Tetris and Workplace Management: Fitting Your Employees Together, Part 2

On to part two of our Tetrastic adventure!

The I Piece (aka Line, Stick)

One of the most desired pieces in Tetris, people often finding themselves waiting for the I Piece and its expert skills at filling positions no other piece can. Unfortunately, this can be a disaster if the I Piece never shows up. Punctuality is not the I Piece’s strong suit, but he’s learned that he does his job so well that he can often skate by on some of the rules.

The I Piece does extraordinarily well with a specific task or job position, but he more often than not becomes a problem when stretched outside his comfort zone. He can get in the way of others trying to complete their jobs by attempting to assist in tasks outside his level of expertise. The I Piece is best used as a contract worker: brought in for a specific purpose and allowed limited interaction with other staff members.

If the I Piece has a job with a variety of responsibilities, he can benefit from applying similar approaches to all of his tasks (e.g., using a checklist of short-term objectives, completing challenging tasks before simpler tasks). The I Piece does well under pressure, so imminent deadlines are no problem.

)The O Piece (aka Square, Cube, Box)

The O Piece (or cube as it appears in many versions of the game) is strong and dependable, following instructions well and staying on task. For many managers, this is a dream employee: someone who does his job well and provides the best environment for his coworkers to succeed. However, sometimes the rigid stick-to-the-rules policy makes it hard for an O piece to improvise or respond to unexpected obstacles.

Although a manager would never EVER advise an employee to do something the slightest bit illegal or unethical or even sketchy, the O Piece struggles with even being competitive and does not do well in positions that require negotiation skills such as sales.

The O Piece does best when given routine tasks and can work with clients in a positive way (e.g., solving customer service issues). The O Piece is the most loyal of all pieces, so this one will stick around!

S/ZThe S/Z Pieces (aka Squiggly, Zigzag)

The problem-solvers of the group, the S/Z Pieces love to find the answers. In business, they often work in human resources or customer service and are frequently described as charming. In other industries, they are often scientists, doctors, and producers. Their skills come easily to them, and they enjoy receiving positive reinforcement for a job well done.

The pitfall with the S/Z Pieces is that on the rare occasion when a solution does not come easily to them, they have a tendency to abandon the project if possible and make excuses for why it didn’t work. This does not happen often, so when it does, coworkers and managers are likely to take their word for it. Redirecting the S/Z pieces to a step-by-step review of what happened and offering a collaborative effort at resolving the issue helps them work towards goals they once viewed as difficult without leading to a confrontation that puts them on the defensive.

The S/Z Pieces benefit from close supervision on tasks that are not consistent with their strengths and positive reinforcement of their efforts. They often don’t recognize their own weaknesses and can be surprisingly open about working on them when given straightforward feedback.

How to Manage Your Pieces

Here’s a bit of advice from the creator of Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov:

The Tetris game allows many strategies – pick the one that fits you best. In my opinion, usually beginners try to keep the field clear, while more experienced players like to somewhat fill up the matrix to set up short combos in advance. “Masters” routinely set up for 4 line-clears, or a “Tetris” line clear, for more points, and “Grandmasters” tend to play for T-spins and long combos.

So whether you want to minimize conflicts and challenges from the very beginning for consistent performance or trust your management skills to deal with the unexpected with the anticipation of incredible payoff, there are plenty of ways to twist and turn your employees to fit together.

Do you recognize any I, O, or S/Z Pieces in your workplace? Which one are you? Which ones work together best? Which ones find it more challenging to adapt to one another? Don’t you want to play Tetris right this second? Sound off in the comments below!

If you missed the first part of this Tetris series, be sure to check it out right here.

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!


“Shit Happens” Image Credit

Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.


  1. JPorretto

    Those S/Z pieces seem like nothing but trouble makers to me. If it weren’t for them this game would be easy! I mean just look at them. There’s nothing constructive you can do when they appear first. They’re just a pain that is occasionally useful.

    Wait…. didn’t you say you consider yourself part S/Z?

    Ummm… I meant to say S/Z’s are valuable contributers to their environment who introduce complexities that others are not capable of. =)

  2. Kyle

    Wow another killer post, Jana. I’m amazed that you managed to describe these simple shapes in such depth. I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to say your creativity knows no bounds.

    As for which piece am I? Hmmm… Well based solely on appearance I think the “I” piece (aka stick) best represents me hahaha. 😛

    I’m lovin’ these. Keep it up!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks! My complete lack of knowledge of personality types and workplace dynamics is considered “creative” instead of just “totally made up.” That’s actually pretty comforting. 🙂

      Yeah, based on appearance, I’d say probably a cube/O-piece because I’m usually cold and curled up in a little ball.

  3. Joseph Giorgi

    Looking back now on each of the pieces and their descriptions, I think that I identify most with the “T” Piece.

    What the heck is the deal with that video where the “I” Piece slinks its way through the entire game board? What kind of “Tetris” are kids playing these days? Not the kind I grew up with, that’s for sure. In my day, lines were lines and that was that—they didn’t have any magical upward-moving mystery-powers.

    • JPorretto

      Get with the times you old fogey! Of course I have no idea what you’re even talking about so I also should take my own advice =/

    • Amanda Sneed

      Wow! Just watched that crazy Tetris video….it’s like Tetris and Pac Man combined…which is pretty interesting! =)

      I had no idea that this version was out either.

      I love the old simple version of Tetris!!! Doesn’t need any updating in my opinion.

  4. Amanda Sneed

    I can relate to all of these cute little Tetris pieces in some way here too.

    Jeff–those S/Z pieces can be used in tight spaces, which is nice…you just have to know how to move the pieces around and flip them quickly….one of my best tips for high Tetris scores!

    Congrats on a super 2 part Tetris blog! =)

  5. Bret Bonnet

    Tetris hurts my brain! 🙁

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