Whether you work in a funky, open-plan, creative studio with astroturf on the walls and a vending machine that dispenses craft beer; or whether you work in a soulless, grey corporate no-man’s land, where suicide notes hang from the walls in lieu of motivational posters, at some point almost everyone works away a portion of their lives in some kind of office.
And regardless of the setting, the job, the perks and the drawbacks, the biggest influence on your work environment is not the fireman’s pole down to the parking lot, or the cockroach infestation in your cupboard-size communal kitchen. It’s your co-workers… your colleagues… your comrades… your team mates…
Despite the mask of professionalism we all don before leaving the house, eventually we all let our guard down and we all let our crazy out at inappropriate times.
Here are 4 office-based fights that you will have at work with your colleagues before you die (unless you kill them first).
1. The ‘What the Fuck Happened?’ Knuckle Sandwich
This is the one you have when you have been out of the office on leave/ ill/ at a long, boozy lunch at the local strip club; and the person you’ve left behind has tried to run with a project as best they can.
But like the fat kid at the back of an egg-and-spoon race, they have not quite reached the finish line. In fact, they’ve stopped halfway to have a cry and a wee and then meandered over to the snacks table to eat all the ghost pops.
This fight goes both ways: If you’re the one left behind to handle the work, you’re pissed because you were left defending the Alamo with just your wits and a couple of used toothpicks- and if you’re the one who did the leaving, you’re pissed because the project now resembles a big, runny poo- and you’re going to have to clean it up.
The fact is, you’ve both got poo on your hands. The absentee should have been better about preparing for their absenteeism (unless you suddenly got Ebola or something, which sucks for you), and the stand-in should have also ensured they were better armed against the approaching horde of deadlines.
You know, I’ve never used the words ‘horde’ and ‘dead’ in such a mundane sentence before.
2. The ‘It’s Not My Fucking Job’ Head-Bumper
I once- extremely briefly- worked as a roulette dealer at a local gambling establishment. I’m not going to say which one, but it rhymes with ‘Shmemporer’s Malice’. The psychopathic CEO at the time liked to have regular mass staff meetings where he chided us for being inconsiderate enough to get food poisoning after eating from the (not complimentary) staff canteen, and explained that there was no reason anyone needed more than two 10 minute bathroom breaks a shift. Despite the bathrooms being a 10 minute walk from the Casino floor.
‘Then run,’ he’d say.
But he also said something that actually made sense.
Never, but never, tell a customer that you can’t help them because it’s ‘not your job’. As times (and my education level) progressed, I no longer had to stand in a smoky casino and get abused by surly, depressed punters. Instead, I got to sit in smoky boardrooms and get abused by surly, depressed executives, where we all take our KPIs and our super duper important job titles very fucking seriously.
So while I do agree that you probably shouldn’t draft your new receptionist to help you code an app, land a plane, or perform any kind of surgery that requires anesthesia, I also think you owe it to your colleagues to help out wherever, however you can. It takes a village (or a wolf pack) to raise a child, and sometimes it takes a whole team to make a project work.
Doing things that are ‘not your job’ is a great way to expand your skill set- just as long as you are learning something along the way and not being used for slave labour.
You should also make sure that all of your ‘not job’ contributions don’t affect the work you were actually hired to do.
You know, your job.
3. The ‘Hey, That Was My Fucking Idea’ Rampage
If you’re a manager, logic follows that at some point in your career, you were someone’s lackey. You were an impressionable twenty-something year-old with limited abilities and endless energy; and for every mentor who patiently helped sculpt you into the douchebag you are now, there was also some balding creep reaping your mind for fresh ideas and shamelessly fobbing them off as their own.
You probably still remember the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ influences quite clearly. And you definitely remember which one you wanted to dowse in petrol and set alight so that they slowly roasted to death inside their brand new Mercedes.
Now that you’re a little higher up the food chain, you probably have your own lackeys and, during the occasional brainstorm, you may even be tempted to snaffle a prized brain fart or two. After all, this is the one kind of fight that will likely never come to blows, or even to light.
Since your victim is usually a little lower down in the office hierarchy than you, they may never call you on your bitch move. No one else but the two of you will ever know that ‘Reusable Condoms’ was not, in fact, your great idea at all. Actually ‘Reusable condoms’ are a terrible idea and probably not very effective as a metaphor.
But man, you just know that taking credit where it’s not due will come back to stab you in the ass. Maybe in ten years’ time, when you’re all old and redundant and your once-timid idea farm is now grown up and in charge of deciding whether or not to renew your contract. Or maybe they will just straight-up stab you in the ass.
Kids these days.
It’s a smaller world than you think and it holds a bigger grudge than you realise.
4. The ‘What do You Mean you Fucking Agree?’ Debacle
One day, long after the singularity, all offices will merely be glorified server rooms run by flesh-hungry sentient robots who will systematically execute their plan of destroying all living things on the planet. Except Skrillex. They will fucking dig that guy.
Until then, it’s full of people- soft, squishy humans full of messy hormones, gooey emotions and hypocritical opinions. There will be times when you get into screaming matches with your colleagues for no better reason than just ‘fuck you’.
Often, you will discover after an argument, the work-related issue you were both tearing each other apart over isn’t really the issue at all. The real issue is that you are both human- and both total dicks- at least in one another’s eyes.
Offices are not places where friends hang out all day, sharing stories and drinking soda pop. It’s a place where diverse personalities are forcibly thrust together for the majority of their waking day to collaboratively sweat over projects that have very little personal value for everyone involved.
So the next time you feel your blood boiling, try not to vomit your vitriol all over your next-cubicle-neighbour. Instead, aim it where it really belongs…
At the government.