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They enforce office rules, whether you like it or not. 

Elisabeth Sherman
May 04, 2017

We all have a co-worker who can’t quite seem to follow the rules of office propriety: Maybe he steals a few extra minutes of company time during his lunch break. Or leaves her tuna salad in the shared fridge over night. These people – usually only mildly offensive – have a new enemy waiting among the cubicles for their next slip-up: The workplace vigilante. 

Katy DeCelles at the University of Toronto and Karl Aquino at the University of British Columbia, the lead researchers on the survey, who nicknamed who gave their subjects “Dark Knight Employees," found that these Batman-types most often cited their coworkers for “being two minutes late, or leaving food in the office fridge too long.”

How do we know these crusaders for justice are on the rise at an office near you? The Canadian researchers asked 2,000 people in the US if they had ever encountered one of these etiquette enforcement officers at their own job, and the majority of them had – 58 percent.

But sometimes they can be less hero and more villain: Respondents reported that sometimes a vigilante’s target were reprimanded or even fired after being reported. 

They're openly disliked among their coworkers: The survey found that around the water cooler workplace vigilantes were called “little Justice League” or simply “Batman,” and described as “slinking around” and “creeping over people’s shoulders” in order to catch an unsuspecting employee red-handed. 

They found that these people usually pop up in retail and technical service, but that schools and even government offices faced them, so really, no where is safe. If you’re apt to eating loudly at your desk, forgetting to throw away your lunch, bringing stinky food to the office, or – the worst transgression of all – stealing someone else’s lunch out of the break room – you better be prepared to face the consequences.