HOW TO BECOME AN OFFICE LEGEND IN 12 EASY STEPS
by / Anne Walls
You guys, look. I get it. Offices are sort of the pits. You have to go there like every day, regardless of how much you’ve had to drink the night before or the fact that it’s raining so hard it’s literally coming down sideways. Then they want you to stay there for many, many hours, doing annoying, detail-oriented tasks when you have much better things to do, like stalk your ex on Tinder and add complicated recipes you’ll never actually make to your “Nom Nom” Pinterest board.
Luckily, it’s not all bad news. One good thing about working in an office is that if you keep showing up, they give you money. In addition, offices are the best – literally the best – places to study human behavior. Because once you know what makes your workplace tick, you can climb RIGHT to the top.
So behold! Here are 12 essential tips I have gathered to transform you from standard cubicle jockey to the office heroine. Ride or die, bitches.
1. OFFSPRING AVOIDANCE: never make gender assumptions about co-workers’ children, ESPECIALLY their names. Examples: Cameroon? Yeah, that’s a two-year-old boy. And he’s white. Alva? Five-year-old tiny lady. Fitzsimmons? Don’t even ask. Don’t. Even. Ask.
2. PICK WISELY: people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. People who work in glass-walled offices should remember other people can see them when they pick their noses at their desks.
3. THE LAW OF SHIT TALKING: there will be people in your office who shit talk other people. Okay, everyone does this to some extent, but SPECIFIC people have will have a black belt in it. And you will probably, inevitably, be friends with these people. And you will listen and often laugh as they chastise _____ for wearing that ______ yesterday or _____ for not knowing his breath smells like ______. But know this – KNOW THIS – someone who shit talks anyone, shit talks everyone. Yes, that includes you. So don’t give them any ammo. And never repeat their tidbits to others. Landmines. The lot of it.
4. THE NO-BREATHE ZONE: avoid going to the bathroom between 10:35 am and 10:50 am – this is when most people are taking their first coffee dumps of the day. Related Advice: When you go into the stall and the toilet seat lid is down, take a moment and think. There’s a reason someone closed it. STEP AWAY.
5. HUMAN GARBAGE DISPOSALS: this may sound harsh, but that’s what everyone in an office is. Bones and stomach linings and never-ending appetites for whatever you put in front of them. And I mean WHATEVER. Have some leftover cookies from your baking binge last weekend? Drop them off at The Dump Table, where all the stray extra food ends up: old donuts, the grazed-over bagel platters from the Tuesday morning meeting, the odd jar of pickled eggs that Steven from Marketing got on his trip to Hungary with a woman you’re pretty sure wasn’t his wife.
6. THE ART OF MINIMIZING: this will happen to you at least once a week. You’ll accidentally see something fleshy, illegal, or otherwise NSFW on someone else’s computer screen. If only you had walked louder, maybe they would have heard you approaching and spared your eyes and their reputations from the mutual smut that binds. Rapid Minimizing: the art everyone needs to learn. Especially you, Juggalo Porn Larry.
7. INTEROFFICE ROMANCE: remember your freshman year dorm? The lusty glances, the temptation, the pile of bodies all smashed together in a small, smelly building day in and day out? Now add MONEY. And reputations. And long, 12-hour days of awkward. At least at the dorm, you could shut your door. Or hook up with the person across the hall. Don’t try that here…it just makes it worse.
8. TEA PEOPLE VS. COFFEE PEOPLE: this is the deepest, most serious of all work sub-groups/cliques/gangs. Each feels superior, each looks down on the other, each is highly caffeinated (or chamomiled). The worst part: you will be on both of these teams at one time or another, and vacillate between them like a lost French soldier in the Revolutionary War.
9. WORD TO THE WISE(ST): everyone thinks their job is the most important. The VP. The receptionist. The building maintenance guy. Every single person is convinced the entire office would burn to the ground without them. Sure, it seems cocky, but guess what? You have to think that to make yourself walk in the door each day. I’d explain this in more detail, but I have 328 emails to return because if I don’t, this place will literally fall apart.
10. SILENT BUT DEADLY: the scariest people aren’t the ones you think they are – the loudmouth rageball in the corner office who throws his Blackberry when he gets pissed or the razor-thin CFO who looks like she could stab you in the eye with her stiletto at any moment. No. The scariest person in your whole office is the quiet, slightly doughy woman from accounting who wears black sweatpants as a daily uniform and brings her iPhone into the bathroom, loudly typing whilst she, ahem, does her business. Because that is a level of crazy that can snap – and snap hard – at any time. Steer clear.
11. THE MERCY OF A SHORT WALK: this is not shocking news, but quite frequently at work, someone or something will piss you off. Whether it’s a blow to your ego, your time, or both, your feathers will get ruffled. When this happens, instead of immediately IMing your roommate and unloading what just went down, take a walk. Get some space. Get some distance from the temptation to talk shit. Your sanity – and maybe your job – saved by fresh air.
12. DAILY GEMS: once a day, if you are lucky and observant, your office will gift you with a little moment, a small, perfect glimpse into the human psyche and the weirdness and hope and possibility that lies not only within yourself, but within all those freaks in the cubicles around you. My daily moment came today, at 3:26 pm, when I flew into the ladies bathroom. Evidently my rapid entrance didn’t give the bathroom’s sole occupant, an average height, average weight, average age brunette standing at the sink enough time to stop what she was doing: giving herself a sultry, sexy look in the mirror. Was she practicing her makeout face for her big date with WryGuy78 tonight? Is she having an affair with that dude from the IT dept who wears the wrong size pants? Or maybe, just maybe she’s having a shitty, annoying, bummer of a day where she got jostled on the subway, messed something up for her boss, doesn’t even want to think about the credit card bill sitting on her kitchen table, and still somehow managed to reach inside and give herself the kind of smile no one else had given her all day, or even all week? And shouldn’t all of us busy, gossipy, sweaty little worker bees take a cue from ol’ Brown Hair here and take a moment, just one quiet moment each day to step away from the noise and check in with ourselves? Say hi…how ya doing, Self…it’ll be okay. It’ll all be okay.
Nah, she was probably just practicing for WryGuy78.