Follow TV Tropes


Job Mindset Inertia

Go To

A character can't quite get out of his former career's mentality even when he no longer works there. Often seen in former military or law enforcement personnel.

Compare Still the Leader (the character hasn't left the team but is no longer in charge), Busman's Holiday (the character ends up doing something very similar to their normal job while on a vacation), Busman's Vocabulary (the character's job mentality colors their speech even when they're off duty), and Absurdly Dedicated Worker (the character continues to work at a job long past circumstances rendering said job unnecessary). Can occur after an Out of Job, into the Plot intro.



  • In a GEICO commercial, a former Drill Sergeant Nasty becomes a therapist. He ends up just insulting and lecturing his patient instead of actually helping.

Anime and Manga

  • Rock from Black Lagoon was originally an office worker by trade, but after being stranded in Roanapur by his bosses and joining the title crew of mercenaries and pirates as The Face, he couldn't give up his professional habits. The first episode of the anime, for instance, ends with him calling on the Black Lagoon's newest victim in a very polite, business-like manner to please surrender and hand over all of their valuables.
  • Overlord (2012): Ainz was a regular salaryman who merely roleplayed as a supremely intelligent and powerful lich in an MMO. Once he finds himself inhabiting the body of his character, he's still powerful (if not moreso now that instant death spells aren't nerfed) but is very much lacking in the farseeing intelligence department. His major project is to run the Tomb of Nazarick as an ideal Japanese corporation, but the problem is that he's in a Medieval European Fantasy and the denizens of Nazarick nearly worship him and think themselves unworthy of his every act of benevolence such as salaries or days off.

Comic Books

  • The Punisher: One story has Frank go undercover as Santa Claus in an orphanage. To set up a booby trap, he tells the kids to make snowmen, but ends up barking out orders as if he was still in the armed forces, telling the kids the exact height and spacing to give the snowmen so the grenades will be more effective.
  • One of The Simpsons comics has Skinner go into a Vietnam flashback halfway through lecturing Bart, and ends up calling Bart "private".
  • Spirou and Fantasio: The town drunk was apparently a vetenarian before he took to drinking and is the Closest Thing We Got to a doctor. When giving Spirou a checkup, he gives his opinion as if Spirou were a horse.

Fan Works

  • The Legend of Genji: Despite officially stepping down as police chief, Lin still insists that her successor Mako send her updates about the crime in Republic City.

Film — Animated

  • Chicken Run: Fowler was on the Royal Air Force albeit as a mascot, and commands the other chickens as if they were soldiers in an army unit.

Film — Live Action

  • Il posto: A retiree is so conditioned to coming into the office every day that he still comes into the office, even though he no longer has a job, and sits around.
  • Mary Poppins: Admiral Boom still misses the sea, as evidenced by the fact that he turned his house into a ship, including a cannon he fires twice a day.
  • The Sound of Music: von Trapp summons his children via whistle as if he were still in the Navy and accidentally refers to Maria as "Captain". Twenty years after the Navy he served in was disbanded.


  • The Dark Hours: LAPD detective Renee Ballard, wondering why grizzled ex-cop Harry Bosch is working a case with her when he is now in his 70s and hasn't had a law enforcement badge for three years, asks if he's ever considered "stopping." Bosch apparently can't handle the idea of being actually retired.
    Bosch: I guess when I stop, it all stops, you know?
  • Discworld:
    • In Night Watch, Vimes gets sent back in time to when the Watch was still a joke, and while he quickly ends up running it he forgets that he no longer has access to troll or dwarf officers. The fact that he's clearly used to being in charge despite looking like a nobody gets him noticed by the conspirators.
    • Unseen Academicals: Glenda is so used to being the Cloudcuckoolander's Minder for Juliet it takes her a while to notice that her (s)mothering is of no use to a natural fashion model.
    • Sourcery: When confronted with his former professors, Rincewind briefly falls back into the role of a punished student, to everyone's embarassment.
    • Vimes recalls one Watchman who simply didn't know what to do with himself after reaching retirement age, and ended up coming back to the Watch house and doing small jobs around the place (earning the subtle contempt of younger members) until he was found dead one morning.
  • In Judge Dee, the judge infiltrates a gang of criminals under pretense of being a former court guard who applied a little too much Police Brutality. When he discovers a freshly-committed crime, he forgets himself and starts giving out orders not to touch the crime scene, leading to the other crooks pointing out he no longer works for the law.

Live-Action TV

  • A recurring antagonist in early episodes of CSI was a heavy handed cop who served in the US army and had an unfortunate habit of acting like he was still in a warzone (although he toed the line from actual Police Brutality).
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: A regular improv sketch (usually seen on the "Scenes From A Hat" segment) was to have one or more of the performers pretend to be an employee in one kind of business (example: dry cleaners) that still had the mentality of another job (example: Good Cop/Bad Cop), with the other performers playing the increasingly-disturbed customers. Hilarity Ensues.

Tabletop Games

  • Traveller Double Adventure 6 Divine Intervention has the Player Characters infiltrating a giant floating base at night. Two members of the base staff were previously in positions that influence how they handle emergency situations.
    • One was previously in the regular police. If he wakes up and realizes that there's a problem, he will pick up his pistol, leave his cabin and try to arrest any intruders.
    • Another one was once in the Attitude Police (secret police). If he is awakened and notices the PCs' intrusion, he will try to track them down and notify the bridge of their position, trailing them thereafter.
  • Paranoia supplement Acute Paranoia, chapter "Playing Robots". One of the Drawbacks that can be taken for robots is "Flashbacks". This means that the robot's brain was originally programmed for some other type of job and the robot sometimes starts acting as if it were still programmed that way. One example given is a warbot whose brain originally operated an automated dry-cleaners. Every once in a while it will start talking (and acting) as if it were still running the shop instead of fighting.


  • The Gin Game: Weller is an elderly resident of a Bleak Abyss Retirement Home. He says that after his father retired from business, he still kept coming in to work, and kept doing so until he died at 83. That line gets more poignant later when Weller reveals that he was booted out of his own business by his partners.

Web Video