Deep inside every supervillain is a lost or thwarted superhero.
Exceptional conditions and circumstances have conspired to distort their characters and behaviour. Forced to the wrong end of the spectrum, their strengths are twisted and misused, brought to bear in ways that have negative, counter-productive or even destructive impact.
But for many, the potential for good still exists, even if buried beneath layers of psychological extremity.
Explore the inner workings of each of our five supervillains and superheros:
Outburst / challenger
Outburst: Once a mild-mannered office protégé, she was transformed into Outburst following prolonged exposure to senior responsibility. Now, unable to revert to the reasonable human being she used to be, Outburst vents her inhuman rage on all unfortunate enough to encounter her during the working day. Rumours abound: that she once beat the cup collector guy to death with his own trolley; that she once screamed her assistant into a coma; and that she harbours a deep, seething hatred for all support functions.
Challenger: Challenger gets things done. Her obsession with results drives real, meaningful outcomes. She is strong and passionate. Courageous and tenacious. Resolute and resourceful. She takes control – grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns and wrestling it into submission. ‘Impossible’ is not in her vocabulary. Nor is ‘procrastinate’. She is assertive, decisive and fights hard for what she believes in. Once earned, her loyalty is a force to be reckoned with.
the puppet master / mastermind
The Puppet Master: As a child – shunned by all – he spent his days creating elaborate (some might say demented) little worlds in which to act out his peculiar (some might say disturbing) version of reality through his doll collection. Now, as an adult, he occupies the perfect environment for escalating his obsession: the workplace. His employees, trapped in the ever-shifting labyrinth of his machinations, cling to the hope they might eventually escape if they behave, be good and do exactly as they’re told.
Mastermind: Mastermind has a powerful vision for what needs to be done and is committed to making it a reality. He has high standards and challenging expectations, formidable attention to detail and intimate knowledge of his business. He is rational and practical, meticulous and self-disciplined, ensuring that everything is as it should be. He is an expert source of knowledge. With an effective system of delegation in place, he is a tremendous resource for his team.
twenty four seven / dynamo
Twenty-four/seven: Some say she fell into a vat of coffee when she was a baby. Some say she cannot sleep for night terrors about collapsing share prices. Her employees know she never rests. Never stops. Wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, she is out there – somewhere – in permanent delivery mode. They live from one moment to the next – tormented – never knowing when she might materialise from within their mobile phone or laptop. Like an evil fairy godmother with messages that turn into work at midnight.
Dynamo: Dynamo is consumed by dedication to her work. Her identity-defining work ethic and strong desire to contribute and make a difference compel her constantly to drive above and beyond. Her conscientious devotion to the cause, laser-sighted focus on objectives and near-inhuman appetite for achievement can be a powerfully motivating force, generating energy and momentum for all who come into contact with her.
the anti-manager / the thinker
The Anti-Manager: Behind closed doors. In the shadows. The places no one ever goes. There you will find the Anti-Manager. He has always been there. No one remembers him ever not being there. It is prophesised that he will still be there even after the company is bankrupt and the office torn down. Until that day he bides, barely acknowledging all who dare invoke his name. He exists only to transmit his vast subject matter expertise via indirect communication channels. Human contact is anathema to him.
The Thinker: The Thinker is adept in technical and analytical sorcery, wielding his knowledge, data and wisdom with almost magical prowess. He is highly observant and perceptive, and a consummate learner. He is peculiarly innovative, constantly seeing and creating new possibilities. In crisis he remains calm, objective and professional. He does not suffer fools, pressure or influence, and can be relied upon to be considered, fair and appropriate.
two face / positive influence
Two Face: No one knows what provoked the psychological breakdown from which emerged the manager now known as ‘Two Face’. Locked away in the archives is an old performance review that describes her as ‘conscientious’ and ‘authentic’. Not. Any. More. Today – prone to snap judgements, behavioural inconsistency and sudden, spasmodic bouts of favouritism – Two Face prowls the corridors, wreaking havoc as she manipulates her way to the top, blind to the chaos and conflict left in her wake.
Positive Influence: Positive Influence is extremely talented in understanding and engaging people. Her interpersonal skills are through the roof. Instinctively she knows what makes them tick, and can empathise and connect easily with others. She uses her powers of insight and persuasion to mutual advantage: inspiring and enabling colleagues and team members; making them feel valued; bringing them together and uniting them with common purpose.
In other circumstances – or perhaps alternate dimensions – each of our supervillains has the potential to be other than the sad, aberrant results of their managerial evolution.
If only they could see themselves for what they have become and recognise the impact they have.
If only they could choose to change their approach; to their roles and their relationships.
If they sought to improve their management style, then rather than undermining morale, sowing frustration and inhibiting their people, they could support them in realising their potential whilst contributing to organisational objectives and cultural wellbeing.
With the right intervention, they could be a force of inspiration, education, development and opportunity. A good – maybe even great – manager.