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‘Corporate Erin’ and the social media talent helping us laugh about our work

Erin Throlopolis is the Manager for the Managerial Logistics of Management for McManagement. If her title made you laugh, you should see her videos.

“Corporate Erin” is a character conceived of by actress Lisa Beasley, one of several social media talents who have gone viral by taking the lemons that can be life as an employee and turning it into hilarious lemonade.

Chicago-based Beasely would only agree to be interviewed by CNN in character as Erin. It was a conversation filled with as much corporate jargon as one would expect from someone with her title.

Erin loves corporate speak so much, she has a book coming out to help the rest of us get in on the fun.

“For two years, I have been working on a corporate dictionary. It’s called ‘Circle Back, Follow Up, Close the Loop,’” she revealed. “I’m very excited for people to kind of nail down this critical language and understand why it’s critical for us to use this language.”

What else could you expect from someone who includes separating lanyards among her hobbies?

“Corporate Erin” and other “cubicle comedians,” as they have come to be known, are finding humor in micromanaging managers and employees who really, really don’t want to give up working from home.

It was the pandemic which gave the world “Corporate Natalie,” according to her creator, Natalie Marshall.

“‘Corporate Natalie’ grew out of sheer 2020 peak-Covid boredom,” Marshall told CNN. “When I downloaded TikTok, I was very anti-TikTok. I was like, ‘It’s a time suck. I can’t be on this app.’ And then I was so bored that I downloaded it and within three scrolls, I sort of realized I think I could try this myself and my kind of sourdough or art or paint projects that everyone kind of discovered during Covid became these comedic videos.”

A former consultant who now runs a virtual assistant company and advises businesses on social media strategies, Marshall is very aware of the stresses involved in trying to cultivate a joyful work life. That’s why she tries to offer her followers relief through things like humorous advice to Gen Z employees to perhaps not use their topless vacation photos as part of their attempt to make their cubicles feel more homey.

“It brings light to this reality that all of us are kind of experiencing at different times in our careers and in our lives around our, this ‘new normal’ of corporate America,” she said of her posts. “I try to bring light to those moments.”

Generational differences in approaches to work offer fertile ground for comedic fodder.

Cruz Coral has found fame doing skits in which he explores stereotypes about employees who fall in the Gen Z, Gen X, Millenials and Boomers age range.

For example, a Boomer is way more into a conference call than his younger colleagues in one of Cruz’s skits.

He, too, began producing content during the pandemic and said he has been pleasantly surprised at the response.

Cruz Corral. - Courtesy Cruz Corral
Cruz Corral. - Courtesy Cruz Corral

“On Instagram the conversations are wild,” Cruz told CNN. “I enjoy more than creating the actual video just seeing people’s responses to them. That gives me joy.”

And it’s not just corporate America that is getting roasted.

Actress and content creator Nicole Daniels has the world of non-profits covered in her social media skits.

Her “Nonprofit Boss” character is as triggering as Beasley’s “Corporate Erin.” (The pair even teamed up for a joint video.)

Daniels, who recently relocated to Los Angeles from Brooklyn to pursue her performing career, leans fully into a character who uses altruism to try and manipulate her employees in to doing more with way less.

She told CNN she based the character on her own experiences working at nonprofit organizations. Daniels’ version always sports a scarf around her neck, is frequently snacking and can afford island vacations, but tries to convince employees that they should be happy to perform their jobs - and more- for little to no compensation.

“I think it is so triggering for people because it is not as talked about, perhaps, as corporate jargon,” she said of the feedback she’s gotten from followers.

Daniels is clear she’s not trying to slam nonprofits or their employees and said she believes most nonprofits are generally committed to doing good and attract employees who want to do the same.

Or translated to corporate/non-profit speak: they are in alignment with the core mission and not looking to be siloed.

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