Monday, May 11, 2015

The Manager's Lament: Why Thor Is the Most Relatable Avenger

Iron Man is a successful American businessman. Captain America is a working-class soldier who grew up in Brooklyn. Black Widow was forced by a strict parental figure down a career path that she never wanted. Hawkeye is a family man who loves home renovation projects and recreational archery. Hulk is a guy who made one really bad mistake at work and has regretted it ever since.

And Thor? Thor is a member of a highly advanced alien race, is practically indistinguishable from a god, wields a magic hammer that can transport him through space, and is heir to his culture's throne.

Thor is also the Avenger I can relate to more than any other. Why? Because all his problems are managerial.

Sure, Tony Stark might be the figurehead of Stark Industries, but it's been clearly documented that he leaves the day-to-day operation of the company in Pepper Potts' hands while he focuses on inventing the deadly mistakes he'll have to address three movies from now.

Thor, though. Thor just wants to do his day-to-day work. He wants to get out there into the Nine Realms and smash some rock monsters and bust some heads with Mjolnir, then hit the bar for HH after he clocks out and try to get into that Party Thor mindset. But it's never that simple. The Asgardian bureaucracy is a crushing avalanche of performance evaluations and strategic planning.

Just look at the staffing issues he has to deal with. How do you best determine on which projects to leverage the skills of the Warriors Three? Sure, they're usually pretty effective. But their adherence to Asgardian brand standards is questionable and they give zero craps about red tape. Classic loose cannons. They get the job done, and their boss has to swoop in afterwards to do damage control on those upset by broken protocol and the like. But what's Thor going to do, NOT utilize the W3? There's so much overhead invested in them––hell, Volstagg's incidentals alone have got to be through the roof––that Thor probably can't justify NOT using them.

I don't care which star your hammer was forged inside the heart of, that's a thorny management issue. And sure, sometimes Thor can bump this stuff up the ladder to Odin (by the way, did I mention the added stress of being groomed to inherit the family business?), but let's be honest. Half the time Odin is either abusing loopholes in company policy to go on vacation––my workplace's time-tracking utility does not offer "Odinsleep" as a valid reason for missing work, does yours? I say thee nay––or he's playing little corporate mind games in the name "preparing Thor for the burden of leadership." After all, what was Thor's banishment to New Mexico if not an extended culture and values workshop?

I guess it's not all bad for Thor, though. He did certainly enjoy working with those external vendors on Midgard.

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