The first are flunkies, whose positions exist just to make somebody else look good. An unnecessary receptionist is an example. I described one receptionist in the book who gets a single phone call per day. So why couldn’t the boss take that call? Because if you walk into an office and there’s not a receptionist, it doesn’t look like a real company. Since executive prestige increasingly is measured by the number of people working for executives, they often employ people who have nothing to do.

Goons are the second category. They’re people who work in an industry that is only necessary because there are other people like them. You don’t need a corporate lawyer unless somebody else has a corporate lawyer. Another example is telemarketers: you only need them if your competitors have them. A lot of PR, advertising, and lobbying involves goon-like behavior: There’s an element of aggression. A lot of people in this category wrote and said, you know, our jobs are ridiculous and contribute nothing to society. Most corporate lawyers seem to secretly feel this…

Third you have the duck tapers. This term comes originally from the software industry, and it basically results from a flaw in the organization. Instead of just fixing something, they hire people to clean up the damage. It derives from the fact that increasingly managers feel that if there’s anything people would do for some reason other than the money, then we shouldn’t have to pay them. So can we get translation work done for free, can we get code written for free? But then you have the work of cleaning up all the little anomalies and bugs. My paradigm example of a duck taper was a poor guy at my university whose entire job seemed to be apologizing for why the carpenter could not come to fix the bookshelves in my office. Just fire the guy and hire another carpenter, for God’s sake.