I’m still honoring my work anniversary (in the U.S., this is traditionally a week-long celebration, like Kwanzaa or Kristen Stewart’s birthday). I know this comes across like so much sarcasm, but I’m now at a place in my career where I’m able to spend entire days dicking around on the Internet and writing posts for my personal blog — and my boss still thanks me for doing a great job!
Basically, I am the Peyton Manning of working in offices, but with 30% less forehead. Today, I’m going to share some words of wisdom that have helped me attain this lofty peak of mediocrity.
As a caveat, I have spent my entire adult life working for relatively small, privately held companies. If you’re employed by a big Fortune 500 company and people are, like, Six Sigma-ing all over the place — I don’t even know what to tell you. (Except, probably, enjoy your affordable health insurance premiums?)
Anyway, here we have my seven dos and don’ts to maximize your potential as another faceless white-collar cog on the payroll.
1. Do acknowledge and respond appropriately to played-out office banter. If you don’t, everyone will think you are TOO GOOD, and you know what? You’re not TOO GOOD, because here you are in your flat-front khakis, typing away at your crumb-encrusted keyboard, breathing in the same recycled germ-air as everyone else.
Since nobody likes somebody who’s TOO GOOD, memorize the following scripts and play your role when called upon to do so. You will be viewed as a team player and will be well-liked by your peers.
A: How are you?
B: Oh, not bad for a Monday!
C: How are you?
D: Well, I’m here!
E: How are you?
F: Not bad for a Wednesday!
G: Good morning!
H: If you say so!
I: How are you?
J: Ugh! Is it Friday yet?
K: Happy Friday!
L: Finally! TGIF!
2. Do go light on the personal effects. You never know when you might get fired, laid off, downsized, or otherwise euphemism-ed out of your job. The faster you can hit the bricks, the better.
Or, to put a more positive spin on it — you never know when you might decide to storm out for good. And again, you want to be able to do this quickly.
No one in the history of cubicles has ever said, “Hey, remember when Eugene quit really dramatically, and then spent the next thirty minutes dismantling his wall of cat photos, Dilbert comics, and World of Warcraft memorabilia?”
Think of your legacy!
3. Don’t get attached to your favorite vending machine snacks. As soon as you think the frosted brown sugar-cinnamon Pop Tarts are here to stay, the vending company will move the fucking goal posts and replace them with those horrible crunchy Famous Amos cookies.
4. Do pace yourself. I made a terrible mistake when I first started working here. My former job was so low-paying and miserable that I was really excited to have landed the new role, and I worked long hours and went above and beyond and just dazzled the ever-loving fuck out of everyone with the quality and quantity of my work.
NEVER DO THIS. What you are doing is raising the bar for yourself. Your boss will continue to expect more and better work in the months and years ahead. You will become the “go-to guy” whenever a difficult or complex project comes up. When other people bungle their work beyond recognition, you will be called upon to pick up the pieces. It took me six years to get out of this particular rut — and that’s only because some other overachieving patsy was hired on, and I seized the opportunity to transition into a made-up position where no one quite knows what I’m doing.
So go ahead and do a good job, sure. But be careful not to ramp yourself above, say, 75% capacity. Ever.
5. Do watch Office Space. The purpose of this is twofold. First, it’s a good movie and a chillingly accurate portrayal of office life. Second, some people at your job will undoubtedly want to quote this movie with you, call-and-response style, so you need to be ready with the correct dialogue (see Tip #1, above).
6. Don’t try to make yourself indispensable. This may seem counter-intuitive. But just think about it: If the company can’t manage without you, what are your vacation days going to be like? What about sick days, nights, and weekends? You want that place running like a well-oiled machine when you’re gone. No one in your office should have an excuse to text you while you’re sleeping off that post-Super Bowl hangover.
Also, let’s be real. You’re never going to be indispensable at office-jobbing. Whatever stuff you can do while sitting at a computer, someone else can probably replicate. (Unless you’re a turncoat cyborg sent back from the future to protect a young Edward Furlong, in which case I really doubt you need advice on navigating cubicle culture. Go read a more relevant blog, like “STFU, Skynet” or whatever.)
7. Don’t drink the coffee. Seriously, don’t. I just saw Colin from Accounting pouring the old coffee from his mug back into the pot.