“Office Nietzsches” Say Company Rules Don’t Apply to Them

BURLINGTON, Mass. Tim Philman, a software engineer for Infomatrixtech, a technology company along Route 128 here, has been writing code for the past eight years, a task he considers a poor use of his skills. “I aspire to greater things,” he says cryptically. “I’d tell you about them, but I doubt you’d understand.”

As he heads back to his workstation with his morning cup of coffee, he catches the eye of Linda Frombeck, office manager for the firm. “Hey Tim, let’s get a lid on that,” she calls out cheerfully. “That rule #1–all cups and mugs must be covered to prevent spills when in transit on company premises.”

“Tim — I asked you nicely.”


“It’s not rule #1. It’s rule 3.1, right after tab C in the company manual,” Philman replies, his voice dripping with condescension, before muttering under his breath “so blow it out your panty hose, you beached whale.”

Beached whale at Infomatrixtech summer outing.


Philman is part of a growing phenomenon that workplace psychologists say threatens U.S. productivity; “Office Nietzsches,” so called after Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who postulated a race of “supermen” who would transcend moral strictures that applied to ordinary mortals. Office Nietzsches conform to workplace rules in the limited sphere of their professional competence, but rebel against or even ignore limits on office supplies and restrictions on their personal conduct during office hours.


“‘Office Nietzsches’ think they’re intellectually superior to their co-workers,” says Elaine Mumford, President-elect of the National Association of Human Resource Professionals. “They’re thwarted in terms of professional advancement, and take it out on the world of work by refusing to make two-sided copies in violation of corporate ‘green’ policies.”

“Office Nietzsches flaunt their feelings of superiority by flouting convention, like taking more than one pad of Post-It Notes at a time,” according to Jim Sturgis, Chief of Police in Muncie, Indiana, who is often called upon to investigate misdemeanor office decorum violations. “They also flirt with the girl in the night typing pool who’s the flautist.”

“Dear Mr. Qwerty: I enclose herewith your quick brown fox.”


Sturgis adds extra plainclothes agents to patrol office supply rooms after Labor Day because of an annual uptick in Office Nietzsche criminality as workers return from time off during the summer. “These guys think the world owes them something,” he says, “The weather was lousy on their vacation so they try and sneak 8 X 14″ legal pads home under their ‘Greetings from Lake George’ t-shirts.”

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