Things I’ve Learned While Working in an Office

These past 3 years that I have spent in the workforce have taught me a lot. Have they taught me about ambition and about taking pride in my work? Sure, whatever. More importantly, they have taught me the unique and fascinating habits of office culture. Here are some of those habits that I have come to know and love.

 

1. The day of the week can be used as a generic explanation for your mood.

“How’s it going?”

“Well, it’s Tuesday, so, you know…”

In fact, using a day to describe your office blues has become so commonplace that it necessitated the creation of a term for “I’ve made it halfway through the week, it’s all downhill from here.” Yes, “hump day” has given us a whole new way to explain how we feel based on the day of the week while simultaneously encouraging/confusing office perverts (mostly me).

 

2. Don’t be the guy who microwaves fish.

People who think that it is okay to microwave something super smelly are literally worse than people who pull out in front of you just to drive really slowly. No one in the office wants to smell your lunch all up in the kitchen, nor do they want their lunch to smell or taste like yours. If everyone is avoiding the kitchen because of the smell of your lunch, you’re wrong and should feel ashamed.

 

3. There will always be someone who “just wants to sniff” the donuts.

There will always be overachievers who take time to workout every day, cook every meal, and do other adulting things. These people are constantly watching what they eat, and therefore never partake in the office treats that others bring in. They come to work straight from the gym and say they can only afford to smell the treats, because smelling them, they’ll remind you, has no calories.

Oh sure, you go to the gym at 4am, but act like I’m crazy because I’m popping-and-locking in the bathroom? Wooooooooooow.

 

4. Speaking of office pleasantries, after hearing them so often, you have a prepared answer to normal pleasantries on the tip of your tongue when you see someone walking toward you in the hallway.

Someone the other day asked me, “What’s going on?” and I fumbled over my usual response of “I’m doing alright” (which is my logged response to “How’re you doing?”) before I could figure out how to actually answer their question. Although my answer didn’t really matter because…

5. No one answers pleasantries like “How’re you doing?” honestly. But it’s okay because no one actually cares what the answer is.

Offices have cliques. They’re not always defined by gossip and malice, but groups definitely form based on interest, teams, ages, etc. After seeing so many people day-in-and-day out for a while, you know which people you want to hang around and chat with, which ones you give a pleasant smile, and which ones you would rather risk a kidney infection by waiting at your desk a few extra minutes before going to pee than see in the bathroom.

Beyond their set “hang around and chat with” group, usually when someone asks how you’re doing, they don’t actually care. This arrangement isn’t bad though, because let’s be honest, if you hear about Linda’s problems with her kid one more time, you’re going to lock her in the kitchen with some freshly-microwaved fish.

6. Nothing makes or breaks office relationships like food.

When someone brings in food for everyone, all of the happy and ravenous workers converge around the table. Suddenly Accounting and HR are mingling and Legal is getting chummy with Marketing (probably talking about their mood by relating it to the day of the week). But if only IT is getting food, divisions begin to form. People from other departments are hinting about wanting some of the food. The donut sniffers are out full force.

Does your allegiance lie with your team, or with your clique? Your answer may break your office reputation.

7. Any time that you don’t hear someone speaking on a phone call or a conference call, they’ve muted the phone.

What’s the person on the other end doing when they put you on mute? There’s no real way to be sure. Eating? Maybe. On a different phone call with someone else? Possibly. Insulting you? Probably. Reading my blog? Hopefully.

8. The office is a petri dish.

You check your morning emails and see people calling out sick and think, “Oh crap! Have I breathed near them recently?” I’ve started refraining from eating communal foods during cold and flu season (unless I am the first one to get to it when it arrives). A few pretzel days are a small price to pay to avoid getting whatever plague is going around the office. This is the time of year when I become the person who sniffs on the donuts. And possibly drools. Eat at your own risk! But hey, at least you know that my spit is unsullied, while Jim just reached his hand in and touched multiple donuts…and his kid had the flu earlier this week…

 

Did I cover everything? What other quirks have you found in your office? Who are the donut sniffers and fish microwavers in your office and would you like me to help you fill their car with angry bees? (Yes, I will stoop that low just for some post engagement, don’t judge me.)

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