You might think Doctor Who is a heroic, chaotic time-travel saga that's been going nearly 50 years — but it's actually a can't-fail key to understanding the modern workplace. That's because the show's hero has worn 11 very different bodies, with very different personalities. Those 11 Doctors, in turn, represent 11 very different management styles.
Here are the 11 types of bosses you'll encounter on Doctor Who — and clues to figure out which Doctor your own boss is.
(Note: This is a sequel of sorts to a story we did back in May 2008 on figuring out which Star Trek captain your boss is. Obviously, the Doctor is less overtly a boss than Captain Kirk — but once you step inside the TARDIS, you're usually following the Doctor's orders.)
1. The Sneaky Bastard
Characteristics: He's all smiles and giggles when things are going his way — but the moment you disagree with him, he'll start sabotaging the office equipment to make you look bad. Not above electrocuting people who get on his nerves. Lies through his teeth, but clutches his lapels and acts self-righteous when anybody questions him.
How you'll find out you've been fired: He'll lock you out of the building and change the locks, then give you a speech by telephone about how it's time for you to go off and do your own thing, and maybe one day, he'll check on you. "Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties," he cackles as he dumps your personal belongings out the window, into a snowdrift.
2. The Sweet, Sad Clown
Characteristics: He often comes to work looking as though he slept in his car, but he's cute and funny and constantly patting you on the back and handing you his handkerchief. He's sweet and protective, but can't remember how to find his own office, and almost any office function becomes an excuse for a series of bizarre pratfalls. He's secretly the smartest person in the room, but you won't find out until the company has nearly gone under due to everyone else's incompetence.
How you'll find out your office is being shut down: He'll act mysterious and shifty for months and months, and then suddenly announce that he's actually an ex-employee of a huge conglomerate that you've never even heard of. And there's some non-compete clause that he's totally violated, with the upshot being that he has to go do binding arbitration, while you're all fired. Oh, and your memories of working for him are going to be erased.
3. The Glam Aging Wunderkind
Characteristics: He's getting a bit older, but he's still the wild and crazy iconoclast he started out as. He dresses in a weird mix of Velvet Goldmine and steampunk, with approximately 100 frills per cuff, and makes a point of "hacking" every gadget or vehicle he touches. Insists on checking all your code himself, while spouting jargon that you strongly suspect he's making up on the spot. Has a tendency to go into rant mode, especially if he suspects you of having limited intelligence. He probably started his first company when he was 12, and sold it when he was 14. Often gives people a fake name, when he's out in public.
How to figure out if it's time to look for another job: He starts picking fights with your boyfriend over who's a better scientist. Or his constant jibes about "Oh, did you fail business school as well as science class?" finally get on your nerves.
4. The Crazy Artist
Characteristics: Has a habit of creating art wherever he is, either performance art or actual paintings. Occasionally drops huge hints that he's having a midlife crisis, and you notice he never talks to all his old friends and colleagues any more. Tends to fly into a tizzy, like when you point out that the Mona Lisa has no eyebrows, or any time you question his ideas. Wears a lot of super-weird thrift-store clothes, that a small family could live in.
How you'll find out you've been fired: He'll just announce one day that he's off to go visit his relatives, and he's closing the office indefinitely, so have a nice life. Or you'll just show up one day and find the office completely emptied out and your personal stuff in a box on the stairs outside.
5. The Cranky Schoolboy
Characteristics: He's in his early 30s, but acts both much younger and much older — often seems kind of perplexed and infuriated to be put in charge of a whole group of people, all of whom keep giving him grief. Tends to hyperventilate a lot, whenever people are asking him questions. When things really get hectic, he just faints. Often seems really confused about what's going on, and senior management and investors tend to show up randomly for emergency meetings just when he's most flustered. His business plan seems to consist of panicking until something turns up.
How you'll find out you've been fired: You'll criticize him one time too often — and then you'll suddenly get into a convenient "accident," after which there won't be enough of you left to bury.
6. The Bully
Characteristics: Intensely jolly and bouncy — until someone else has an idea or opinion, and then turns mean and scornful. Sometimes strangles his coworkers, if he's in a really bad mood. Capable of surprising generosity and sweetness, just when you least expect it. Has a habit of being called in to the company board of directors to explain his actions, at which point he'll start yelling at them using words like "farrago" and "I should have stayed at home." Colorblind, but insists on dressing himself.
How to tell when the writing is on the wall: Your boss has a psychotic break where he "turns evil" and starts cackling to himself about how he's going to transplant a slug's brain into your skull. If he actually gets as far as shaving your head, that's an especially bad sign.
7. The Mood-Swinging Manipulator
Characteristics: You never know whether he's going to be playing the spoons and making weird puns, or staring at you with his haunted, dark eyes and muttering about terrible secrets. Considers himself an amateur psychologist, always trying to find out about your mother. Comes up with huge, ambitious business plans — that he then won't share with anybody until you've already implemented all the steps in the wrong order.
How you can tell you're about to be promoted: He embarks on a whole campaign to break you down so he can build you up again, confronting you with all of your greatest fears and nightmares. Culminating in a huge scene where he announces in front of a bunch of people that he's never trusted you and he always knew you were a spy for the competition. And then later, he claims this was all a test, or something.
8. The Cute Lost Soul
Characteristics: He seems terribly sad and mixed up, and insists on dressing kinda steampunk but not quite. Compulsive liar, who goes around saying things like, "I'm half human." Tends to get terribly exuberant, but then loses the thread of what he was doing.
How you'll find out you've been fired: He'll just up and vanish on you.
9. The Angry Biker
Characteristics: He's done some things and seen some terrible shit. He won't ever go into details, but he's been to the war, and he's only looking for the best. Tends to have bitchy, competitive relationships with the male members of the team, but if they earn his trust, then he'll make out with them. A little. Wears his PTSD on his sleeve, and doesn't really see the need for rules.
How you'll find out you've been fired: He'll just drop you off at you mom's house without any warning, announcing that he's only looking for the best, and you're not the best. He's sort of Donald Trump in a leather jacket and cool boots.
10. The Hipster
Characteristics: He always has a different cool suit and snazzy glasses, and constantly telling you how he's seen the coolest stuff ever. Keeps his hair carefully spiky. And has a super emo side — any time there's bad news, he'll pause and fix you with a soulful gaze and say, "I'm so sorry." And really really mean it. And then he's being zany and spritely again. His business plans tend to consist of things like, "and then you'll wander around the world for a year talking about me, while I take a nap, because you are so special."
How you'll find out you've been fired: He'll suddenly drop you off in the middle of nowhere, with a guy who looks sort of like him but doesn't know how to do half the things he does. Or he'll get you really drunk and try to erase your memories, then tell your friends and family that if they mention him, your head will literally explode.
11. The Flirt
Characteristics: Defiantly uncool, to the point where he constantly announces "[name of uncool thing] is cool." Spends hours making his hair look like he never washes or combs it. Flirts with everybody and everything, including office equipment. Most likely to date your daughter. Ridiculously cute, but you get the sense that he's secretly a total jerk who's likely to throw everybody in front of the bus for whatever crusade he's on now. Business plans tend to consist of pages and pages of sowing confusion, followed by "and then I'll do something clever, and we'll win." Relies on his ability to bluff, charm or otherwise overwhelm people with his personality, and it works about half the time.
How you'll find out you've been fired: He buys you a new car and a new house, and then tells you to pretend he's dead.