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Five Nightmare Work Colleagues of the Silver Screen

Everyone remembers the great tycoons immortalised on celluloid. Citizen Kane and Gordon Gecko are the fictional movers and shakers, who buy up or bring down business empires at a whim.

What is less celebrated are the more recognisable characters in the workplace, some of them charming and reliable, others not so nice.

Here's a list of five nightmare work colleagues from the movies. In no particular order:

If you have any suggestions for nightmare work colleagues on film, let us know.
Patrick Bateman: American Psycho. Bateman is obsessed with status. He is caught up in the minutae of his own personal brand. He is fundamentally shallow and finds it impossible to relate to people on an emotional level. He has a sick sense of humour too, which isn't to everyone's taste.

It's going to be very difficult to form any trusting relationship with him as a co-worker, unless you can match up to his exacting personal grooming standards and he will be reluctant to perform any tasks that don't enhance his image. Puncturing that self-image risks him flying into a rage, as all that pent up emotion escapes.

  • Meredith Johnson: Disclosure
  • Sam Lowry: Brazil
  • Narrator: Fight Club
  • Bill Foster: Falling Down
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  • Meredith Johnson: Disclosure. Johnson is bent on manipulating those around her, so that she can be seen in the best possible light to her superiors. There are no limits to what she will resort to in her quest for advancement and she will stop at nothing to get rid of anyone who gets in her way to the top, even using her own body to get where she wants.

    She is fanatically driven to perform, because her success in everything throws the failings of those around her into sharp relief. Underneath all this though is a person with very little self-worth and a persecution complex. Don't end up working late with her in the office, when there is no one else around.

    Sam Lowry: Brazil. Lowry is the disengaged employee of film. He spends his time daydreaming when everyone else is hard at work. He has flair, but rarely uses it. It's going to be difficult to motivate Lowry -- he just doesn't care about the job. When he does decide to work, he succeeds without any effort, making everyone else's toil look pathetic.

    Don't think about moving him on, he doesn't want to go until he's ready. Lowry is the archetype of a directionless dreamer. Don't lean on him though -- he has friends in high places.

    Narrator: Fight Club (the character has no name in the film). This is another disengaged employee, but one who is a bit more confrontational. Narrator's passive-aggressive behaviour towards his colleagues and managers indicates he's actually hostile towards the company he works for. This behaviour manifests itself in his lax attitude to his personal appearance and his references to his unseemly personal life.

    Collaborating on projects with Narrator is difficult, because he's not able to focus on the details, only seeing the big picture. He's extremely intelligent, able to put colleagues down in meetings without a word, just by using non-verbal communication and capable of manipulating co-workers to avoid being saddled with the graft.

    Bill Foster: Falling Down. Foster is a man on the edge. On the face of it, he's a model employee. He's highly skilled and very loyal. But, if you dig deeper, you'll see he's over-doing it. He's devoted himself to his work so much, it's affected his family life. His demands that nothing is acceptable but absolute perfection will be hard to live up to.

    Foster is also very temperamental -- to the point of hostility to those who don't see eye-to-eye with him. He's also a pessimist, seeing the worst in every situation and dwelling on past misfortunes. Some might say he's living in the past and relying on outdated values. This failure to accept the modern world could leave him redundant if he can't change with the times and that's the worst thing that could happen, because he lives for his job.