A modern office employee who works in a bureaucracy in the private sector or government. The name derives from workplace dress codes in the mid-20th century; factory laborers typically wore blue work shirts, jumpsuits, overalls or other uniforms, while managers and technical or professional staff wore white business shirts and ties.
As office machinery such as the typewriter, adding machine, and mimeograph became available starting in the latter half of the nineteenth Century, clerical workers began shifting their skill sets from the Clerk to the modern White Collar Worker. In particular, many women joined the workforce, though they tended to be stuck in the lower-ranked and lower-paying "pink collar" office jobs. Women's roles in the office both in real life and media have improved over the decades.
The White Collar Worker is a staple of the Work Com, but can be found in any work of fiction that requires office scenes. The natural habitat of the White Collar Worker in the modern work is the office cubicle. Their natural enemies include bosses of all kinds except "benevolent" and their more obnoxious co-workers. As for their work...well, white collar jobs are boring to look at and repetitive most of the time, and one set of paperwork or computer spreadsheet looks much like another. So the details of the work, if not explicitly shown to be a Soul-Crushing Desk Job, are usually not examined closely. Indeed, often the exact position or job description of the characters and their role at the Mega-Corp will deliberately be left vague. This gives greater plot flexibility, especially when the Pointy-Haired Boss decides to give the hero some wacky project that would seem to have little to do with the job, normally.
Subtropes include Corrupt Corporate Executive, Ditzy Secretary, Honest Corporate Executive, High-Powered Career Woman, Office Lady, Operator from India, Paperworkaholic, Powersuit Monkey, Plucky Office Girl, Salaryman, Sassy Secretary, Tech Bro, Workaholic if they can't let go of their work, and Yuppie for a highly educated, well-paid office worker.
- The weather reporter in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series is fed up with his job.
"And now that that's all done with, please enjoy this song from Lonestar, while I sit in my little cubicle, only being paid minimum wage to tell you ungrateful fools this stuff!"
- Wheatley from Portal 2 already is this, albeit in A.I. form, but the fanfic Blue Sky takes it to the next level and gets him to look the part, too.
- The Incredibles: Mr. Incredible becomes one of these (specifically, an insurance agent) after the Super Registration Act. He really hates the job, no thanks to his obnoxious jerk of a boss and the overall drabness.
- Zootopia: Flash Slothmore works at the Department of Mammal Vehicles, an agency in charge of vehicle registration and driver licensing. The film's protagonists go there to learn a vital clue for their investigation — who was the owner of the vehicle a disappeared person was last seen. Flash is the sloth from who they get the information, albeit frustratingly slowly since he is a sloth. He and his (sloth) co-workers are a parody of real-life white-collar workers.
- 9 to 5: Given the office setting, most of the cast are white-collar workers. The heroines are stuck in "pink-collar" positions because of their obnoxious, sexist boss. Judy is a secretary who is taught the ropes by Violet, an office manager, and Doralee is the boss's secretary. The company their work at is called Consolidated Companies.
- The main characters of Office Space are mostly computer programmers. They desperately want to get out of it.
- The Unnamed Narrator in Fight Club started off as one, though he actually goes into detail about his job and is seen doing it. His dull and boring life there leads to him developing a Split Personality in the form of Tyler Durden, who is the kind of "man's man" he wishes he could be.
- In The Matrix, prior to joining La Résistance as Neo, Thomas Anderson is shown working in a drab cubicle, leading to an (almost) escape scene through the office building.
- The Crowd: A very early film example, showing the main character at his desk, with some vaguely defined job that involves scribbling numbers in a ledger.
- William Foster in Falling Down used to be one of these, an engineer at a defense contractor who was laid off with the end of the Cold War but still dresses the part even with his downward spiral. By all impressions, the drudgery and stability of his office job was the only thing that gave him any structure and meaning to his life, and when he lost that, he lost his family, his home, and eventually his sanity.
- Adam Cassidy in Paranoia works as one in the start of the book, with his injustice at the company executive's excesses and his endless boredom causing him to pull off a huge prank that puts him into the position of being blackmailed for the rest of the book to do the CEO's bidding and engage in corporate espionage.
- The protagonist of The Laundry Files, as lampshaded on the (original) cover of The Atrocity Archives. Bob Howard volunteers for dangerous active service work just to escape it. As his cover job is in IT service, he still has to put in his hours though.
- Our Miss Brooks:
- In "Christmas Show", the much-harassed woman in charge of gift exchanges has an office to herself. Over the course of the episode, Miss Brooks, Mr. Conklin, and Mr. Boynton repeatedly pay her a visit.
- In "Easter Outfit", Miss Brooks, Mr. Boynton, Walter Denton and Mr. Conklin all take temporary employment at the Board of Education offices.
- Most of the cast of The Office in both British and American versions. Unlike some of the other examples here, we do know Wernham-Hogg/Dunder Mifflin's business: they sell paper.
- For the first seven years of Friends, Chandler Bing worked an unstated office job at an unknown company. Even Rachel and Monica don't know what he does. Whatever it was, he was important enough to have his own office. He started (in the first season) in a cubicle processing data related to resource utilization, and was soon promoted to a supervisory position in the same company and department.
- That '70s Show had an episode in which Kelso's father attempts to explain precisely what his job entails. It becomes depressingly evident that even he isn't sure anymore.
- The cast of the Fred Savage show Working, which not only left the workers' positions and duties vague but never explained what, if anything, the company did.
- Better Off Ted has Veridian Dynamics, which appears to do or own another company that does almost anything. Most of the characters in the show work in the research and development department though.
- Barney Stintson in How I Met Your Mother, whose job involves wearing a snazzy suit, sitting in an office (with an en-suite bathroom!), and sometimes threatening war with North Korea. In the final season, it is revealed that his actual job is being the company's patsy. His signature is on all the company documents and when the FBI inevitably starts investigating the company's incredibly illegal dealings, Barney will be framed as the mastermind of it all. Subverted, because Barney is well aware of this, and has actually been working with the Feds as a plan to get revenge on the jerk who stole his girlfriend.
- Malcolm in the Middle: All that's known about Hal's job is that he could be replaced easily. One episode reveals he's skipped work every Friday for five years and no one ever noticed. This ends up saving him from being The Scapegoat as Malcolm produces evidence that he wasn't around when the illegal things his company had pinned the blame on him for happened.
- The music video to "Voice'" by Disturbed is based around somebody in such a position ready to snap, partially because of the voices telling him to.
- The video to "Zombie Autopilot" by Unearth follows such a person through his day, as he slowly comes undone while realizing that he's basically a white collar zombie. The video eventually climaxes with him throwing a file folder at his boss (whom he briefly sees as a demon) and quitting his job...before waking up on the subway and dismissing the nightmare he's just had.
- Stardew Valley starts off with the player character as one of these at Joja Corporation. Soon growing weary of office cubicle work life, you quit your job to seek a new life at your grandfather's old farm.
- The Stanley Parable's protagonist could be considered this trope boiled down to its utmost roots, as his job literally consists of pushing buttons on a computer. At least, before everyone disappears, and everything gets weirder from there...
- Subverted in El Goonish Shive. Mr. Dunkel typically acts like a supremely unflappable, but otherwise typical suburban father, and his kids assume that he's an accountant. That said, he and his wife are unfazed by magic, skilled in leading search parties, and no one's actually sure what he does for a living...
- The father of the family in Weesh; another one who's lost track of what precisely it is he does.
- Terry in Uncommon Animals. Her cubicle is exceptionally bare.
- Nebula: Mercury dresses like one, despite being in space; What, Exactly, Is His Job? is in full force, making unclear what exactly his job is, apart from hanging around Sun and trying to boss everyone else around.
- This Is She: Both Mavis and Jean work desk jobs, with Mavis working an accountant job, and Jean working in telemarketing. Mavis seems to be pretty content with her job, but Jean's work, well... let's just say it could be at least a little more accommodating, but she does make sure to take more breaks after she starts talking to Mavis.
- Dad: Where exactly Dad works is never elaborated, but his white shirt, black tie, a briefcase of office-supplies, and desire to be promoted to "executive worker" hints pretty strongly that he works in an average office setting, which apparently requires "eternal dedication to the corporation".