Recruitment 411: Working at a Downton Agency

Eric Erickson is writing Recruitment 411 for Julie this summer. When not working in the IRS Recruitment Office, he spends his time waiting for the January premiere of the third season of ‘Downton Abbey’ on PBS.

I’ve worked enough jobs to know that most workgroups are made up of a similar cast of characters. No matter which business, agency or company, most co-workers will each fill a different stereotype…and they’ll fill it to a T.

When you know what roles your co-workers are playing, it’s usually easier to work with them. While watching ‘Downton Abbey’ recently, I realized the cast from this British hit resembles many teams from my professional past.

Lady Mary

Quote: “I don’t care a fig about rules.”

She’s got an opinion and she’s not afraid to use it. While they might come off as arrogant and egotistical, a ‘Mary’ knows they aren’t perfect. That said, don’t expect them to admit their imperfections to just anyone. They test boundaries and push envelopes, but ultimately would never intentionally do anything to throw their team off course. A rebel on the outside…a team-player at heart.

Lady Edith

Quote: “She who laughs last, laughs longest.”

Beware of the dowdy sister as her insecurities breed spite. An ‘Edith’ co-worker is a wallflower who wants to be a star…they just don’t have the skills or personality to shine. These workers need time to gain confidence and figure out what they have to offer. Once they do, they will be a productive and invaluable member of the team. Just don’t tick ‘em off, because an ‘Edith’ will report you without questions.

Lady Sybil

Quote: “I want to do a real job. Real work.”

The do-gooder, a ‘Sybil,’ is the epitome of a team-player. She may come from a noble family, but yearns to do the ‘right’ thing, rather than the easy one. This employee does not have a career goal to move up the management ladder, but instead wants to affect change from the trenches.

Cousin Isobel

Quote: “What they expect…is that we won’t know how to behave. So, if you don’t mind, I would rather not confirm their expectations.”

Watch out for an ‘Isabelle.’ She comes into your workgroup with experience gained at a job in an outside company, and her goal is to be the boss. While a little arrogant, she does have the goods to back it up. She can push back to a fault…her continuous role as a devil’s advocate can be exhausting for her teammates.

Cousin Matthew

Quote: “If you don’t change…you die.”

He’s smart. He’s dashing. He does what he’s told. This co-worker may come off initially as someone who does not deserve the job he’s been given. In time, however, a ‘Matthew’ proves his worth by simply working hard and maintaining a level head.

Dowager Countess, Lady Violet

Quote: “The young are all so calm about change, aren’t they?”

She epitomizes the old guard. A ‘Violet’ has been at the company for ages and does not plan to retire anytime soon. She hankers for the way things used to work – this old dog refuses to learn new tricks. That said, she is over-flowing with institutional knowledge about the company.

O’Brien & Thomas

Thomas: “I wish I could be shot of him.”

Sarah: “Then think of something quick. Turn the tables on ‘im. Before he has a chance to nail ya.”

Yes, they are sneaky. Yes, they are continually plotting. Yes, they talk about everyone behind everyone’s back. Give them time though, and these two employees will eventually prove they have a soft-spot for the company and are committed to the success of your team.

So, which Downton part do you play?

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