When the cat’s away, your office will inevitably be overseen by a overly officious colleague intoxicated by their temporary power. They’re going to do things like try to change procedures that have been in place in your office for as long as you’ve been there and tell you to do things that are patently incorrect. To fill the white space in their day, this individual will flit to whatever meetings they can find and generally try to make a nuisance of themselves on what should be a nice quiet day for getting caught up on those things you never seem to get to when the boss is around. It’s like turning over the office to that annoying kid you remember from elementary school that always had their hand up, always knew the answer, and always volunteered to make copies or keep the list of “bad” students when the teacher had to step out of the room. Since it only lasts for a day or two, you’re basically in Purgatory… assuming that Purgatory is run by a mentally deficient thirteen year old, since that’s basically the level of leadership you’ll be getting.
My advice in this situation? Smile and nod whenever possible. Avoid eye contact and if necessary feign digestive distress to minimize the amount of time you must spend in conversation with your tormenter. Absolutely nothing good with come from your engaging this pseudo-leader. At best, you’ll end up having to explain to your actual boss why you called this individual as useless as tits on a bull in front of several of your other colleagues. At worst, your boss may realize the error of his ways and leave you in charge next time he’s going to be away, which makes the cure far worse than the actual disease.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.