These are characters who have no real grudge against the heroes, but are simply doing a job for which they are getting paid. After hours, they are totally personable Joes, who go hang out like anyone else. Most Punch-Clock Villains are not even particularly mean. Clear cut cases will not be bad outside their job as it would undermine the existence of this trope.
The trope used to be an odd plot device, but it has become increasingly frequent due to the popularity of the superhero parody genre, where the supposedly Evil Minions are portrayed as sympathetic employees for unreasonable bosses. In addition, nearly all anime series featuring a comedic villain usually have these type of minions, who are frequently cute characters.
Conversely, if played seriously, the emotional detachment that the Punch-Clock Villain displays when they knowingly contribute to various atrocities can be chilling, and audiences may see them as a monster. Depending on the nature of the story, this trope can make a villain either more relatable to an audience or more hateful. If they are employed in a violent capacity, they may be an Apologetic Attacker, or insist that there is Nothing Personal in what they do.
If they would rather Pet the Dog and don't even willingly participate in any criminal activities, they might instead be the most innocent character on an evil side, the Minion with an F in Evil; if they got into evil because the superhero team fired them for misbehavior, they may be a Hero with an F in Good. People using this trope as an excuse for their crimes, regardless of the truth of their claims, are Just Following Orders; real-world examples should go there.
Related to Villains Out Shopping and Good All Along. May overlap with Churchgoing Villain or Family Values Villain. Compare Obstructive Bureaucrat. The opposite of Visionary Villain and Psycho for Hire. For the Anti-Hero version, see Punch-Clock Hero and Not in This for Your Revolution. Not at all related to villains who love their clocks, or to villains who punch their clock.
Note: A Complete Monster doesn't qualify as this trope, as their villainy is completely intentional and by choice.
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