referring to these people as the Pointy Haired Boss (PHB). Practically, these people are sociopaths who have zero empathy and couldn’t care if you lived or died as long as they can use you to their nefarious means.

But how can one deal with a person? In a lot of cases, the situation might just end up being hopeless. I often times suggest for people to quit or move within a company. The reason is that one should simply do their best to avoid these types and hope that upper management gradually realize the faults of these types.

Usually though, upper management never sees what the core problem is as the person involved continues to wave their wand of deflection and continue to create excuses. Data from performance reviews, etc. are not good indicators of the situation neither, since those numbers can be skewed in anyone’s favor depending on how things are interpreted.

The truth in dealing with these said leeches is the way you deal with a leech: peel them away! Sometimes you simply need to gather up the troops, march as a collective and show support for one another in essentially pulling a coup. In larger corporations, this might seem impossible just because of the layers of bureaucracy in place. But you might still have a chance at smaller spots.

Currently, my spot has one such character. This person in reality is a mediocre developer with zero empathetic sense and people skills. Yet the reason he managed to be moved into a spot like this is because he had been working at this place longer than most and had gone through the “tougher times” with upper management. When one of the new VPs came in, the first thing this person did was get in his ear.

The sad thing is that we ended up losing some good people due to how he misinformed management of others when shit was hitting the fan. And of course he brought in mediocre people and wanted mediocre people to ensure that he would sound the smartest. The result? Tons of poorly written code.

Unfortunately, the code he wrote never really got reviewed since it was considered “complete”. No one truly bothered to question whether or not this person did anything spectacular. However, at the end of the day, he really needed to own up to this mess and hasn’t been helpful in getting new people to fix things correctly.

I can go on and on, but I feel like I’m wasting my time just thinking about this person. I generally have good instincts about people and to me in the end, I’m just wasting my time expending neurons at this time in the morning on this basket. But I needed to get this off my chest as I couldn’t stand the situation anymore.


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